Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Little River Band - A Follow-Up

Our recent expose on The Little River Band sparked quite a few emails this past week.  Here are some of the best ...   

Hi Kent ... 
That’s a pretty good round up of the way it's seen here in Australia ... and I’m kind of puzzled as to how this isn’t more widely known in the US. I was also mildly amused by the comment that some of the original artists weren’t even born in Australia ... which is true, but not unusual. 
After WWII, Australia was flooded with migrant families and a government scheme to encourage British migrants saw them arrive in their thousands, and most with very young families. The Easybeats, the Bee Gees, Billy Thorpe, Men at Work and members of AC/DC were also, like LRB comprised largely of members who were born in the British Isles, but most are regarded as Australian citizens.  
I think its fair to say that although the band had quite a few members, the majority of these personnel changes took place when the band was past its prime.  
Also, just to let you know - I’ve never been a fan of LRB, although I do agree that they came up with some really international sounding hits and waved the flag for Oz rock.  
Thanks for the follow up ... I never expected this kind of interest.  
Kindest Regards,  
Murray Walding,  
What I find kind of amazing is that Australia continues to hold them in such high regard, considering that they had to LEAVE the country to actually make it!  (If I'm not mistaken, wasn't "Cool Change", their early 1980 Hit, adopted as some type of national song or something?)  The Bee Gees, too, are most recognized for their Australian roots despite boarding a boat to England to launch their career. 
I don't know why this story isn't better known in the US ... maybe our piece will do something to change that ... who knows!  (kk)

Regarding your outrage over the fake "Little River Band," do note that this kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time.  Even before the dawn of rock 'n' roll, there were loads of fake Ink Spots, for example, onstage in supper clubs and at county fairs.  In the early '60s folks who saw acts like The Champs or Johnny & the Hurricanes often were actually confronted by pick-up musicians who had nothing to do with the hit recordings who were put on the road by the real bands' management simultaneously in a multitude of cities to cash in on what was perceived to be the act's short-lived fame.  I have hosted concerts where, come to find out, the onstage performers working under the names of hit groups were in fact complete frauds.  Often the deals acts sign with managment or their labels give others 100% ownership of their group names -- allowing the label to send anyone out on the road as that given act, regardless of whether they actually had particpated in their recording of the hits or not.  Motown, for example, owns the name "The Jackson Five" -- which is why the brothers changed their name to "The Jacksons" when they moved from Motown to Epic in 1976.  Motown also owns names like "The Marvelettes" and routinely sends out groups of girls with no connection at all to the recording Marvelettes to perform in their place even to this day.  
Once, while hosting oldies concerts at Rye Playland, I was asked to introduce the Angels, whom I happen to personally know and went to visit with backstage.  Turns out none of the "Angels" I met that night had even been BORN yet when the real Angels recorded their hits.  The set of fakes all acknowledged this when I asked each one and explained that a promoter had discovered that the real Angels had never legally registered their name,  HE then did, claiming ownership of their trademark identity.  He then went out and hired four girls who could sing (more or less) to pretend to be the real Angels.  Understandably angry, I then went onstage -- but as I refused to call those fakes by the identity they were working under, I talked about the REAL Angels and then introduced the act as a "tribute to the Angels."   The girls then pranced out, and as rehearsed, they announced themselves as "The Angels" and then said, "and here's the big hit we recorded back in 1963" before launching into "My Boyfriend's Back."   Meanwhile backstage I lit into the promoter, telling him I had never deceived an audience ever and was hardly going to start now and that I'd never work for him again.  He again claimed ownership of the name "The Angels," said he couldn't care less about the original members and that he could put anyone he wanted on stage as The Angels.  The next day I phoned the surviving real Angels and told them what had happened.  The real Angels then sued the promoter -- AND WON.   
Unfortunately, that's not always the case.  The original Lettermen, for example, are legally barred from not only performing under the name that they made famous but even from individually MENTIONING that they are former members in their publicity!  They bill themselves instead as "Reunion" -- which caused a conflict with the studio group that recorded "Life is a Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)"!  
The moral of the story?  Before you go, find out just who you will be seeing when you hear of an oldies act appearing somewhere -- and if there isn't at least one original member in the act, beware,  At best what you'll experience will be a "tribute" to the real hitmakers (even though it probably won't be billed that way) -- but not the bona fides themselves. 
Gary Theroux 
"The History of Rock 'n' Roll"  
The situation you described ran rampant for YEARS ... often these fakes were depriving the REAL artists from earning a living, taking all their bookings pretending to be The Coasters or The Drifters or whomever else would draw a crowd and put money in their pockets.  That's why The Truth In Music Act was developed.  Jon Bowman (Bowzer from Sha Na Na) worked endlessly to get this passed across the country, insuring that these fakes could  no longer deceive their audience, taking their hard-earned money unless they had at least one original member in the band or could prove legal ownership of the band's name ... which is how The Little River Band (and apparently The Angels and quite a few others) are still able to perform using the recognizable name. 
(A Forgotten Hits Reader approached me years ago and told me that her Aunt was a member of The Angels ... she even had pictures of herself with Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon from "back in the day" ... but tracing The Angels' "family tree" through all of its different incarnations, I couldn't find ANYTHING linking this woman to the group.  It broke my heart to tell her that her Aunt had been lying to her for all these years.  Her celebrity photos were probably taken after appearances by these stars.  And there are countless other stories just like this that have been related to me over the years of doing this.)  
So sad ... as to us real fans, this connection genuinely MEANS something.  I take REAL offense to somebody up on stage saying "and then we recorded this" ... when, in fact, they weren't even born at the time!!! (kk)       

