Word of Caution to Bands: A Handshake Agreement Isn't Enough. Use a Contract.
When celtic rock gets ugly
If anybody knows how damning a handshake agreement could turn out, it's Ed Walewski. After seven years playing in The Killdares, Walewski formed Needfire, a rock band that found a decent amount of success in the surprisingly huge celtic rock circuit. He's been lucky enough to make a living playing music, which is more than most musicians can boast.
However, his livelihood is being threatened by two of his former bandmates, father and son John and Dylan Cleghorn. Walewski, whose mild manner translates nicely over the phone, is fighting back.
The Cleghorns, according to a lawsuit posted to Courthouse News on Tuesday, left Needfire (Dylan in 2009 and John in 2010) and formed their own band called Cleghorn. After their departure, the Cleghorns registered the domain name Needfire.com and Edwalewski.com. Both sites redirect users to Cleghornmusic.com, though now it appears Edwalewski.com is dormant. Also, John Cleghorn attempted to trademark the name Needfire four months after he left the band, and the father and son have obtained a copyright for all of the band's recorded music, most of which was written by Walewski.
In other words, Walewski's lawsuit alleges that the Cleghorns stole what was rightfully his: the name, the rights to his recordings and his business. Why someone would do this out of anything but spite is hard to say.
The Cleghorns have not returned our messages and Ed Walewski preferred not to go on the record with his comments, in the interest of not hurting any party involved.
The moral of the story, at least from Walewski's side, is to always use a contract. Even if you're close friends with the musicians you choose to join.
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