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Guess who’s on the stage? Probably not who you think

Bill DeYoung

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The Guess Who, 1969: Garry Peterson, left, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings and Jim Kale. Photo: RCA Records.

Friday night’s Mahaffey Theater concert with the Guess Who will undoubtedly be a nostalgic rock ‘n’ roll experience.

Many won’t notice, or care, that it’s not exactly the Guess Who that created “These Eyes,” “Laughing,” “American Woman,” “Clap For the Wolfman, “Albert Flasher” and other late ’60s and early ’70s hits. Today’s Guess Who is a group assembled by Garry Peterson, who did play drums on every record the great Canadian rock outfit made in its heyday.

He did not, however, sing those songs, and no one else in his current group was involved with them at all. Peterson, quite simply, owns the band’s name as a trademark, along with bass player Jim Kale (who retired in 2016). Neither were the creative drivers in the classic Guess Who lineup.

Legally, Peterson has every right to bill himself and his “new” guys the Guess Who, although singer/pianist Burton Cummings, who DID sing every one of the hits, is currently suing Peterson and Kale for using the name to “deceive the public.”

Cummings – literally, the voice of the Guess Who – is joined in the $20 million federal lawsuit by guitarist Randy Bachman, another bandmate from the early hit years. Cummings and Bachman, either together or individually, composed the lion’s share of the hits.

(To give credit where it’s due, the songwriters on “American Woman” are listed as Bachman-Cummings-Peterson-Kale.)

Kale was part of the Guess Who for its first seven years, through 1972, rejoining Peterson under that name for decades until his retirement. Both Cummings and Bachman had successful solo careers.

According to the Canadian Press, Peterson and Kale say their long-ago bandmates want control of the trademark because they’ve found that their solo names “do not have the same recognition and do not garner the same commercial demand as the Guess Who.”

The lawsuit reads, in part: Defendants’ deception is material and harmful to consumers. Indeed, there are numerous instances in which fans and potential consumers have posted comments on Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms expressing either confusion about who will perform at the Cover Band’s advertised performances or disappointment and outrage at being tricked into purchasing tickets to one of the Cover Band’s concerts.

This sadly, has become all too common in rock ‘n’ roll – the “nostalgia circuit” means money, and name recognition is more or less everything.

Just FYI.

Guess Who tickets here.

Earth, Wind & Fire: You say you want a resolution?

In March, a Miami District Court Judge ruled that a group calling itself Earth, Wind & Fire Legacy Reunion, which includes no original or longtime members of Earth, Wind & Fire, can no longer use the legendary band’s name, color scheme or similar-looking logo in its marketing.

This act played the Mahaffey Theater last November.

RELATED READING: When is a tribute band more than just a tribute?

The Court then ruled against the “legacy” band’s defense because they were “suggesting sponsorship” by the original EW&F. The use of the term “alumni” was deemed “deceptive” given the absence of the core, remaining original EW&F musicians.

Those would be Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, who still perform as Earth, Wind & Fire. The sons of group founder, songwriter and longtime singer Maurice White, who died in 2016, own Earth, Wind & Fire LLC and allow the three remaining bandmembers to use the name.

Also swayed by the evidence that concertgoers left and right were angry at being “deceived,” the judge ordered the defendants to pay damages. The amount has yet to be determined.

 

 

 

 

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