Great article on the "Little River Band". 
I saw LRB open for Chicago in Bristow, VA, at Jiffy Lube Live (then Nissan) pavilion a few years ago and questioned immediately who the heck they really were.  LRB is among the rogues gallery of imposter bands.  
Unfortunately many audiences will be deceived by groups hired by the lawyers and businessmen that had the where with all to register a name.  It is also unfortunate that many in audiences have such an appetite to hear oldies that they are happy to just to hear the tunes and they disregard who is presenting the performance. 
Look at all the acts touring the oldies, classic rock and doo-wop circuits.  They continue to provide fodder for the never ending PBS pledge drives.  
Finally, before I put the other foot in my mouth, here's an even bigger rip-off than the Little River Band.  The fake "Shangri-Las" opened for Gary US Bonds and Andy Kim in Glen Allen, VA, over six years ago.  I captured their performance with my pocket camera and posted it on youtube.  The lead singer was the only one remotely old enough to even remember the original group.  Unlike Andy Kim and Gary US Bonds who posed for photos and signed autographs after the show, these gals had the sense to leave the stage and get directly on their bus and get the hell out of town.  I guess they were acting on the advice of the guy that owns the group name.  I'm glad that my ticket purchase that evening was not based on these fakes being on the bill. 
I'll continue to buy tickets to see my faves like Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone and other groups that have at least one or more of the original members.  And, if the opening act is a fake, I'll respond with polite unenthusiastic applause or use the opportunity to go to the rest room.  
Thanks for exposing yet another rip-off of the ticket buying public.   
Gene Bonos  
Fake Shangrli-Las "Remember, Walkin' In The Sand":   
Peter Noone's version of Herman's Hermits is another perfect example of what I was talking about the other day.  The legal rights to the name Herman's Hermits are owned by the band's original drummer Barry Whitwam ... in England anyway where the band regularly performs.  Problem is Barry wasn't even on many of the hit recordings made by the band.  Because the goal at the time was to get as much good product out to their audience as quickly as possible ... and because Barry's timing was, at best, a bit off ... quite often he was replaced in the studio by a session drummer.  While even Peter admitted that Barry's claim of playing drums on "all their #1 hits" is true, he basically learned his parts after the studio musician laid them down on record so that he could go out and perform them on the road ... yet HE (and not Peter Noone) owns the name.
We've heard similar stories about the drummer from The Animals, the drummer and bass player from The Guess Who ... but who are YOU going to see?  The rhythm section and some guy trying to sound like Eric Burdon or Burton Cummings ... or the real thing??? The distinctive sound of these lead vocalists is what sold those records ... you can ALWAYS find competent musicians to recreate the sound of the band ... but recreating the voice is a completely different matter.  Creedence Clearwater Revisited?  I've heard they're great ... and I always loved the work of Stu Cook and Doug Clifford ... but I'm going to opt for the REAL John Fogerty's vocals every single time.  (By the same token, at least when Stu and Doug say something like "And then we recorded this one" or "When we recorded this one", they're telling the truth!  (kk) 

>>>Current members of the Little River Band:  
Wayne Nelson - bass  (1980 - 1996; 1999 - present), lead vocals (2000 - present)  Greg Hind - guitar, vocals  (2000 - present)  
Chris Marion - keyboards, vocals  (2000 - present)  
Rich Herring - guitar, vocals (2004 - present)  
Ryan Ricks - drums, vocals  (2012 - present)  
Hi Kent - 
Being a long time fan since the first lp, I can say Wayne Nelson was a later original member and sang lead on a lot of their hits.  He is the last original member in the band.  
They tour the states a lot and have released some cd's with this line up as I have a couple autographed. 
This might be the band the person was talking about but Wayne is an original member. 
I know there has been some bad times between members but that is Rock and Roll. 
Sorry, Mickey, but I've got to respectfully and emphatically disagree with you on this one ... and, based on what I've seen, heard and read, there are at least three REAL original members of this band who would disagree with you as well.  (A guy who joins a band five years in ... and after all of their Top Ten Hits have been released ... is NOT an "original" member.  That's not just my opinion ... that's a cold, hard fact.)  This is taking nothing away from Wayne Nelson ... he DID appear on some of the band's last charting singles ... and he's put in thirty years with the outfit ... that's longer than any other member of the band has stuck it out ... certainly this qualifies him for SOME entitlement and notoriety ... but it DOESN'T make him an original member of the band ... or "the last original" member ... you can't just rewrite this one little piece of history! 
The Little River Band formed in 1975 and released their first album in 1976.  If you HAVE that first album (as you state you do above), then you already know that the original members of the band were Glenn Shorrock, Rick Formosa, Beeb Birtles, Graham Goble, Roger McLachlan and Derek Pellicci. 
As Murray Walding states above, most of the personnel changes happened after the band's biggest hits were behind them ... and, in all fairness, EACH original member eventually walked away.  Every one of these guys has the right to earn a living by pursuing their livelihood ... again, what I object to is purporting to be the guys who made these records and reflecting back on your "40 years together" when in fact guys like Herring and Ricks have been with them for less than ten. And, when addressing the right to make a living and pursuing their livelihood, this ALSO includes all of the REAL original members, who are rightfully proud of the music they created.  It must eat at them daily to think that somebody else is up on stage night after night after night, taking credit for all of their hard work.  THAT'S the part that stinks ... and that's the part that I object to.  (If you still disagree, listen to the lyrics of "Someone's Taken Our History" ... that'll drive the point home for you!)  kk

