Did you ever go to a performance by a band you like, only to find out it wasn’t really the band you like?
It seems for as long as there have been managers, agents, producers, promoters and record companies, there have been fake bands.
Through the years, I’ve read interviews with artists who told stories of fake groups posing as them. Famous bands that have been ripped off this way include Fleetwood Mac, The Zombies, The Animals, The Box Tops, Little River Band, and The Byrds.
Fleetwood Mac’s case happened in 1974. The group had been popular in England as a blues band in the late 1960’s. Then in the early ’70’s, they had minor pop/rock success when Bob Welch joined them and added songs like “Hypnotized” and “Sentimental Lady” (later a big solo hit for him). Their manager, Clifford Davis, wanted them to tour to build popularity, but the band members all wanted a break. So Davis, who felt he had the legal right to the name, simply put together another band and sent them on tour as Fleetwood Mac! He figured no one really knew the members anyway. When the real Fleetwood Mac found out, they decided to move their base of operations to the United States, sign a new contract with their label, and sue Davis. They were able to reclaim their name. Shortly after, Bob Welch left, and Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks joined. Soon, everyone would know every member of Fleetwood Mac.
Often, it was the English bands who were ripped off. The Zombies’ “Time Of The Season” and the album Odessey & Oracle became popular in the United States in 1969…but the band had already broken up. So, what’s an unscrupulous company named Delta Promotions supposed to do? They sent out two bands to pose as The Zombies! Can you imagine being a fan, going to a show and finding out there wasn’t even a keyboardist to play those great Rod Argent parts? I had heard about this con before, but was surprised to read one of the fake Zombie bands included young musicians who would form ZZ Top…Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. Delta Promotions did similar tours with “The Animals” and other groups. Finally, the backlash caught up with them. If you’d like to read a detailed article about this, check out “The True Story Of The Fake Zombies” on BuzzFeed.
In the case of famous/infamous producer Phil Spector, he owned the names of some of the groups he recorded. For example, his excellent session singer, Darlene Love, did some lead vocals for a group called The Crystals. The members of the group would then lip-sync to her recordings during TV appearances, and do their best to imitate her vocals live.
For a city celebration in Lincoln, Nebraska (in the early 2000’s), they hired Little River Band. I knew they weren’t together anymore, but it was a free concert, so I went. The band played extremely well, but in talking with them, I found out only the bass player (who sang lead vocal on one hit) was a “real” member of the band from when they were popular.
This is a common situation. Promoters often feel they can present a show if there is at least one member of a popular band (and the group name wasn’t owned by another member). It was that way for The Byrds (until Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, & Chris Hillman reclaimed the name) and John Fogerty didn’t want his two old band mates to use Creedence Clearwater Revival. They had to use “Revisited” in place of “Revival”.
How many bands are still touring without key members? Lots. Just off the top of my head…Chicago, Journey, Three Dog Night, Queen, and so many more. Today, if you hear about a band you would like to see, just Google the name and you’ll find out if the members you want to see are still with them. Sometimes, as in the case of Queen, you might want to see Adam Lambert perform for the late Freddie Mercury. There’s no deception there.
Want to see The Beach Boys? Brian Wilson (who is the key member) is touring with Al Jardine, another original Beach Boy, but they can’t use the name. Instead, original member and singer Mike Love, owns the Beach Boys name, and is touring with long time member Bruce Johnston. Take your pick!
With old bands, it’s always ticket-buyer beware.