Many of the early pioneers of rock and roll are long gone. But for those still around, the fight to ward off imposters continues. The end may be near for these "great pretenders."
There's nothing new about imposter groups calling themselves originals. It's been going on for years. But, the true originals of such legendary vocal groups as The Platters, The Drifters, and The Coasters want it stopped once and for all.
Carl Gardner, the lone surviving member of The Coasters, figures there are a dozen or more groups around the country posing as The Coasters, without the audience even knowing the group is a fake. Because of these so-called "knockoffs," Gardner has lost revenue from jobs he didn't get, and he's had to live with the sad fact that people are being deceived, most of the time by inferior performers. Although Gardner retired from The Coasters last year, he keeps fighting to get laws passed to ban imposter groups. He says, until then, audiences will continue being duped.
"When we do a show all those people come to see us, and they come in and applaud like mad, and they don't know one of us," said Mr. Gardner. "And even in the 'phony rooms' they come in and do that, and they don't know that those guys are phony on stage. And these guys have the audacity to say, 'This guy has been with us since 1928,' or whatever. And not one of them has been there more than several years of cheating."
Good news for Carl Gardner and other original artists, as legislation to stop imposters from performing was recently passed in Pennsylvania. It is now illegal in that state to perform under another group's name without having at least one member of the original recording group.
Bob Crosby, President of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, hopes to have the same bill, known as the "Truth In Musical Advertising Act," signed into law in all 50 states. In the meantime, Crosby is encouraging fans to do their homework.
"It's important to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame to get this information out to the public, particularly the fans, so that they're aware of the problem and maybe more cautious about 'studying' a show before they go with the anticipation of seeing the legends that they thought they grew up with, and instead finding themselves with an imposter group, which is certainly disheartening," said Mr. Crosby.
Other staunch advocates of the law to ban imposter groups include Joe Terry of Danny and The Juniors; Jon Bauman, formerly of Sha Na Na; and Mary Wilson, formerly of The Supremes. For more on the "Truth In Musical Advertising Act," go to www.vghf.org <http://www.vghf.org>.