Frannie happened to be looking over my shoulder when I answered this email and wondered ...    
So in Mickey's eyes I guess Ron Wood is the "last original" Rolling Stone, right?  He joined the band ten years into their career and has been with them ever since.  By the same logic, if Mick and Keith decided to hang things up tomorrow ... Mickey would be okay with Ron Wood carrying on the band's name and performing as The Rolling Stones?  Even though the two guys who founded the band ... and wrote and sang all the songs ... were no longer part of it?  Guess so ... 'cause you can't have it both ways.
Hmmm ... she's got a point there Mickey!!! (kk)   

Love your website, Kent, but your Little River Band review was confusing.
Wayne Nelson, who lived in Lockport, IL, in his teens, in my opinion, can rightly claim to use the original band's name since his longevity and vocals are on the original records. Oldies bands are always changing because of different circumstances. Little River Band's original singer left after Wayne joined the band because of the record company thinking Wayne's lead vocals were better matched to certain songs, according to an article I read years ago. Even the Beatles didn't end up with the people that were in at the beginning. 
Ed K.  
Seriously?  The Beatles???  (Big Pete Best fan, are you???)  The Beatles entire commercially released output includes the four "original" guys as the world at large discovered them. 
Major rock and roll acts like The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and The Temptations (and countless others) have made numerous personnel changes over the years and the fans have stuck with them and accepted this evolution of each band ... but those of us who were there at the time will ALWAYS revere the original line-ups of each of these acts. 
Michael McDonald wasn't an original Doobie Brother ... any more than Joe Walsh was an original Eagle ... yet BOTH of these guys made a HUGE, dramatic impact on the sound of their respective bands, coming on board several albums in.  While Wayne Nelson doesn't measure up anywhere near CLOSE to this level of impact, I would have to lump him into the same general category ... primarily because he DID sing some of their later hits and has thirty years in with the band.  
My expose was intentionally written the way it was as I wanted to show each new discovery I made along the way, as they were revealed to me while  researching the subject matter.  Murray Wilding's original email implied that there was NO connection between the current members of the band and the originals ... but after digging a little deeper, we discovered that Wayne Nelson DOES, in fact, have some longevity invested ... and that he DID, in fact, sing on a couple of the original hits.  We made that point quite clear in our article as the facts unfolded ... and I, too, said that I could accept Nelson as a credible member of the band, if only because the REAL principle members had all walked away from it and Nelson soldiered on. 
But as I understand it, it isn't Nelson who owns the name ... it's former member Stephen Housden who has that distinction ... he just lets the current line-up use it. 
When I see three of the original members frustrated by all of this (and the misrepresentation that these "new guys" had anything at all to do with the original hit records) ... and that they still seem to want to perform their legacy (and the music that they created) well, then I have a problem with this. 
Could something be worked out between Nelson, Goble, Birtles and Shorrock that would allow a REAL representation of the band to be presented?  I don't know ... boy, that would sure be an easy fix, wouldn't it?!?!  ALL of these guys still seem to have a strong affection for what they created when they first worked together.  But as pointed out numerous times in Forgotten Hits (and in the emails above), these wounds typically run VERY deep ... and it's NEVER water under the bridge with these guys.  Too bad ... on the one hand, you could have the PERFECT scenario to present the hits in their original form, crediting those who actually deserve the credit ... instead we have animosity and biting lyrics and nothing but bad feelings.  Truly the DOWN side of rock and roll.  (kk) 

Hi Kent,
Sad to hear that none of the Little River Band guys aren't even second generation members.  
I saw LRB when they opened for Foreigner on Foreigner's first tour. The LRB were supporting their second album. Foreigner were bad enough that I left before the show was over, and LRB were absolutely incredible and were the next three, or was it four,  times I saw them.  
They were also very, very gracious guys and really just couldn't have been nicer when I met them.  The last time I saw them, Peter Beckett, Wayne Nelson and Glenn Shorrock, were in the band. This was after John Farnham had gone and Glenn came back.  
When Mr. Shorrock left again I heard an interview with him and at that time he said he left because he didn't want to be on the road as much as they were. Then he got back together with Beeb Birtles, and Graham  Goble. I think they put out an album or two but never heard them.  
The John Farnham years were a bit odd ... the album The Net was a great one, but the next two they did with him were a bit of a different direction and John Farnham and the band parted ways, and Farnham continued his solo act. He was a big star in Australia already before joining them.  
Thanks for letting us know about this. They have always come to the Twin Cities on their tours so this is one I don't need to see anymore.   

I recently saw your post on Little River Band.  Thank you for posting that.  I've known about the current state of the band (no original members) since about 2000.  I did see them live that year on a double bill with Chicago and Survivor as the opening act.  
Incidentally Glenn Shorrock did rejoin the band for a few years after John Farnham left to pursue a solo career and they put out two more studio albums and a live album.  As far as I'm concerned those were the last three albums of LRB.  Anything since has been a cheap imitation of the original.
That being said, I do like Wayne Nelson's voice and there's an interesting story behind "Take It Easy On Me."   

He had just joined the band and producer George Martin was producing the "Time Exposure" album.  For some reason Glenn Shorrock was unavailable so Martin asked Nelson to record "Take It Easy On Me."  When Shorrock found out about it, he was livid.  He said something to the effect of, "Why am I even still in this band?"  Martin acquiesced and re-recorded the song with Shorrock and that's the version that made it onto the "Time Exposure" album.  In 2000 when their greatest hits album was re-released however it included the Wayne Nelson version of "Take It Easy On Me" (as well as an alternate version of "Man On Your Mind" with a horn chart included and an alternate version of "The Night Owls" with an alternate guitar part and the guitars louder in the mix).  
Best Regards,  
Interesting ... I'll have to compare the two versions of "Take It Easy On Me" now as I'd never heard this before!  Thanks, Darrin!  (kk)     

Hi Kent,
Wish I'd known that you were headed off to see the ersatz LRB, I would have warned you.  The 1977 to 1983 configurations of the band were the classic line-ups.  That trademark three-part harmony of Shorrock, Birtles and Goble is the Little River Band sound.  It's as distinctive as the Eagles, the Bee Gees, CSN and the original line-ups of the Beach Boys and the Temptations.  It's criminal that latter-day member Housden tied up the name and can sit at home and collect a substantial income from the shows his hired hands perform.
And these current "members" don't do themselves any favors spouting stage banter that references history and events of which they were no part.  Reminds me of a time that I saw a fake configuration of the Vogues and they introduced "You're The One" by telling how they had borrowed the song from their "good friend" Petula Clark when they went into the studio to cut it.  Not one guy on that stage had ever met Petula or had appeared on any of the group's classic recordings.
It's bad enough showing up at a venue and seeing a group of imposters, being lied to from the stage is simply rubbing the audience's nose in it.
I hope your tickets were comped, Kent.
Scott Paton  

Far too many bands misrepresent their history on stage ... I understand that it's all part of the patter and quite honestly MOST fans are none the wiser ... they just know that they used to like this particular song and/or artist and if they can hear their favorites presented in a fashion that reasonably mimics what they remember, they go home satisfied.  (Sadly, I can give WAY too many examples of this ... but I think you guys all know what I'm talking about ... and those of us who tend to be more "purists" will most certainly understand.) 
Don't get me wrong ... this new group is good ... the vocals and musicianship is top notch ... and many of the songs they performed have gone on to become rock and roll classics.  I just wanted to explore more of the "back story" to see how these guys arrived at this point.  The fact that they collectively take credit for recordings that NONE of them were a part of is the part that gets my goat.  (kk)

Meanwhile, I found this "family tree" chart to be pretty interesting ... it gives you some idea as to the overlap of members from the beginning to the present day.  (Incredibly several members of the band left and came back over the years, a very unusual situation.)
Believe it or not, this was on Wikipedia!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Saturday Surveys ( 11 - 22 )

We've run this chart before in Forgotten Hits ... perhaps most unique because it's dated the same date as The Kennedy Assassination ... November 22, 1963.

Our FH Buddy Bob Hale was responsible for counting them down this day but his show was preempted by the non-stop news coverage coming out of Dallas ... where all of America's world was turned upside down.

Only 90 minutes earlier, President Kennedy had been officially pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.  Nationwide, all eyes and ears were on Dallas, looking for ANY new details that might help to make sense of this tragedy.

The WLS Silver Dollar Survey spotlights some great music from late-1963 ... personal favorites include "Wonderful Summer" by Robin Ward, "She's A Fool" by Lesley Gore, "Deep Purple" by Nino Tempo and April Stevens, "I Can't Stay Mad At You" by Skeeter Davis and "Fools Rush In" by Rick Nelson ... when's the last time you heard ANY of these on commercial radio???

Jumping ahead six years, we find this KXOA Chart from 1969 ... with a VERY unlikely #1 Hit, "Wasn't Born To Follow" by The Byrds.  (This song never even made the Billboard Hot 100 Chart ... and was, in fact, the B-Side to their current, low-charting hit "Ballad Of Easy Rider" ... so this one comes as a COMPLETE surprise!)  

