is snowy outside, spring in
I have had my day in court, but I don't know what will come of it yet. Long time fans and supporters might already know some of my history with the Antone's record label but I will bring you, dear reader, up to speed.
signed a recording contract in my mid twenties after a hard won but successful
climb out of Austin's cheapest and sleaziest club scene with Antone's Records,
a record label started by Clifford Antone. Clifford also started the club that
still bears his name, the center of the
But the record label was not really his - it left his hands after he was busted for moving pot, becoming one of several labels under the name of Texas Music Group, who set a new low for the shameful mistreatment of its talent.
Almost 15 years have passed since signing with them (a contract I signed without a lawyer, make sure you get a lawyer, kids) and still I have no clear idea of what I did or didn't sell or the real money that is still owed to me. Although I fulfilled my contract, years went by with no royalty statements, and no money. Even after my records were being sold on iTunes I was told nothing, let alone paid.
If you have been a part of the
Late in 2008 the Walser estate brought a lawsuit accusing Antone's, Texas Music Group Inc. and Texas Clef Entertainment with fraud, among other things, naming Randy Clendenen, Heinz Geissler and James Heldt. The day before the Walser camp was supposed to depose the label's investor James Heldt, the named labels declared chapter 11 bankruptcy. That put a hold on the Walser case so they couldn't move forward. But it also made the labels publicly declare a list of everyone they owe money to in court, including me.
When Antone's declared chapter 11, I found that I had friends who wanted to help, friends with skills. Chris Castle is an attorney who has testified on copyright law in front of Congress as well as being a drummer who plays a little slide guitar. He began talking with another attorney friend Catherine Robb and my manager Nikki Rowling, and they hatched a plan to bring the light of day to my long business nightmare. He, Catherine and Nikki found other artists who had past relations with and questions for Antone's and Texas Music Group (questions like, "where is my money?") and help put together a mob to bring the torches and pitchforks. Another talented lawyer, Amy Mitchell, also stepped up to take on the massive amount of work a case like this requires. All these guys have been working on this for over a year now, giving fearlessly of their time with no pay.
All of this generosity displayed by lawyers is the most surreal thing that has ever happened to me, perhaps even trumping the time I had Hey Good Lookin' sung to me by a class of blind students. I know that there was never any way I could have paid to bring this case to trial, and that my day in court was a gift given me by Chris, Catherine, Amy, Nikki, and Ian (my tour manager, who crunched data for the case) and more, not to mention all the other artists who had every reason to try to put the whole mess as far behind them as possible.
As of right now the Court's decision is not yet in, but in some of the most important ways of the human spirit, the decision isn't the most important thing. No matter what the Judge rules, I am relieved to see that those who would take advantage of artists - who cannot afford to defend themselves - have been brought to light in a public court. I am grateful for all of the help I have received, and thankful for the friends I have. Sometimes you get the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with good people and speak the truth, and that is what matters most.