New York Bans “Bands”

Aug 21st, 2007 // 14 Comments

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.

Law Promises Fines For Knockoff Music Acts In NY [SI Live]

  1. PengIn

    I saw one of the Platters at a Holiday Inn in Florida when I was 16. He was solid.

  2. tigerpop

    Once or twice a year, I find myself proud to live in Albany. This is one of those times.

  3. goldsoundz

    I’ll be damned if I could track it down, but there was an article about 4-5 years ago in Spin about this phenomenon.

  4. Lucas Jensen

    I’m in the Coasters.

  5. Mick Kraut

    I am certain this happened when a friend’s band opened for BADFINGER back in ’99…I honestly think that the only tie back to the original band was one of the amps we helped load in…then they opened with NO MATTER WHAT…I guess they figured that it made no sense to make the crowd wait…we left after the first song and I cant imagine we were the only ones…

  6. MameDennis

    As awesome as “The Bowzer Bill” is, the Pennsylvania law prohibiting acts from both charging for tickets and lip-syncing was known as the “Milli Vanilli Billi”. (This was something like 15 years ago, and I’m guessing it’s pretty well ignored these days.)

  7. Vince Neilstein

    I can’t imagine the legislators had L.A. Guns, Cinderella, Skid Row, etc etc etc in mind when they wrote this bill, but seriously, how will it affect those bands? There’s got to be ’80s hair bands going around with no original members left.

  8. Mick Kraut

    If you change the handle on an axe, then later replace the axe head…is it still the same axe?

  9. mackro

    Menudo is crying.

  10. noamjamski

    @Vince Neilstein: When Quiet Riot broke back in the day, weren’t they devoid of all original members or was Kevin Dubrow in the band from the start?

    Helloween has become a better band the more original members they lose? How does Bowser handle that?

  11. iantenna

    doug yule calls bullshit.

  12. Lucas Jensen

    @Mick Kraut: Whoa. That’s particularly raw seeing as both songwriters in Badfinger, um, killed themselves.

  13. baconfat

    @GOLDSOUNDZ: I think the article you are referencing is the one about the 2 dudes who tried to pass themselves off as Frankie Goes to Hollywood. They claimed in the article that they were studio musicians on Welcome to the Pleasuredome but then subsequently had their names removed from the credits and were never paid, but were still considered to be “in the band.” Interviews with a couple of actual members of the band revealed no tangible connection. Also, the two jokers were basically playing hair-metal versions of the FGTH songs.

  14. Homage

    I was very excited at the thought that the bill would actually contain your phrase, “less than one original member”, and the resulting notion that if all of Def Leppard were killed in a bus accident but the drummer lived, he couldn’t carry the band on in NY. Yeah.

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