The Band are charting quite high here, too, with their early chart hit "Up On Cripple Creek" ... it sits at #3 this week.  In fact, quite a bit of this charts leans toward the "heavy hits" of the day ... Creedence Clearwater Revival, Three Dog Night, both The Beatles AND The Plastic Ono Band, A.B. Skhy, Crosby, Stills and Nash (with another B-Side, "Long Time Gone", the flipside of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", which charts ten spots below it at #29), Janis Joplin, Santana, Thunderclap Newman, Blind Faith ... this looks like what would come to be known as FM Classic Rock several years later!  (Even their Top Five Albums reflect this, with titles represented by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, CCR and the Soundtrack to "Easy Rider".)    

Meanwhile, odd-ball (by comparison!) tracks like "Jam Up And Jelly Tight" by Tommy Roe, "Cherry Hill Park" by Billy Joe Royal, "Love And Let Love" by The Hardy Boys and "Groovy Grubworm" by Harlow Wilcox can also be found on this week's Top 30.  An eclectic mix to be sure!

El Paso's KELP was also serving up an unusual mix of music back in 1968.

The #1 Record was by Rene and Rene with their (mostly) foreign-language hit "Lo Mucho Que To Quiero", a song that also did pretty well here in Chicago.  (We have featured this one a few time over the years and it always gets a good response ... a truly "forgotten hit" if there ever was one ... yet EVERYBODY seems to remember it once they hear it again ... and thus is the very essence of what Forgotten Hits is all about!)

Right behind it is Brenton Wood with "Me And You", a song that only "bubbled under" in Billboard (and at #121 at that!).  Believe it or not, this one was LAST week's #1 Record in El Paso!  (I'd never even heard it before ... and, listening to it now, it SURE sounds out of place in 1968!  More like a doo-wop record with a spoken narration???  Wow!)

Thee Midnighters have TWO Top 12 Hits:  "That's All" is at #4 this week and "Sad Girl" is at #12.  Neither one of these records made the Billboard chart ... and once again harken back to a much older sound.

Boy, Clark Besch sure sent us some VERY interesting charts for this week's Saturday Surveys feature!

Yes, you've got The Beach Boys topping the KAFY "Boss 30" Hit Parade with their monster hit "Good Vibrations" ... but that one was #1 EVERYWHERE.  So check out numbers 2 and 3!!!  "Little Black Egg" by The Nightcrawlers (a garage band classic if there ever was one) holds down the #2 spot ... and one of Dave The Rave's all-time favorite bands, Richard and the Young Lions are ranked at #3 with their hit "Open Your Door".

Interesting to see The Sandpipers' version of "Louie Louie" in the Top Ten ... in fact, down from #3 last week to #7 this week ... and Brian Hyland's latest, "Run, Run, Look And See" jumps all the way from #23 to #10!  (You won't find any "dirty lyrics" in The Sandpipers' version ... meanwhile, The Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" made our 1963 WLS chart featured above.)   

Also on the chart is the Rare Breed version of "Come Take A Ride In My Boat" ... which would go to the top of the charts a year later when it was re-recorded as "Come On Down To My Boat" by Every Mother's Son!

Friday, November 21, 2014

50 Years Ago This Weekend

November 21-22-23:   

"She's Not There" climbs to #5 this week for The Zombies on The Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.  "Have I The Right" is at #7, "You Really Got Me" is at #8 and "Time Is On My Side" is at #10 for The Honeycombs, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones (respectively).  

"Do Wah Diddy Diddy" falls to #15 for Manfred Mann while Herman's Hermits climb to #20 with "I'm Into Something Good".  Peter and Gordon ("I Don't Want To See You Again", #26), Gerry and the Pacemakers ("I Like It", #28), "When You Walk In The Room" (#35 for The Searchers), "Everybody Knows" by The Dave Clark Five (#37) and "I'm Crying" by The Animals (#40) round out The British faction of The Top 40 this week.  

The Nashville Teens sit just outside The Top 40 with "Tobacco Road" ... it falls from #15 to #41 this week.  Manfred Mann make a HUGE leap (from #71 to #47) with "Sha La La" while The Dave Clark Five climb from #78 to #63 with "Any Way You Want It".  Chad and Jeremy also show some positive movement with their latest as "Willow Weep For Me" climbs from #94 to #79.  Premiering this week at #81 is "The Wedding" by Julie Rogers.

Herman's Hermits take over the #1 Position this week on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey with their first American Hit, "I'm Into Something Good".  (Peter Noone and the boys ALWAYS did really well here in Chicago ... nearly every single hit they had peaked higher in Chicago than it did on the national charts.)  

