Wednesday, January 11, 2006

They're Not Dead Yet -- Not All Of Them, Anyway

How many times have you heard news about a celebrity whom you hadn't heard about in ages and find yourself thinking, "I thought he was dead!" Happens with me all the time. These people continue to make movies, music, etc., and no one even knows they're still alive.

Some entertainers have the opposite problem:

HARRISBURG -- Musical groups shouldn't call themselves The Platters unless they include some of the original tableware.

That's the premise of a group of doo-woppers campaigning nationwide to stop imposter bands from passing themselves off to concert-goers as the real deal.

The group is starting its crusade in Pennsylvania, where lawmakers are poised to authorize fines and injunctions to prevent performances by imposter bands that advertise false, deceptive or misleading affiliations with a recording group.

There really are some cases where almost everyone is dead, yet the group continues to perform from beyond the grave. For instance:

Bill Pinkney, the only surviving member of The Drifters, said the fines should be even higher.

"People are going around calling themselves The Drifters, The Platters and The Coasters when it's not the truth. It's not fair to the ones who paved the road, the ones who laid the foundation and made it possible for these young up-and-coming groups," Mr. Pinkney said from his home in South Carolina.

At 80, he is still performing. He heads to Connecticut this weekend for a doo-wop show Sunday at Mohegan Sun casino.

I can see where people making money by fooling people and living off of your good name and those of your deceased colleagues would make you want to take legal action to stop it from happening. But it all comes down to ownership of a name. A couple of years ago, there were two versions of the NWOBHM group Saxon touring. Each version included original members, but only one faction was legally permitted to continue touring with the name Saxon, a court ruled.

If you don't seek legislative or legal recourse to solve this kind of problem, things can really get out of hand:

The sentiment is that when people pay good money to hear "Yakety Yak," Carl Gardner ought to be the one yakking.

Instead, imposter Coasters take the stage -- probably 10 times a night in different parts of the country -- said Bob Crosby, president of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Until truth-in-music legislation gets passed, caveat emptor.

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