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The Zombies: Money, Deception and Rock N Roll

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

It all started on a warm summer's eve… wait this isn’t one of those stories, this is about deception, one man’s greedy business practices and most importantly good ol’ Rock N’ Roll.

Back in 1969, during the height of the British invasion taking over American radio, Delta Promotions sent out the single “Time of the Season” by one of their moderately successful bands The Zombies. Despite the lukewarm reception of their previous albums and the band breaking up earlier that year, the single managed to reach number three on the Billboard top 100, leaving a tableau of a successful career unfulfilled.

Where most would see The Zombies breaking up as the end, after the success of “Time as the Season”, one man named Bill Kehoe saw an opportunity. As a member of the Delta Promotions, Bill Kehoe, seized this opportunity to start not one, but two separate bands to tour under “The Zombies” moniker. Bill started looking for local musicians to fill the Zombies roster. Bill managed to find two gentlemen in Texas named Frank and Dusty to tour in the south and another band in Michigan to tour the north simultaneously without any involvement or permission from the original band members.

At this point most would wonder how Bill could even get away with this, but this was the 60’s. In this time of peace and love, no one knew anything about the band, or thought anyone could deceive musicians in this way. Information about the band was scarce and what little knowledge was out there was controlled by Bill and Delta Promotions. Although some people would ask questions about the lead singer and the lack of a keyboard player in the Texas “Zombies” Bill always had answers. Bill insisted that the lead singer had died and that the missing keyboard player was in jail, only adding to the Rock N’ Roll image of the Zombies.

Slowly an original member of The Zombies, Chris White, caught wind of Bill's Schemes. Chris made it his mission to follow these fake “Zombies” and call all local radio stations to inform them of Bill’s deception. Nothing was going to plan for Chris however, so he was forced to get the band back together just to record new music and prove Bill was lying.

Like most stories, however, Bill got greedy and wanted to expand his “Fake” Empire, resulting in his downfall. Although Bill successfully fooled America with “The Zombies” he got cocky and tried to duplicate his scheme, this time starting a fake “The Animals”. Unlike “The Zombies”, “The Animals” wouldn’t take this lying down. The lead singer of “The Animals”, Eric Bourdon gathered local bikers to follow his band, wreaking havoc and threatening his impostors. Eventually “The Animals” importers told Bill they could no longer perform due to fear of their own safety. This marked the end of Bill’s rather successful career of lying to the American public.

As Bill’s empire fell his “bands” were slowly forced to halt their new found success. Two members of the Texas “Zombies” however had gained a good rapport and chemistry. The two decided to start growing some rather impressive facial hair and tour themselves. These two members were Frank Beard and Dusty Hill, two of the three Members of the world famous ZZ top.

Despite the farcical nature of this story, when I first heard it I did not see it as some kind of weird origin story for one of the worlds most recognizable bands. Dusty Hill has never denied his involvement with Bill Kehoe and the Zombies, but instead just said, “It was the 60’s”, perfectly encapsulating the free for all nature of the times in music. In a time when no one really cared, and information was still hard to come by, one man used these to his advantage. In today’s age where we can have every piece of information we would ever want in the palms of our hands something like this can never happen again. Leaving Bill Kehoe and his deception, a unique piece of Rock N’ Roll and American History.

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