The Zombies are in at #2 with "She's Not There" ... they'll take over the top spot in a couple of weeks.  The Kinks fall to #4 with "You Really Got Me" but The Rolling Stones enter The Top Ten for the first time with "Time Is On My Side"  

Rounding out the rest of the chart we find "Have I The Right" by The Honeycombs at #11, "Don't It Make You Feel Good" by The Overlanders at #12, and Marianne Faithful premiering at #28 with her version of "As Tears Go By". (Being Mick Jagger's girlfriend had certain advantages back in the day ... The Stones themselves wouldn't chart with this song for over a year!)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Little River Band

For reasons that will become painfully obvious as you continue to read this article, this has got to be one of the toughest reviews and commentaries I've ever had to do.  

Frannie and I had never seen The Little River Band before ... but we both love their music (and have loved this music since it first found its way to America back in 1976).  

Between 1976 and 1985, The Little River Band placed 16 hits on Billboard's Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.  These include 13 that made The Top 40 and SIX that made The Top Ten ... TIMELESS tunes like "Reminiscing", "Lady", "Lonesome Loser", "Happy Anniversary", "Take It Easy On Me" and others ... so we were quite excited to finally get to see them.  (The LRB has been playing the casino circuit quite a bit lately ... but this show was to be held at our regular hang-out, The Arcada Theatre ... and, purely by coincidence, we would be celebrating our very OWN Happy Anniversary the day after the show ... so we were REALLY looking forward to going!)  

HOW WERE THEY?:  Musically, they were outstanding ... great musicianship ... incredible harmonies ... they performed every hit you'd ever want to hear to rousing applause throughout the night.   

WHO WERE THEY?:  THIS is the question that has had me so perplexed this past week ... because right before we went to the show we received this disturbing email from a LRB fan from Australia:  

Hi Guys ... 
I always enjoy your news feeds and although I’m on the other side of the world, I still take a great interest in all your posts.
I notice that you’re listing shows by the ‘Little River Band’ (which I drove through just the other day), who started their careers in Melbourne Victoria. I’m not sure whether you realize it, but this band has nothing to do with the original band and merely features a US muso who was picked up to help with tours over there. He was smart enough to register the name (it's hard to believe that the original band or their management had never got around to doing that!) and now tours his version of LRB, while the original members are legally prohibited from performing under any version of that name.  
Here in Australia it is considered to be an act of treachery by that band member, and the whole episode has left a bad taste in the mouths of all the Australian musos concerned (original vocalist Glenn Shorrock was born in the UK, and so too were some of the other members)  
I’d be interested to know if this story is known in the US? 
Murray Walding, 

Well, it was news to me ... and I would suspect to most booking agents and venues as well, since these guys are regularly promoted as being the popular, hit-making band from Australia ... and refer to themselves that way as well.  Apparently, however, is no longer the case.  

For example, the ad for their appearance at The Arcada Theatre read as follows:   

The Little River Band is considered to be one of Australia’s most significant bands. Worldwide album and CD sales now top 30 million. They also set a record for having Top 10 hits for six consecutive years. The first band to achieve that mark. The Arcada Theatre is proud to present this extraordinary band! Get ready to hear all your favorite hits like: “Reminiscing,” “Take It Easy On Me,” “Help is On Its Way” and many more! 

But apparently the band that is currently touring America as The Little River Band cannot lay claim to ANY of these "facts" shown above ...   

Based on Murray's email, they had absolutely NOTHING to do with the recording of ANY of these hits ... 

And, incredibly, they're not even from Australia!!!  They're a bunch of Americans who, through some legal mumbo-jumbo acquired the rights to the band's name and are now out regularly performing (and impersonating) the band who REALLY accomplished all of the distinctions being touted above (all of which are regularly promoted in their advertising and booking information.)  And the worst part of all is that there's evidently NOTHING the original members can do about it!   

The fact that I had never heard ANY of this before makes me believe that there probably wasn't a fan in the audience who knew about any this ... nor did the band in ANY way suggest that they were anything other than the real deal.  (Where I found this most annoying ... knowing what I now knew ... was the way they told us how they were "celebrating our 39th year ... next year will be the big 40th anniversary of The Little River Band" ... or how "we cut this record back in 1982" ... when, in fact, NOTHING could be further from the truth.  NONE of these guys had ties that dated back 40 years ... and, based on Murray's email, I found it hard to believe that a single one of them had ever performed on ANY released Little River Band single ... Murray made it sound like these guys were "assembled" simply to cash in on the legacy of the original band's success ... and they had apparently found some under-handed legal way of doing so.  (They HAVE recorded some new material together, a couple of tunes of which they presented Sunday Night ... and they weren't bad ... actually ALL of these guys are extremely talented musicians and vocalists ... they're just NOT The Little River Band who originated from Australia ... and that's a deception that needs to be addressed ... by all appearances, NONE of these guys has ANY ties to any original member.)  So while legally on paper these guys may be "The Little River Band", they are, AT BEST, a tribute to The Little River Band with absolutely NO ties to the original band that recorded all these hits.  (Tracing their timeline, it looks like each member replaced replacements of replacements ... by the time they formed their own quintet in the early 2000's, ALL of the members were "new" to the LRB family tree.)  

