On June 17, a band calling themselves the Little River Band will perform a concert at Proctor’s Theater. This band will perform many of Little River Band’s classic songs and hits.
There’s just one little problem.
The current lineup taking the stage at Proctors is not the classic lineup from the 1970’s.
In fact, there’s only one member of the current touring lineup – American lead singer Wayne Nelson – who can be heard on LRB’s hitmaking years, and in fact he’s only on two later hits – “The Night Owls” and “Man On Your Mind.” The main meat and heart of LRB isn’t part of the band any more, and hasn’t been for decades.
For as long as rock and roll has existed, so too have disputes over group lineups and ownership of names. There are touring groups that call themselves “The Platters” or “The Coasters,” without a single original member in the lineup, or a person who may have sung on the classic hits. And this phenomenon is not limited to 1950’s vocal harmony groups. 1960’s acts like the Vogues have had the rights to their names locked in dispute. The Jackson 5 changed their name to the Jacksons because their previous label, Motown Records, owned the name “Jackson 5.”
Now we come to Little River Band. The heart of LRB’s vocal harmonies came from lead singer Glenn Shorrock, as well as from songwriter-vocalists Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble.
And over time, those artists – one by one – left the group. The group continued on with new vocalists (for a while, Australian superstar vocalist John Farnham was a member of LRB).
Then came the lawsuits and litigation between the current owners of the LRB name and trademark and wordmark, and the lineup of Glenn Shorrock, Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble, who wanted to let fans know that they were members of LRB when THAT trio wanted to tour and to perform.
I wrote about Little River Band past and present in a 2004 edition of Goldmine; the link to the original article is here. Since then, the lineups of both groups have changed, but the schism remains the same. And therein lies the concern. Not just for LRB, but for other groups that tour and perform, despite having a lineup whose performers are younger than the songs they sing.
I totally get it. Tommy Dorsey is not alive to conduct the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, even though the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra still performs hundreds of dates around the country. And if you see “The Drifters” in concert, just know that Charlie Thomas is the last surviving member of the Drifters to perform on those classic tracks, and he has his own touring group of Drifters as well.
And herein lies a tale. And it involves another classic oldies group, the Vogues.
The Vogues had several hits in the 1960’s, including “You’re The One,” “5 O’Clock World” and “Turn Around, Look At Me.” Over time, the original members of the Vogues left the group, and someone else purchased the trademark to the name. When one of the original Vogues went back to perform, he was effectively blocked from advertising his connection to the original band – and the lawsuits and settlements went into action.
I say this because about 15 years ago, the trademarked “Vogues” performed a holiday concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I went there to see the concert, and at the meet-and-greet-and-autograph session afterwards – where the new Vogues were selling copies of their re-recorded hits on a purchasable CD – I watched as the bandmembers signed photos of their current lineup.
Time for a test. I slid a copy of a Vogues 45 from the 1960’s on the table.
In a flurry of Sharpie pens, each member of the new lineup autographed the old 45. Not one member of that new lineup actually SANG on that old record, but they were certainly happy to sign it. That’s hubris.
But now, let’s get back to Little River Band. Let me state for the record that the current lineup has a legal right to use that name and brand for their performances and concerts. They’re not doing anything illegal or deceptive.
All I’m saying right now is – if you’re expecting to see Little River Band perform hits like “Reminiscing” and “Lonesome Loser” and “Cool Change,” just know that the group that performs at Proctors on June 17th may call themselves Little River Band, and they may sing Little River Band hits… but their connection to the original lineup is in name and in copyright.
Besides, if you want to hear the original vocalists – especially when they still sound great after all these years – check out the lineup of Birtles Shorrock Goble as they performed in the Countdown Spectacular in 2007.
There you go.