Why Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French Almost Sued Harley-Davidson Over Tire Name
In the '80s, few names in rock were bigger than Twisted Sister, largely due to the commercial success of songs such as "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock," in addition to Dee Snider's unmistakable visage and the band's iconic imagery. The name is pretty snappy too and at one point Harley-Davidson wanted to use it for the name of a tire, which nearly resulted in guitarist Jay Jay French having to file a lawsuit against the motorcycle company.
A band is a business, something French understands quite well and he even recently released Twisted Business: Lessons Learned From My Life in Rock 'N' Roll, his new book which is a combination of a memoir and business advice. And when it comes to trademarks, French explained in an interview with WBAB's Joe Rock that the Twisted Sister trademark is one he has had to fiercely defend over the years, often through the legal system.
"There were so many attempts to use the trademark, and I had to sue everybody — I had to keep suing people because I have the trademark. And I got a phone call one day from a guy representing Harley-Davidson. He said, 'We want to name our tire 'Twisted Sister', and we did our due diligence and found out you own the trademark. And we're calling you to let you know we're going to use the name and we're gonna call the tire 'Twisted Sister','" French recalled (transcription via Blabbermouth).
Expectedly, that did not sit right with the guitarist — he wasn't gonna take it.
French continued, "And I said to him, 'Are you really just calling me to tell me you're violating my trademark?' I was dumbfounded. I said, 'You're really calling me up, telling me you acknowledge I own the trademark, you're telling me you don't care that I own the trademark 'cause you're Harley-Davidson with $400 million worth of assets, and then you're going to call a tire 'Twisted Sister' and you're gonna send me a couple of tires as a thank you. That's what you're saying to me, right?' And he says, 'Yeah.'"
He then requested the representative's phone number and ended the call, which left him feeling "fucking livid."
"I called [him back] and this is what I said to him. I said, 'Hey, man. Jay Jay French [here]. You know the phone number you called to reach me is a 212 number.' He goes, 'Yeah.' I said, 'You know what that means, don't you? I'm a New York guy. In fact, I'm a New York Jew.' That's what I said to him," French went on before listing previous legal instances where he had to defend the Twisted Sister trademark against other businesses.
The 69-year-old rocker, who also has his own podcast (The Jay Jay French Connection: Beyond the Music), further detailed, "I said, 'So this is exactly how this is going to go down.' I said, 'Number one, I sued Six Flags and won.' He went, 'What?' I said, 'Yeah. And they're twice as big as Harley-Davidson. And I took them to court for three years and I won. Did you do the due diligence on that?' And he said, 'No, I didn't.' And I said, 'Well, you should do due diligence on that. Because I also took Urban Decay down.'"
In an effort to demonstrate to the representative just how messed up the 'Twisted Sister' tire proposition was, French proposed a retaliatory situation and said, "'If you fuck me like this, the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to sign a band and call them the Harley-Davidsons. I'm going to send you a couple of guitar picks and a fucking thank you.' And [the rep] said, 'How much do you want?' I said, 'I want 10 percent and two Fat Boys [motorcycles] a year.' … And I hung up on him. And he called me back the next day. He said, 'We've rescinded our use of the name.' And that was the end of that."
Talk about twisted business, huh?
Watch the full interview below and learn more about French's latest book here.