To say we went into the concert feeling a bit cheated and disappointed is an understatement ... I had absolutely NO idea of what had transpired over the years, other than knowing that original lead singer Glenn Shorrock was no longer onboard.  As such, we naturally questioned in advance how they would sound without him ... but NEVER suspected that NONE of these members were original members of The Little River Band ... or that they'd been replaced by a group of AMERICANS purporting to be the popular band from Down Under.  

Here in the United States we have a Truth In Music Act which states that at least one original member must be present in order to perform using the band's original name ... or they must have the legal right to use that name ... which is what appears to be the case here.  Technically, that document allows them to do exactly what they're doing ... despite the fact that they are intentionally and maliciously deceiving the public and the long-time fans of the band.  
Checking the band's website, they give short bios about the current five members of the band, ALL of whom appear to have been born right here in The United States!  (So they're not "Australian" at all ... and advertising them as such is a real misnomer!)  In fact, it would seem that they have been misrepresenting themselves and their background to secure these gigs here in The States, all the while prohibiting any of the REAL original members of the band to seek work utilizing their true legacy ... and that's just wrong!     

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I have since learned that ONE current member, Greg Hind, WAS, in fact, born in Melbourne, Australia ... and that even the ORIGINAL Little River Band, circa 1976, only had one TRUE Australian member.      

The story goes that in the early '70's The Little River Band were having a tough time finding an audience in Australia ... so, much like The Bee Gees had done a decade before them, they headed off to England to see if they could catch their break there.  When that didn't happen, they set their sights on the United States ... some reports say they were brought over here to work as Jim Messina's back-up band ... and there may be some truth to that, as I've seen it mentioned in several places (but, oddly enough, NOT on Jim Messina's website where he traces his own bio and timeline).  By 1976, Loggins and Messina had pretty much called it quits ... but in less than a year, The Little River Band found themselves recording for Capitol Records and placing records on the charts ... so this part of the story is a little bit unclear.      

Bands change members all the time ... and truth be told, membership in The Little River Band can best be described as a revolving door ... I've counted close to thirty different members of this band over the past 40 years!  But the legal rights to the use of the name is always a sticky area.     

We've talked about the touring edition of The Grass Roots with no original members ... but original singer Rob Grill passed the group on to the current line-up.  "Paul Revere's Raiders" are touring now without their grand master, who passed away earlier this year ... but Paul bequeathed this title upon them ... and let's face it, a couple of these guys have been playing in Paul's band for upwards of 40 years.  Dammit, it THAT doesn't make you a Raider, what does?!?)  

Even a group as big as Chicago can only boast one original lead singer ... everyone else handling vocals from the stage joined the band along the way ... again, some (like Jason Scheff) have over 25 years with the group now ... and he does a mean Peter Cetera imitation ... the horn section is the only other "constant" linking the band back to their earliest days.  And nobody criticizes Chicago, right?  

This, however, seems to be an entirely DIFFERENT situation.  It would appear that this group of Americans has "hi-jacked" the name of a prominent source of music from the late '70's and early '80's, and through some legal manipulation has taken their place on the touring circuit.  That makes this a case of Rock And Roll Identity Theft at its finest example!    

As I stated earlier, we knew going in that original lead singer Glenn Shorrock was no longer involved with the band ... and you ALWAYS take a risk when you go and see a band perform live that may have the rights to the name, held by some of the more "incidental" members of the original band ... The Guess Who immediately come to mind since we just saw Burton Cummings this past weekend at the same venue ... I don't care if the drummer and bass player DO hold the rights to the name ... the SOUND of The Guess Who can be 100% credited to lead vocalist Burton Cummings, who wrote and sang every hit record the band ever had ... so, by choice, that's who WE'RE going to see ... not the "watered down" version that still plays in and around the area from time to time.  

Still, I wasn't satisfied ... the last thing I wanted to do was come out here and make a point about this deception without getting all of my facts in order first. 

If you visit the official Little River Band website, you'll find bios listed for each of the current band members ...  
Click here: Bios | LITTLE RIVER BAND 
As it turns out, ONE of these guys (lead vocalist and bassist Wayne Nelson) WAS, in fact, a member of The Little River Band from 1980 - 1996 ... and has been at the helm again since 1999 ... so the TRUTH is that Nelson has over thirty years under his belt as a bona fide member of the band.  Contrary to what was surmised above, he WAS with the band when they were still recording their hits ... in fact, that's him handling the lead vocal on their hits "The Night Owls", "Man On Your Mind" and "Take It Easy On Me".  In my book, this absolutely counts for something ... thirty years in The Little River Band makes him a REAL member of the band.  And he DID record with them during their hey-day.  The OTHER four members, however, have joined over the past fourteen years ... Greg Hind in 2000, Chris Marion in 2004, Rich Henning in 2005 and Ryan Ricks in 2012 ... so these guy are, at best, Nelson recruits brought on board to carry on the name ... with absolutely NO ties to the real band.

