The first tribute acts to emerge may have been Beatles tribute bands, such as The Buggs, who attempted to look and sound like The Beatles while playing their songs. However, one might argue that Elvis impersonators qualify as well.
Although initially created to honor the original bands, many tribute bands have grown to have their own fan base. Tribute band names are often a pun on the original name or the names of band members, or are derived from a famous track or record album released by the original band.
Those bands and artists that have inspired a cult following in their fans tend to have a significant tribute band presence as well, such as Status Quo, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Styx, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Madonna, The Misfits, Queen, Alice in Chains, Grateful Dead, Van Halen, ABBA, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Rammstein, Neil Diamond, and Steely Dan.
In 1997, the British journalist Tony Barrell wrote a major feature for The Sunday Times about the UK tribute-band scene, which mentioned bands including Pink Fraud, the Pretend Pretenders and Clouded House. In the piece, Barrell asserted that “the main cradle of the tribute band…is Australia. Starved of big names, owing to their reluctance to put Oz on their tour itineraries, Australians were quite unembarrassed about creating home-grown versions. Then, like an airborne seed, one of these bands just happened to drift to Britain.” The band in question was the ABBA tribute Björn Again, who staged a successful publicity stunt in the early 1990s, arriving at Heathrow airport in white one-piece outfits similar to the ones worn by ABBA on the cover of their 1976 album, Arrival. Other Tribute acts such as The Beatnix (Beatles), Zeppelin Live, and The Australian Pink Floyd Show have experienced continued popularity for over a decade.
Oasis tribute band No Way Sis took the notion of tribute bands a step further in 1997 by achieving a UK top 20 hit single with their rendition of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. In addition to this, the band were asked to step in for Oasis and play to a sell out audience in Paris after Oasis canceled their show.
In 1998, two men who were in a Blues Brothers tribute band changed their names officially by deed poll to Joliet Jake Blues and Elwood Jake Blues. They also are the only men in the UK to have their sunglasses on their passports and driver’s licences.
In 2000, filmmakers Jeff Economy and Darren Hacker produced the documentary film …An Incredible Simulation, which examined the tribute band phenomenon. Produced separately and independently in 2001 was the documentary Tribute by directors Kris Curry and Rich Fox, which also covered the movement. In 2007, producers Allison Grace and Michelle Metivier produced a four-part documentary series called “Tribute Bands” for Global TV which features tributes to The Police, Queen, Rush and The Tragically Hip.
In 2002, the first biography of a tribute band was published by SAF in London. Entitled Being John Lennon, the book is a humorous account of life on the road in The Beatles’ tribute “Sgt. Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band”, written by the group’s founder, Martin Dimery.
In 2003, Mandonna, an all-male tribute to Madonna, was formed in response to the rise of all-female tribute acts such as The Iron Maidens, Lez Zeppelin and AC/DShe.
In 2005, original Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ed King (co-author of “Sweet Home Alabama”), drummers Artimus Pyle and Bob Burns, and “honkettes” Leslie Hawkins and JoJo Billingsley all played with The Saturday Night Special Band, a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute from New York. This was the first tribute band to be composed of more original members than the current touring lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In 2005, tribute band Beatallica received attention when they were threatened with a lawsuit by Sony Music Entertainment over their unique interpretation of Beatles songs done in a Metallica style. With the help of Metallica drummer/co-founder Lars Ulrich, Beatallica won their legal battle, and still record and tour today.
Original Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice has played with members of Deep Purple tribute band Purpendicular in 2002, 2004 and 2007, and the whole band in December 2008 on European tours.
Not all tribute acts use the impersonation style. An example is The Muffin Men, who play the music of Frank Zappa in their own style, do not look like, or attempt to look like original members, and often tour with former band members. Jimmy Carl Black was a regular in the band, and they have in the past played, recorded and toured with Ike Willis and Don Preston.
Tribute acts do not always receive full acknowledgment from the original acts they are patterned after. canada On April 2009, Bon Jovi sued the Los Angeles-based all-female tribute Blonde Jovi for copyright infringement. After temporarily using the name Blonde Jersey, the band reverted back to Blonde Jovi before disbanding on February 2010.