Music and lawsuits seem to go hand in hand nowadays. At any given moment, one of your favorite bands could wind up in a courtroom over a number of things. The most recent trend has been over rights to band names.
While the most notable cases, such as Queensryche and Great White, have drawn some attention, none could compare to the ongoing battle over naming rights to the band, Ratt.
It all started in 2015, when original drummer, Bobby Blotzer, announced that he had formed a Ratt tribute band called “Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience.” While the group he had assembled featured good musicians, the name didn’t have the same effect or marketing power as just plain “Ratt.” This is where the wheels began turning.
Within a matter of months, Blotzer shocked the rock world by announcing that he was going to tour with the tribute band under the “Ratt” name, with himself being the only original member. Many fans questioned how this could be legally possible.
Years before all of this, a partnership was created amongst Blotzer, Warren DeMartini (original guitarist) and Stephen Pearcy (original vocalist), called WBS (Warren, Bobby, Stephen). Once Pearcy left the band, DeMartini and Blotzer were left with ownership of the name. Therefore, Blotzer was legally able to tour as “Ratt” with his recent band…or so he thought.
After a long legal battle, it was determined that WBS was not a valid partnership, because of a 1985 agreement made by the band members, stating that the name and trademark were owned by the band members, and could not be transferred without a unanimous vote. WBS left out, original bassist, Juan Croucier, who had not given approval for the name to transfer to the partnership.
Once this judgement was made in court, Pearcy, DeMartini and Croucier expelled Blotzer from Ratt and took ownership of the name. Though Blotzer is still fighting the judgement, the other three members are currently performing as “Ratt,” and plan to release a follow-up to 2010’s “Infestation” record.
Many fans, myself included, were happy to see Pearcy, DeMartini and Croucier take over, but I can’t blame Blotzer for wanting to tour as “Ratt.” It makes perfect business sense. There will be concert promoters and casual fans who aren’t aware that they’re only seeing one original member, and some just don’t care. With a band like “Ratt,” the hardcore fans will always know what’s going on, of course, but it’s the casual fans that account for most of the ticket sales to the festivals and casinos that bands frequent.
That being said, I’ve never been a fan of bands that consist of hired players and one original member. Regardless of who owns the name, it doesn’t do any favors for the band’s legacy, in my opinion. I see it as a rip off to the fans who think they’re paying to see the band that they know and love from albums and music videos. A name like “Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience” tells you exactly what you’re going to get. But when that same band calls itself “Ratt,” that’s when I think it becomes dishonest.
After all of these judgements have been made, and all of the lawyers have been paid, what it amounts to is more time that’s been used for something other than making music. For these classic bands, the clock is ticking. They don’t have another 30 years left in them, and the more they fight, the less they play. I wonder what will mean more to them when they’ve stopped performing for good – who owned the name or what that name meant to music history?