It is now a crime to impersonate famous doo-wop groups, and any other kind of band, in the great state of New York. No, not for cover bands or tribute acts (though there should be at least some sort of tax levied there), but for con men, hucksters, grifters, and others who purport to be the original group while containing less than one original member. Governor Elliot Spitzer has said no mas to this recent rash of oldies station fraud, henceforth putting an end to bait-and-switch nostalgia and counterfeit rock n’ roll:
Called the “Truth in Music Advertising Law,” it prohibits copycat performances that attempt to cash in through false and misleading representations like names, billings and promotions similar to the original artists. Enforcement by the state attorney general’s office can bring civil penalties ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.
The measure was inspired when well-known recording artists like the Platters, the Coasters and the Drifters suffered financial losses when their acts and routines were copied without permission, according to the governor’s office. The Drifters, a doo-wop vocal group, first formed in the 1950s at Atlantic Records, had a string of ’60s hits like “This Magic Moment” and “Under the Boardwalk,” and an array of members through decades of recording and performing. Several early members are dead.
The legislation has been dubbed the “Bowzer Bill” for Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of the band Sha Na Na who has lobbied lawmakers in Albany and other state capitals. He says that while there are Drifters, Coasters and Platters groups performing with an actual band member, there are many others with none.
The law requires performing groups to have at least one member of the recording group that they claim a connection to and a legal right to use the name. Or else they must label the production a “tribute” or “salute” or else own the recording group’s service mark or have its authorization.
Say it with me folks…”The Bowzer Bill.” Astounding. I had no idea this epidemic of faux Drifters, Coasters, and Platters had gotten to the point where legislation was required, but apparently it’s bad enough for a dozen or so other states to be looking into similar laws. Be forewarned, those who would attempt to pass themselves off as an African-American harmony group from the 1950s and ’60s.