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1. Disabled Bassist Wants Aid
Highest Court Fifth Circuit
Year Ended 1987
Plaintiffs Back-Up Musician(s)
Defendants Federal Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Berry, Chuck
Hampton, Lionel
Otis, Johnny
Short Description An unfortunate story of a once-successful musician, who had previously bass for Chuck Berry, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Otis, and others, but whose life descended into a state of despair. After losing his hearing and thus being unable to perform music, Plaintiff was a government employee until terminated for absenteeism. He sued for disability benefits, but was ineligible since he hadn't worked the job the required period. - LSW


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2. Battle Over "Hound Dog" Rights
Highest Court S.D. New York
Year Ended 1957
Plaintiffs Music Publisher(s)
Otis, Johnny
Defendants Leiber & Stoller
Music Publisher(s)
Other Presley, Elvis
Short Description Johnny Otis was a band leader, producer, and--relevant here--the owner of a music publishing company, which is the Plaintiff in this suit. Otis arranged for a recording of the R & B classic, "Hound Dog, " wtitten by in infamous Jewish songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, performed by Big Mama Thornton, and released by Peacock Records. This version was published through Spin Music, in which Otis had an interest. By arranging the session, Otis said he was granted a 1/3 interest in royalties the song, which was relatively standard practice at the time. However, he also incorrectly included himself as a "co-author," also relatively standard at the time, and represented himself as such in dealings with a third-party publisher, Lion Music. When Lion noticed that the three signatures on the contract matched Otis's, Lion inquired of Leiber & Stoller, and were told Otis was in fact not a co-author, but merely owed 1/3 of the royalties received by Spin Music. An agreement was reached in which Otis admitted as much and received $750 in release of all claims he may have regarding the song. Lion licensed the song to Elvis Presley's publisher for his well-known iteration, which was released crediting only Leiber & Stoller as this song's authors. The version was obviously very successful, and Otis's publishing company sued, alleging Otis co-authored of the song and thus Plaintiff was owed royalties. The court, based on the facts of the song's composition and the signed release, refused Otis's claim, and the credit and royalties went to Leiber & Stoller. - LSW


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