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May 5, 2004

The Tribune

Will the real Drifters, Platters, Coasters or Tams please stand up? Gov. Mark Sanford is expected to sign a bill designed to protect music fans from being duped by impostor bands and acts, a measure sponsored by Rep. John "Bubber" Snow and supported by the Beach Music Association International and the Recording Industry Association of America. The legislation will require performances in South Carolina to be identified as a "salute" or "tribute" if the group in question does not contain at least one original member of the outfit responsible for its hit recordings. "There are a lot of phony groups out there," said Harry Turner, president of the BMAI.

Legal wrangling over the rights of group names is a common occurrence in the music business but especially problematic for early R&B and vocal groups that fall under the umbrella of beach music, South Carolina's official form of popular music. "Lawsuits always surround those groups," said Bob Wood, president of The Alabama Theatre, which presents concerts by various beach music and oldies acts.

The bill, ratified April 20 by the General Assembly, has been nicknamed the Bill Pinkney Bill after the only surviving original member of The Drifters, who is an S.C. native.There have been up to 40 versions of The Drifters drifting about, Turner estimated, but Pinkney won the right to use the name The Original Drifters. Wood questioned whether, if the Pinkney bill is signed by the governor, the law would prohibit a group with legal rights to a name but no original members in the lineup from performing.

Columbia attorney/lobbyist Kelley Jones, who wrote the original draft of the bill, said it isn't intended to prevent anyone from performing in the Palmetto State. "It just means there are some standards that you have to meet if you do perform in South Carolina," he said. The BMAI Web site explains it like this: "Even if the group has the trademark for a group name and can legally use it, our bill would require a disclaimer that there are no original members in this group."

Local beach music promoter Skipper "Water Dog" Hough disagrees with that provision. "They are leaving themselves wide open for lawsuits," Hough said Friday. "Some of these artists are dead, but their namesakes carry on. And several groups have members that have been with them for 25 to 35 years that weren't original, but who knows the difference?" he asked. "They have rights to the group names, and they've earned that right." Wood said The Alabama Theatre had been burned by this issue in the past, so venue officials are diligent in making sure groups that perform there have legal rights to their names.

Posted by acapnews at May 5, 2004 9:17 PM

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