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Nostalgia acts bring back the songs, but not always the original artists


Courtesy of Miguel Cruz

The Temptations are still on tour after more than 40 years. However, of the so-called ‘classic’ lineup, only Otis Williams remains. Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin have all died.


Courtesy of Union Colony Civic Center


Courtesy of Union Colony Civic Center

The original lineup of Cornell Gunter's Coasters (top), The Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters (above) and The Platters (below) had to be changed, swapping The Temptations for The Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters, due to trademark issues.


Courtesy of Union Colony Civic Center


Courtesy of Veta Gardner

That’s Carl Gardner of The Coasters all right. but the original Coaster no longer tours. His son, also named Carl Gardner, is pictured above his father.

Cornell Gunter’s Coasters, The Temptations Reunion Show and The Platters
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 2 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St. Cost: $25/$27 RES

Information: or 221-6730
(The show will also be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Ave., Greeley. Tickets are $18 to $45 RES

Information: or 356-5000)

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On Monday night you can see The Coasters at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins.

Or you could see The Coasters at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Ga., or at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

How can one band be in three places on the same date? Have members mastered time travel or perfected cloning?

If you ask Veta Gardner it's actually much less scientific than that, more of a good old-fashioned bait-and-switch.

There's actually only one "true" Coasters show, according to the Coasters manager and wife of Coasters' founder, Carl Gardner. And it isn't any of the above.

"We're going to be in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Oct. 6, but (there's no show) Oct. 8," Gardner said in a phone interview from her Florida home.

Multiple players

But producers of the Fort Collins and Las Vegas shows say their productions are just as legitimate.

By law, New York promoter Larry Marshak owns the rights to "Cornell Gunter's Coasters" and has for almost 20 years, said Mick Scully, with the show's agent Capitol International Productions.

And in a business that's often a game of musical chairs of current and former group members (and their surviving family members), there's usually no one person who can make that claim, Scully said.

"I'm sure you've heard of the Glenn Miller Orchestra?" he asked. "They still perform and he's been dead for more than 50 years."

Scully also refers to groups such as the Beach Boys, which he represents, that has only one original member, Mike Love.

"When we send (an information) sheet to our buyers recommending the show we say, 'The names have changed but the music is the same.' Nobody cares because it's about the music," he said.

But it's not quite the same, said Gardner, who, along with her husband, has been fighting, what she calls "fraud Coasters" since 1990.

They get around the trademark name by billing themselves as "Billy Guy's Coasters" or "Cornell Gunter's Coasters" - the group performing in Fort Collins along with The Platters and The Temptations, Gardner said.

Playing by the law

But legally, at least in Gardner’s case, the law is on the promoter’s side.

Cornell Gunter, who was a member of The Coasters from 1958 to 1961, was shot and killed in 1990 in Las Vegas.

Gunter’s sister sold the rights to the name Cornell Gunter’s Coasters soon after his death. Now the vocal groups — there are several that perform under the same name at the same time — play hundreds of shows each year around the nation.

According to a 2001 federal court decision, Carl and Veta Gardner are the sole shareholders of The Original Coasters name. But the ruling also stipulated that they hold no rights to the trademark “Cornell Gunter’s Coasters.”

Gardner, who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting fake Coasters, asserts that the agreement, which bears her signature and Carl’s, was made through error and bad advice and, as is also stated in the decision, the couple did not have an attorney at that time to aid in their case.

Diluting the name

Gardner, and several members of the Vocal Hall of Fame’s Truth in Music Committee, argues diluted groups like this only dupe fans into thinking they are buying tickets for the real deal.

Gardner admitted, however, that their Coasters also no longer contain any original Coasters. Carl Gardner retired after suffering a stroke in 2004. His son, Carl Gardner Jr., now sings in his father’s place, as do two former members who recorded with the group and help maintain the group’s original style.

“What’s often done is these companies look for a member of the group from 50 years ago who died 30 years ago, and then they buy a so-called license to the name,” said Jon Bauman, better known as “Bowzer” formerly of the vocal group Sha Na Na, and chairman of the Vocal Music Hall of Fame’s Truth in Music Committee. “What they’re going to have to do under the Truth in Music Act is prove that their license is worth the paper it’s printed on.”

The Truth in Music bill states that band names cannot be used unless the group on stage contains at least one recording member, or has a valid, federally registered trademark for the group name. Barring these things, a performance must be clearly advertised as a tribute or a salute.

The bill has passed in 18 states, including New York and Florida, and the committee is seeking sponsorship of the bill in Colorado.

“Events like this emphasize the need for the Truth in Music law in Colorado,” said Bauman, adding that the act is not out to get the venues that host the shows, but to stop fraudulent groups and the promoters who are knowingly sponsoring them. “The venue itself is often a victim,” he added.

Susan Herlihy, public relations coordinator for the Lincoln Center, said the center always checks the acts before booking them.

“We are very careful to only bring in licensed acts from promoters that we have a good history with,” she said.

And at the time the show was booked by the Lincoln Center, all of the acts had licenses — until last month.

Originally the Fort Collins and Greeley shows — the tour heads to the Union Colony Civic Center on Oct. 13 — included the Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters.

But recently agent Capitol International Productions pulled the Elsbeary Hobbs Drifters from the bill after promoter Larry Marshak, who laid claim to the trademark, was found in contempt of a 2001 court order barring him from using the name.

Hobbs was a member of The Drifters from 1958 to 1960 and died from lung cancer in 1996. Marshak’s attorneys are challenging the judgment.

To fill the slot, the promoters brought in The Temptations Reunion Show — featuring former Temptations lead singers Glen Leonard and Ali Woodson, but not original member Otis Williams, who also still performs with his group, “The Temptations.”

Big crowds

The venues love the shows because they are cheap and bring in tons of people, Scully said. Audiences and critics love the shows because they are entertaining.

The shows are cheap, Gardner agreed. That’s the problem, she said adding: Why pay The Coasters $10,000 when a venue can get a knock-off version for $3,500?

“Agents love these kinds of shows because many of them are really tribute shows in sheep’s clothing,” Bauman said. “They can charge outrageous prices for them as they pretend to be the original group. … Tribute shows are a much lesser commodity. There’s nothing wrong with them but they need to be clearly advertised.”

That doesn’t give audiences much credit, Scully said.

It’s just like a production of “The Producers,” which is playing in dozens of cities at the same time with different actors other than the Broadway cast, he said. These audiences know they aren’t seeing the original band members; they’re there for the music.

But Bauman isn’t buying that and he’s willing to bet consumers aren’t either.

“The audience is outraged once they know,” he said. “The authentic performers are outraged and destitute, and it’s their jobs being taken away. They want to work and can’t because their prices are being undercut.

“Truth in Music is finally ending the impostor group nightmare in which consumers are duped out of their hard-earned entertainment dollars and the authentic pioneers whose music changed the world are cheated of their just remuneration and, what’s worse, their applause.”