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!