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Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
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Freddie King Family Takes Blues Man to Task

DALLAS (CN) - Blues legend Freddie King's family sued guitarist Joe Bonamassa and Live Nation, claiming they used King's image without permission in ads for "Three Kings" tribute concerts.

The Freddie King Blues Foundation, four members of his family and his estate sued Bonamassa and Live Nation Entertainment and Marketing on Tuesday in Dallas County Court.

Freddie King, who died in 1976, was known as one of the Three Kings, along with B.B. and Albert King. His family claims that on Bonamassa's August 2015 tour, the 38-year-old musician played only covers of hits made famous by the three Kings, at 13 venues across the country.

"Although Bonamassa dubbed the tour as a 'tribute' to his musical heroes, he goes far beyond simply paying homage to his idols," the complaint states. "The tour was Bonamassa's attempt to mimic the persona and musical sounds of Freddie King and Bonamassa used many of the indicia which distinguish King as a music icon. Reportedly, Bonamassa even played guitars similar to the ones originally used by the Three Kings in an effort to imitate the distinctive performance qualities of the each respective King."

The Kings say Bonamassa used an advertisement featuring images of all three Kings "to stir up support for his tour and increase ticket sales," and that the image was used on Live Nation's website and Bonamassa's website.

They say they told the defendants to stop using Freddie King's name and likeness in February 2015.

"In response, Bonamassa removed the image containing Freddie King's name and likeness from his website and social media accounts, although the image remains online on various third party websites," the complaint states. "Live Nation also subsequently removed the image from its website. Despite the removal of this image, the damage was done - Bonamassa had successfully associated his upcoming tour with the legacy of Freddie King."

The Kings say Bonamassa also used unauthorized video footage of Freddie King during his shows.

Freddie King was not related to B.B. King or Albert King. He grew up in Dallas and moved to Chicago as a teenager. His signature sound combined the open string sound of Texas blues with the gritty, screeching sound of Chicago blues. Freddie King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Rolling Stone magazine in 2013 called him the fifteenth greatest guitarist of all time.

Live Nation did not immediately respond to an email request for comment sent after business hours Wednesday.

The Kings seek punitive damages for violations of the Texas Property Code, misappropriation of name and likeness and trademark infringement.

They are represented by Gwen I. Walraven with Bell Nunnally in Dallas.

Bonamassa, born in Upstate New York, is a guitar prodigy who opened shows for B.B. King when he was 12. He has said his major influence was Eric Clapton, particularly his solo on "Crossroads."

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