Song of the Week: Tom Waits’ Step Right Up


On January 20, 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the $2.6 million judgement to Tom Waits in his successful lawsuit again snack giant Frito-Lay. The company had asked to use “Step Right Up” in a commercial, but when Waits refused to give permission, instead used a similar sounding song, sung by a Tom Waits impersonator. The lawsuit didn’t allege copyright violation (Waits didn’t own the rights to the song) but claimed false endorsement under the federal trademark act.

I get it all the time, and they offer people a whole lot of money. Unfortunately I don’t want to get on the bandwagon. You know, when a guy is singing to me about toilet paper – you may need the money but, I mean, rob a 7-11! Do something with dignity and save us all the trouble of peeing on your grave…there have been tours endorsed, encouraged and financed by Miller, and I say, “Why don’t you just get an office at Miller? Start really workin’ for the guy” … The advertisers are banking on your credibility, but the problem is it’s no longer yours.

Thanks to Richard Lainhart.

1 Comment
  1. Andy M. says

    Violent Femmes do a nice cover of this on the tribute album: ‘Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits’. Remember, “THE LARGE PRINT GIVETH and the small print taketh away.”

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