Sha Na No: Michigan Senate Passes Bill to Stop Bogus Bands

The state Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill designed to stop touring groups from using names of famous recording acts unless they meet criteria such as featuring at least one member of the original band.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame, a nonprofit foundation, has been pushing for legislation nationwide to preserve the legitimacy of touring bands. The Sharon, Pa.-based group says several artists have toured the United States under names of recording groups from the 1950s and '60s — often without any link to the original group.

The band names most often cited by critics include The Drifters, The Coasters and The Platters. They were well-known acts in the era before TV and video made performers more visually recognizable to their fans.

The bill, which now goes to the state House for consideration, would put Michigan on the same page as other states including Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Illinois that have passed what is called "truth in music" legislation.

Democratic Sen. Martha Scott sponsored the bill after the issue was brought to her attention by Mary Wilson, who sang with the Supremes. Another leading advocate of the effort is Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, a former member of the group Sha Na Na.

"I have been following this issue for a lot of years," Bauman said recently. "Even I am flabbergasted at the breadth of this. It involves a lot of group names, and it happens around the country."

He said the measure would protect customers and the bands that originally made the music.

The Michigan bill allows a recording group to use a particular name if the performers have the trademark on the name. A group could also use a particular name if it includes at least one original band member from the recording group with legal rights to the name.

Tribute performances also would be allowed if the concerts are advertised as such.

It would illegal to advertise or conduct a musical performance with the use of a "false, deceptive, or misleading affiliation" between a performing group and a recording group. The state attorney general could sue to stop a planned performance, and "persistent and knowing" violations could result in fines.