Blues for Freddie

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According to Wanda, she had her New York-based lawyer, John Gross, contact Ames and void the estate's deal with Home Cooking. Only Ames didn't see it that way. He continued to license Freddie King's music to whoever wanted it. He says he has the right do to it. In the end, the jury disagreed.

One of the issues that Wanda is raising on appeal is the matter of copyright infringement--something Judge Fish threw out after the jury returned its verdict. The judge ruled that there could be no infringement because Wanda had not filed copyright papers with the Library of Congress until 1994, more than a year after the estate entered into its deal with Ames.

But her attorney, David Showalter, says that's ludicrous. He claims the Texas Opry House tapes were made in 1976--and according to copyright law in effect after 1972, they were Freddie King's property immediately upon his creation.

Though liner notes to Live at the Texas Opry House say the concert took place in April 1976, Ames insists the recordings were made in 1970 and therefore should be treated as public domain under pre-1972 copyright law. He points out that 1970 is the date written on the box of master tapes provided during the trial. But no one can prove who wrote the date on the box or when.

More likely, said bassist Bennie Turner during the trial, the recordings must have dated "between 1973, 1974," because the first voice heard on the disc is organ player Deacon Jones, who joined the band in September 1972. Wanda King claims she also has written proof that the concert took place on April 20, 1976. In her possession, she allegedly has a document her father filed with the Houston Professional Musicians Association. Back then, out-of-town performers sometimes had to pay union dues for their musicians. For the concert at the Texas Opry House on April 20, 1976, Freddie ponied up $6.16.

Wanda says she has a good idea who sold the tape to Ames. She alludes to "someone in my father's organization"--and is determined to keep the tape out of Ames' possession forever. She says this has nothing to do with Showalter--it's all about protecting her father's legacy and keeping the money out of Ames' hands.

Ames simply shrugs and says the lawsuits in Dallas and Houston are ridiculous. To hear him tell it, he, too, is a victim of greed. "I haven't done anything," he insists, sounding very much like a man tired of being attacked. "I simply recorded people, signed them to contracts, paid them an advance, and if they sold enough records, I paid them more. That's all that matters. Everything else is made up."

That, as they say, is for the courts to decide.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky