While in training to become a music nerd in the mid-70s, I went to see 50’s doo-wop vocal group The Platters. What I did not know was that this was only one of several bands then touring the country using that name. Not one of them featured a single original member of The Platters.
Today, old gospel acts such as The Fairfield Four and The Blind Boys from Alabama continue while most of their founding members are long deceased. Like any other product trademark, there is value in the name of a band. Rock music is now in its sixties and as time goes on, many bands are falling apart or changing members.
But, many baby-boomer rock fans are still alive, and they carried a strong influence on their kids. Both love to hear their favorite classic rock tunes live in concert, and it’s likely that this love will pass on to future generations. Given that a lot of casual fans don’t actually know, or for that matter, care who the musicians in bands are, some of these classic rock acts in theory are quite capable of continuing forever.
“Tribute” bands providing full disclosure of exactly who they are not, exist now and will surely prosper in the future. But, undoubtedly there will be those who possess the legal wherewithal to tour using the valuable original band name. Following recent practice, some will do so without even the courtesy of informing potential patrons of the “Who’s Who” of their current line-up.
So if Neil Young is correct and “rock and roll will never die,” what bands do you think could have a future extending long beyond the lives of their current members? Assuming that some lawyer can’t stop them, here is a whimsical list of bands (along with their franchise logos) whose current behavior makes them prime suspects for an infinite career.
As distinctive as lead singer Jon Anderson’s voice is, this didn’t stop the band from touring with a replacement singer. With keyboard wiz Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver available to take over for his Dad, finding a competent axman to fill in for Steve Howe might be all Yes needs to keep on going.
This band has been through 25 different members, and since 2003, has played its power ballads to packed houses with only founding guitarist-songwriter Mick Jones on board. Think anybody would notice if he wasn’t there anymore?
- Lynyrd Skynryd
A great survival story: look-a-like brother Johnny taking over for the late Ronnie Van Zandt after the plane crash. Perhaps there is another Van Zandt in the wings who can sing “Free Bird?”
- The Four Tops / The Temptations
These two acts today tour together with each featuring only a single non-starring original member. Everyone’s love for those ever-so-familiar Motown hits should make these two franchises never cease.
This band set a pattern for perpetuity after adding their second replacement lead singer for original front man Steve Perry. I’m sure that twenty years from now, whoever owns the rights to this band’s name will again be able to find another one among the YouTube novices singing “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Too many radio faves here to silence a band that long ago lost one of its two original singers, and that has now had 19 different members. Put some good horn guys together, and anybody can probably sing those sappy hits.
- The Beach Boys
A band with lone original member Mike Love and later member Bruce Johnston currently tours using this legendary name. That old curmudgeon Love probably has already lined up the heir to his microphone for when he can no longer cut it.
Four band members who can hide behind masks will no doubt take Kiss into the 22nd Century and beyond. I suspect that the marketing gurus behind this band have long established their plan for brand immortality.
What other bands do you think might live forever playing shows under a franchise name without a warning label?