The proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” and more specifically the two words “rolling stone” have a remarkable intersection with the music industry. Unfortunately for Bruce Keisling and his music-themed bar and restaurant, Rolling Stone magazine believes there are limits to using those two words. Shortly after opening the Rolling Stone Libation Company in Lehigh Acres, Florida in August, the independent restaurant owner received a letter from Rolling Stone magazine’s general counsel ordering him to cease and desist or face “formal action.”
The rolling stone proverb is at least several hundred years old, but the 20th century saw the adage explode onto the music scene. There is the 1950 Muddy Waters song “Rollin’ Stone,” the 1965 Bob Dylan song “Like a Rolling Stone,” the 1965 The Who song “Daddy Rolling Stone,” and the 1971 Temptations song “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” to name a few. In 1962, The Rolling Stones, now one of the most successful bands of all time, named their band after the Muddy Waters song. In 1967, Rolling Stone music magazine was founded, also named for the 1950 Muddy Waters song. In 1973, there was even the Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show song “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” which satirizes being on the cover of the magazine, which named itself for the Muddy Waters song that references the old adage. But when Mr. Keisling opened his rock-themed restaurant, he had gone too far. The magazine claims Mr. Keisling’s restaurant is violating the magazine’s trademark by trying to benefit from the magazine’s reputation (as opposed to the band, the Muddy Waters song, or the adage). Mr. Keisling said he already goes by RSLC on his cards, that his restaurant’s name is based on the proverb, and that he did not intend any association with the magazine. Mr. Keisling has indicated that the costs associated with changing the name would put him out of business.