The True Story of the Fake Zombies


Before the decline of the major label system and the rise of the internet and social media, enterprising and less than scrupulous businessmen ran the industry with relative impunity, with artists serving primarily as commodities to be exploited. Famously, Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker pocketed anywhere from 25 to 50% of the star’s gross income for the duration of his career. Allen Klein, who managed the Rolling Stones after the release of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965, promptly signed the band’s publishing rights to his own company ABKCO, resulting in a string of lawsuits spanning decades. If this treatment was the norm for the era’s biggest stars, it’s not hard to imagine how lesser lights would fare.

The Zombies, unaware of their stateside success — this was possible in 1969 — had already moved on to new musical projects or day jobs. This vacuum meant anyone could tour the United States pretending to be the Zombies, even a four-piece blues band from Dallas.

There were in fact two different bands touring the United States in 1969 calling themselves the Zombies. Both impostor groups were managed by the same company, Delta Promotions, the owners of which insisted they’d legally acquired the songs of the Zombies and other bands. It was an operation that would be impossible to attempt today, perpetrated in an era when fans didn’t have unlimited access to artists’ whereabouts, or, in some cases, even know what they looked like.

The plan was simple: Find competent musicians, convince them Delta was on the level, get them to a reasonable point of Zombies-like ability, and send them on the road. Once the prep was completed, they’d send the bands on tour while Delta took a healthy slice of the profits.

As for the fans who were getting swindled, {Delta Promotions employee Tom} Hocott says, “When they were told, ‘Here’s the Zombies,’ they bought it. Even the strange parts, like the fact that they were touring without a keyboardist.” Fans left disappointed and the bands left town as quickly as possible. The less remembered, the better.

The full article is totally worth a read. And, of course, shenanigans like this aren’t unique to the ’60s / ’70s … remember fake Frankie Goes To Hollywood?