Sha Na Na member support bill against music impostors

MADISON — Jon “Bowzer” Bauman, formerly of the band Sha Na Na, had something to say Wednesday to impostor musical groups that make their living off famous originals: “Get a job!”

Bauman has been taking the same message to states across the country as part of an effort to pass laws preventing performers with no ties to original artists from passing themselves off as the real thing.

“There's something fundamentally un-American going on here,” Bauman said at a news conference where he was joined by three lawmakers who promised to push the bill in the Wisconsin Legislature.

For about 20 years, unscrupulous promoters and agents have been putting together packages of acts that use artists' names, typically from the 1950s and '60s, but have no ties to those groups, Bauman said.

The real band members get ripped off, as do members of the public who think they are seeing the originals but aren't, Bauman said.

“They don't even know they're applauding the wrong people,” he said.

Bands from the 1950s, especially those who didn't have an identifiable member and whose pictures were not printed on record covers, are most at risk, Bauman said.

He cited the Platters, Drifters and Coasters as the biggest victims of impostor groups that sometimes play multiple cities on the same night. Even more recent bands, like the 1980s group Frankie Goes to Hollywood, have seen knockoffs use their name, he said.

Bauman, whose alter-ego “Bowzer” contributed to Sha Na Na's fame in the 1970s and early 1980s and helped revive an interest in '50s music, said he feels indebted to bands from that era.

The so-called “Truth in Music Advertising” bill is law in seven states and is awaiting approval from governors in both New Jersey and Virginia. Wisconsin is one of 13 additional states where it is being considered.

The bill has proven to be a deterrent in states where it became law, Bauman said. Pennsylvania's law was the first to take effect in May.

By Scott Bauer, Associated Press
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