For John French, every day is a struggle. The musician, better known by his stage name Jay Jay French, is the founding guitarist of rock band Twisted Sister as well as its manager, and he’s on a crusade to make sure that no business co-opts his band’s name without his permission. And just when one issue gets resolved, another crops up.
Most recently, French has been dealing with a coffee shop owner in Kansas City who decided to name her business "Twisted Sisters." According to the Kansas City Star, the coffee shop’s owners, Sandi Russell (right) and sister Nancy Hansen, weren’t familiar with the band’s name and didn’t realize that they were stepping on anyone’s toes until they received a cease-and-desist letter in the mail from French’s attorney.
French isn’t buying that story, though. "We had a good idea and people try to steal it," he told The Daily Meal in an exclusive interview. "When people tell me that they never heard of us before using our name, I dismiss it right out of hand. Just say 'I stole it;' it’s all good."
French’s quest has also taken him to a bakery in Chicago called Twisted Sister, a Boston pizzeria called Twisted Sister Pizza and Ice Cream, a Minneapolis food truck named Twisted Sister House of Hunger, and even to theme park giant Six Flags, who named two of their Kentucky Kingdom roller coasters the Twisted Sisters and were forced to rename them the Twisted Twins after French caught wind of it.
"Even though these aren’t bands that named themselves after us, we still have to protect our name," he said. "Any connection whatsoever causes confusion in the marketplace. People will think it’s licensed by us."
And it’s not like French is in this to make a buck by forcing businesses to license their name. "We’ve offered every single business the opportunity to license our name for just a couple hundred bucks a year, but 99 percent of the time they just stop using it," he said. "The money that we do take in from licensees is all donated to charity."
The fact that this band in particular seems to be fighting these battles more often than, say, Led Zeppelin, mystifies French.
"You don’t see places like Led Zeppole, Rolling Scones, or Motley Brews," he added. "Nobody wants to mess with them!" (Actually, a restaurant named Led Zeppole briefly existed in New York East Village. but was extremely short-lived.)
At the end of the day, this unending mission is all about protecting what’s his.
"If you don’t protect it you lose it," he said. "Why people think that they can take someone else’s name and use it is beyond me. Just come up with an original idea!"