You sometimes read or hear of how the theft of intellectual property can benefit creativity. A case study could be made of how a bootlegger, who got hold of the 1960s song Hanky Panky, helped launch Tommy James and the Shondells.
A local dance promoter found a vinyl copy of Hanky Panky in a used record bin and started playing it in Pittsburgh dance clubs. The audiences loved the song, prompting a bootlegger to copy and press a version of the song with a faster tempo that went on to sell an estimated 80,000 copies. Hanky Panky soon became the number one hit played by the Pittsburgh radio stations in early 1965.
Hanky Panky was originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells in Niles, Michigan for an indie record label called Snap Records that was owned by Jack Douglas, a local DJ at WNIL radio station in Niles.
Douglas was unable to promote the record nationally and moved on to other projects but he heard about the song’s popularity in Pittsburgh because his name and record label were always mentioned and, as a result, he received numerous calls. Billboard and other trade papers began listing Hanky Panky as a regional breakout hit in Pittsburgh.
Interestingly, Tommy James travelled to Pittsburgh and re-formed the Shondells, which had broken up by this time, to perform the song to sell-out crowds and from there the Shondells went on to rock and roll history with Crimson and Clover, Mony Mony, I Think We’re Alone Now, and many others.