Tomorrow, “Bowzer,” the deep-voiced leader of the band Sha Na Na — you know, the greaser who does the arm thing — will be at Colorado’s Capitol. Expect to see lawmakers, maybe Dianne Primavera and Ray Rose, doo-woppping around the joint. “You have to have one fun bill a year,” explains Rep. Jim Riesberg, who is pushing a “Truth in Music” proposal.Riesberg wants Colorado to join 18 other states with a law targeting fake bands and musicians. His idea initially came from a constituent, he says, who came to him after a sell-out performance of a well-known band that filled the civic center in Greeley, which Riesberg, a Democrat, represents.
“[This constituent] was a real fan, and at the concert he realized that the music was the same — but no one on stage had ever been affiliated with that band,” Riesberg says. “He discovered they were doing it all over the country. He said, ‘How could they do that?’ And I wondered the same thing.”
Riesberg doesn’t remember which fake group it was that played Greeley, but nationally, some bands with familiar old-time names like the Drifters, the Platters and the Temptations go on tour and perform the old music — but none of the musicians were actually part of the original band.
Which brings us to “Bowzer,” the doo wop leader of Sha Na Na. Now nearing 60 years old, the musician, whose real name is Jon Bauman, is the chairman of the Truth In Music Committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. And he’s on a mission to protect original artists from identity theft — and music aficionados from being misled. Riesberg calls his proposal, House Bill 1196, “truth in advertising” and Bowzer is scheduled to be at the Capitol to testify in favor of it on Monday.
Riesberg says he’s not trying to put tribute groups — who play the music of past greats — out of business. He just wants to keep them honest. The proposal, modeled after a similar Pennsylvania law, would install civil penalties of $5,000 for pretenders who engage in false and deceptive tactics.
“It’s really very simple,” Riesberg says. “You can’t claim to be someone you’re not, and the audience has the right to know, when they’re plunking down their hard-earned dollars, who they’re listening to.”
Stay tuned: Check in tomorrow for a classic story of greed and depravity — a man with a schtick who was busted in Colorado Springs after impersonating one-hit wonder Terry Jacks in the mid-1990s.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at The Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at email@example.com