Singers lobby legislature to ban musical impostors
Associated Press Writer
Touring musicians are nothing new. But on tour in the nation’s legislative buildings? That’s been the venue of choice for some famed singers seeking laws against imposter groups promoting themselves as the real thing.
Sonny Turner of the Platters and Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of Sha Na Na urged Nevada’s Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday to pass SB53, which would ban performers from faking connections to recording legends from years past.
Their arguments, along with a few lines from some of their hits, came easily. After all, they and others, including former members of the Supremes, the Drifters and the Coasters, have been using the same material in legislative hearings in a dozen or more states.
The efforts have paid off: Nine states have enacted laws to protect the original musicians. The last was New Jersey, where on Friday acting Gov. Richard Codey signed a law making it a consumer fraud violation for anyone to advertise and perform using the name of a famous band without having at least one original member.
On Monday in Nevada, Bauman, head of a group called “Truth in Music,” mentioned the bill-signing in urging this state’s lawmakers to do the same. And, reverting to his greaser “Bowzer” character, he used a line from a Sha Na Na hit and said the imposter groups need to “Get a job!”
Turner did the same, recycling a Platters’ classic by singing, “Only you can pass this bill for us.”
Bauman said the fake bands hurt the original entertainers and also cheat consumers who pay for something they don’t get.
“It’s important that the consumers know that when they put their money down to see a show that they see the actual performer,” Turner added.
The proposed law would require performing groups to have at least one member of the recording group that they claim a connection to, or label the production a “tribute” or “salute.” Otherwise, claiming a connection would be considered a deceptive trade practice.
Bauman said such laws have been effective in other states, and consumer complaints can lead to state attorneys general blocking the shows from taking place.
In previous testimony to Nevada lawmakers, former Supremes singer Mary Wilson said there are at least five groups touring around the world claiming false connections to the Supremes. Wilson sued them all but lost, spending “a couple million dollars” in the process, she said.
Wilson, who lives in Las Vegas and still performs regularly, said some major artists from the 1950s aren’t well known visually because record companies were reluctant at the time to put black artists on the covers of their records. She said that makes them particularly vulnerable to impostor groups.