Truth be told (as pointed out earlier), the group had a revolving door of members ... there have been at least THIRTY musicians who can claim to have been ... at one time or another ... a member of The Little River Band ... so this DOES muddy up the water just a little bit!  (Members have included everyone from Peter Beckett, formerly of Player ... as well as late-addition sidemen from groups like The Doobie Brothers and Air Supply) ... and since each and every original member chose to walk away from the group at some point in time, I can understand how "legitimacy" can be (at best) a VERY gray area!!!  

As for the real deal, Joel Whitburn lists the history / personnel of the band as follows:  

Original members:  Glenn Shorrock, Rick Formosa, Beeb Birtles, Graham Goble, Roger McLachlan and Derek Pellicci   


McLachlan replaced by George McArdle in 1977  
Formosa replaced by David Briggs in 1978  
Shorrock replaced by John Farnham in 1983  
Briggs replaced by Steve Housden in 1983  
Pellicci replaced by Steven Prestwich in 1985  
Birtles replaced by David Hirschfelder in 1987  
Goble replaced by Peter Beckett in 1992  

Incredibly not one of the CURRENT members (including long-time member Wayne Nelson) are mentioned on this "official" list at all ... but neither is Stephen Housden, who at SOME point along the way acquired the rights to the band's name.  (He joined The Little River Band in 1981 and hung around for most of the time through 1999, when he decided to step away from performing.)  Although he no longer performs with the band, he DOES own the legal rights to the name ... and, as such, he is the one granting the current line-up the use of the name (for which I'm sure he's paid a handsome royalty of some sort.)  The Little River Band perform about a hundred dates a year, primarily here in The United States, to enthusiastic audiences who clearly are none the wiser!  

At various times over the past several years (2002 - 2007 in particular), some of the original members (Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock, and Graeham Goble) HAVE gotten back together again for some reunion shows Down Under and in Europe ... however, because they are barred from using "The Little River Band" name, they have had to perform as "Birtles, Shorrock and Goble".  (Housden wouldn't allow them to use the name, as he already had his OWN version of the band out on the road in America).  Needless to say, these original, founding members were not too happy about this situation ... but Housden (who joined The LRB in 1981, five years AFTER these guys FORMED the band) owns the legal trademark to the name ... and there's not a thing they can do about it.  (Well, I guess they CAN let their feelings be known in their own way ... a few years ago, Graeham Goble released a single called "Someone's Taken Our History" and Beeb Birtles released one called "Revolving Door" ... so they're expressing their frustration in the manner to which they're best suited and most accustomed ... in song!  (Listen to these recordings and their true feelings about this very unpleasant situation come across loud and clear in a VERY biting way ... you will also hear the REAL sound of The Little River Band, millennium-style, as that basic "root" sound has never left them!)  

As for The Little River Band we saw Sunday Night, they were good ... genuinely good ... but it's hard for me to think of them as anything other than a TRIBUTE to The Little River Band ... especially since some of the original members are still out there, being prohibited from using their name.  To a degree, I feel like we are being forced to accept the group we saw based solely on a legal document granting them the rights to use the name ... rather than any true, genuine ties to the real band ... and I have a REAL problem with them presenting themselves as being The Little River Band from Australia when this simply isn't the case.  

In yet another slap in the face to the REAL band, these guys offer a link on their website featuring short snippets of The Little River Band's greatest hits.  ALL of which have been clearly re-recorded by the new guys (and none for the better, I might add), thus again attempting to erase any traces to the legacy of the band that actually wrote and recorded these tracks.  (I will say this, however ... when they presented these hits live in concert, they sounded INFINITELY better than these online snippets ... they're simply not very good ... and do not honor the band we all know and love ... if anything, these tracks tarnish the sound created by the original members.)  
Click here: Music | LITTLE RIVER BAND    

So what's the point of today's excessive rambling?  I guess it's more of a "Buyer Beware" scenario than anything else.  If you like the music of The Little River Band, then you will enjoy the way these guys present it live on stage.  If you're not wrapped up in the details and authenticity of the band's sound, you'll probably have a great time at their concert.  Like I said, they were really pretty good.  However, I just can't get past the fact that they're taking credit for the REAL band's past achievements when in fact they really had NOTHING at all to do with that success.  

Original lead singer Glenn Shorrock (who I contacted for this article but didn't respond in time for today's posting) will be touring right after the first of the year with Kenny Rogers throughout Australia and New Zealand.  (This is being billed as Kenny's "Farewell Tour" Down Under ... no official word yet on if he'll extend these farewell performance here in The States.)  As stated above, Shorrock can only perform using his own personal name ... no references to The Little River Band are allowed.  (At least here in America we've got a number of artists who regularly perform as "formerly of" or "former lead singer of" ... and, quite honestly, most of them are hassled from time to time by the sidemen who currently hold the rights to the group's name.  It's never a pretty picture ... or an amicable parting of the ways.)     

Meanwhile, here we have a complete version of the group consisting of nothing but second, third, fourth and fifth generation imposters who are not only getting away with deceiving the public ... but are already booked well into next year!!!)  I'm sorry ... but that just seems wrong to me ... so again, Buyer Beware!  (kk)

 The Little River Band - circa, 2014