How many band members must die off before it’s not the same group?
[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca this week. – AC]
When I was growing up in Winnipeg, there was an old-fashioned Good Fellas-type supper club at 579 Portage Ave. called Club Morocco.
Opened in 1954 by a guy named Harry Smith, the place ran weekly ads in the Winnipeg Free Press advertising the entertainment for the coming week to go along with its signature Chinese buffet. Not only did Harry showcase local acts, but he often brought in out-of-towners. Before the Star Trek franchise took off with movies in the late 1970s, Nichelle Nichols — Lt. Uhura, of course — was sometimes the featured singer. But the group I remember seeing advertised the most was The Ink Spots.
They were a pop vocal group from New York formed in 1934, who recorded for Decca and broke up in 1954. But if the group ended in the 1950s, how was Harry able to book them at Club Morocco through the 1970s and ’80s? Extreme dilution, that’s how. There was a schism within the original lineup and The Ink Spots splintered again and again and again. There may have been dozens of Ink Spots, none of which had any original members or even legitimate ties to the group that formed in 1934. All of them somehow managed to trade on that name and legacy for years.
We’re starting to run into the same problem today with bands cherished by Boomers and Gen Xers. As the bands of their youth splinter and die off member by member, we’re starting to see a crisis of authenticity. When is the band we go to see NOT the band we want to see?
Fake bands, like we saw with The Ink Spots, are nothing new. Frankie Goes to Hollywood — infamous for their British and MTV hits Relax and Two Tribes — launched a tour of the U.S. The problem was this group was a complete fake with no original members and was formed without anyone’s knowledge or consent. Out front was a guy who called himself Davey Johnson and claimed to be actual singer Holly Johnson’s brother, which, of course, he wasn’t. Yet this FGTH managed to play gigs throughout the U.S. for almost two years.
Cobbled-together reunions have also been a problem.