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Old Rock-'n-'Rollers Get 'Truth in Music' Boost


You may have heard the term "truth in advertising," whose concept is pretty simple: When you describe your product or service, tell the truth!

Well now, folks around the country are starting to talk about "truth in music." There are even laws by that name in three states -- with more expected.

So what's "truth in music"?

The explanation begins in the 1950s, in the early days of doo-wop and rock, with finger-snapping groups like the Drifters, who sang "Up on the Roof"; the Coasters, remembered for "Yakety-Yak (Don't Talk Back)" and Sha Na Na, who sang a pensive song about "Romeo and Juliet."

The British musical invasion put most of these early groups out of business, and many of the musicians faded away with little if any money to their names. Now their sound is back in vogue, especially in television commercials and nostalgic concerts.

And it's the latter that's the problem. According to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pennsylvania, there are now hundreds -- hundreds -- of bands that are touring using the old groups' names without having a single Coaster or Drifter or Supreme in the band. To get away with it, they sometimes change the spelling of the group's name by a letter or two. As Sha Na Na's lead singer, Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, puts it, "They undercut the legacy of [the original] artists by pretending to be them."

The Truth in Music laws prohibit that practice and give surviving members of the old groups a better chance to get gigs for themselves, or, as the Silhouettes put it, to "Get a Job!"

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