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Copycat Oldies Music Groups

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Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters

Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters

They're known as "copycat" or "knockoff" oldies music groups... that is, acts that bear the name of classic oldies music artists, but don't contain any of the original members. You may have seen one in a casino or at a fair without even realizing it! They're legal in most states, but are they ethical? The original artists say no, and the promoters say yes.

Latest Developments

July 3, 2008: The Drifters' endless saga continues, with the family of late manager George Treadwell winning a court settlement giving their group -- which contains no original members -- the right to perform as the Drifters, claiming that the Treadwell name is the only constant in the band's long and confusing history. Actual living people who performed on hit Drifters records remain: Charlie Thomas, who sang "Saturday Night At The Movies" in 1964; Bobby Hendricks, who sang lead on the 1957 single "Drip Drop"; and Ben E. King, who has had no desire to form a Drifters of his own.

May 23, 2008: Ohio becomes the 25th American state to pass "Truth In Music" legislation, or is widely believed to, as Governor Ted Strickland is poised to sign a TIM bill that sailed through the House and looks likely to repeat that performance in the Senate. Vocal Group Hall of Fame President Bob Crosby makes clear that the bill will not hurt tribute bands: "Everyone is honored when there is a tribute band performing in honor of the groups. That’s fantastic. It’s when they stand there and say, 'When WE recorded this song...' or 'When WE were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame...' That’s when it becomes a problem."

January 23, 2008: Indiana became the first state of the new year to pass "Truth In Music" legislation after Governor Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law today. Under this state's version, a venue can be fined up to $10,000 for knowingly hiring a bogus oldies band (that is, not containing at least one original member who has the legal rights to the group name). Tribute bands who clearly label themselves as such would not be subject to fine -- which must be a relief to State Representative Bruce Borders, an Indiana Republican who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator.

June 2, 2007: Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons has handed a major victory to "truth in music" proponents by signing into law a bill that prohibits oldies acts from performing as the original group unless they contain at least one original member. While that doesn't exactly remove all wiggle room, it does strike a blow for the cause in a state where Las Vegas casinos make up a huge share of the oldies tour market. Sonny Turner of the Platters was on hand to witness the signing, as was Maxine Porter, manager for the Drifters' Bill Pinkney. Porter stated that the movement's goal was to have 20 states with such legislation by the end of the year, meaning eight more bills would be passed in that time.

Fuss

Consider this:

  • Fake versions of The Supremes, The Rascals, The Classics IV, The Box Tops, The Diamonds, The Spiral Starecase, The Fortunes, The Marvelettes, and The Vogues have been spotted touring the country in the past decade. These bands often contain none of the original members, or members who joined after the hits stopped coming.
  • Dozens of groups calling themselves "The Coasters," "The Platters," and "The Drifters" have made quite a bit of money on the oldies circuit, despite the fact that they contain no original members whatsoever.
  • Many bands like The Guess Who, The Temptations, and Blood Sweat & Tears tour without their original leads, founders, or chief members,although they contain some original members.

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