Film Exec Fights to Block Stax Records Musical


     MANHATTAN (CN) – A movie producer filed a federal lawsuit to block the production of a musical about legendary soul label Stax Records, which brought the world Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes.
     Evergreen Media Holdings and movie producer Tony Derosa-Grund sued Concord Music Group Inc., Stuart Benjamin Productions – which produced the movie “Ray” – and the proposed book-writer of the piece, Matthew Benjamin, over their plans to bring a musical to the boards in the spring of 2016, in White Plains Federal Court.
     The Texas-based Evergreen and its chairman, DeRosa-Grund, first sued Delaware-based Concord Music Group and the others in Connecticut in August to block the production.
     According to the complaint, Concord holds the exclusive rights to the “physical masters” of certain Stax Records’ recordings, while non-party Rondor Music International holds publishing rights to “99 percent” of label’s iconic songs.
     In June, Evergreen and Derosa-Grund won exclusive rights from Rondor to use its songs for a movie and musical about the record label. Before that, however, Rondor had been in talks with Concord and Stuart Benjamin about using the songs in a stage musical.
     Rondor and Concord never reached an agreement, but that didn’t stop defendants from issuing a news release in July about the creation of their Broadway musical about Stax. The press release stated that “Academy Award-nominated and Grammy Award-winning producer Stuart Benjamin have begun development of a musical production on the dramatic story of iconic soul music label Stax Recods. The book will be written by Matthew Benjamin with a spring 2016 Broadway premiere target,” the complaint says.
     But defendants “have no right” to use the music since Evergreen already sealed a deal for the music with Rondor, according to the complaint.
     “Defendants’ actions have scared away financial investors and made it virtually impossible for plaintiffs to pursue the fruits of the Rondor-Evergreen agreement,” the complaint states.
     Evergreen says defendants’ actions have caused so much confusion in the entertainment industry that a “‘cloud’ has been cast on the chain of title” to the music and hurt Evergreen’s ability to develop its own movie and Broadway musical.
     Neither the filing attorney nor the defendants responded to requests for comment at press time.
     According to Concord’s July 14 news release, which was included as an exhibit to the lawsuit, Stax Records went from an “old movie theater in Memphis to its extraordinary rise as an international hit-making machine.”
     The release goes on to say that “amid the civil right-era racial strife and deep-seated [sic] tensions of the late ’50s and ’60s, Stax’s integrated artist roster and staff fundamentally shaped America’s soul music, spawning the careers of legendary recording artists, songwriters and producers, including Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, The Staple Singers, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, David Porter, Rufus and Carla Thomas and Steve Cropper.”
     Evergreen seeks to block defendants from using the music for any musical or movie. The company and Derosa-Grund also want unspecified damages.
     They are represented by Michael R. Patrick.

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