MANHATTAN (CN) – A New York lawsuit describes trouble in paradise for one of the few musical acts that has agreed to play at rallies for President-elect Donald Trump.
Filing suit on Nov. 30 in Manhattan Supreme Court, the owner of Madison Rising says former lead singer David Bray was fired in February and now is stealing its gigs.
“These events included four Trump/Pence rallies in Pennsylvania and Delaware, the Valkyrie Initiative event on Sept. 24, 2016, the Voices of Freedom Concert on Oct. 15, 2016, the Chris Kyle Memorial Run on Oct. 29, 2016, and the Caddy for a Cure Benefit on Dec. 11, 2016,” according to the complaint.
The brainchild of Richard Mgrdechian, an engineer and New York native, "America's most patriotic rock band” Madison Rising carved out a niche for itself by performing renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” at NASCAR events, the Sturgis Biker rally and professional football games.
Mgrdechian’s company Purple Eagle Entertainment says Bray auditioned to join the band in 2011 after seeing an advertisement on Facebook.
On top of an annual salary of $78,000, according to the complaint, Purple Eagle trained Bray on the band’s key talking points – specifically, “how to use great rock music to honor our country, our military, our nation’s veterans, police, firefighters and other first responders.”
“Part of the specialized training included creating of the character and persona that Mr. Bray continues to exploit,” the complaint states.
Madison Rising’s Facebook account speaks to this message. One post from 2014 shows Bray posing with Donald Trump and flashing the shaka, a hand gesture common to Hawaii that means “hang loose.”
“Had a great time up in Albany yesterday supporting our Second Amendment with Donald Trump and lots of other great Americans,” the post says. “Thanks to everyone for having us. Hope to see you all again soon!”
Madison Rising is one of the few acts to stand behind Trump, whose team is reportedly struggling to find A-listers for the president-elect’s upcoming inauguration.
But Purple Eagle says Bray’s conduct behind the scenes “created turmoil and dysfunction that posed a danger to the company.”
“Prior to his involvement with the band, Mr. Bray had never performed in an explicitly political or patriotic mien,” the complaint says.
The complaint’s conclusion does not mince words.
“Until Mr. Mgrdechian gave Mr. Bray a character to play, he had shown no care for or musical involvement with the military, veterans, police or firefighters,” it states. “He is now exploiting all of those and continuing to act his previously prescribed role for his own personal benefit including selling band property under his own name directly to Madison Rising fans and other third parties, and manipulating them for his personal gain.”
In addition to the singer, Purple Eagle names his wife, who was also Madison Rising’s operations manager, as a defendant. Rebecca Bray has not returned a voicemail seeking comment.
As the complaint tells it, Bray could not handle the success of Madison Rising’s “Star-Spangled Banner.”
He "began exhibiting extremely aggressive and violent behavior behind the scenes, including binge drinking, becoming significantly more confrontational with other band members, and with Mgrdechhian in particular,” the complaint says.
Once Bray physically assaulted Mgrdechian, according to the complaint, after Bray became infuriated over the fact that Madison Rising was not invited to perform at the Super Bowl.
The complaint also accuses Bray of throwing “extended tantrums” and “tirades,” hurling verbal abuse at band members and management, and engaging in “massive amounts of self-promotion.”
Madison Rising allegedly jettisoned the York, Pa-based singer with cause in February.
Since his exit, according to the lawsuit, Bray has disparaged the band in Facebook posts and created a competitive social media account populated with the band’s intellectual property.
“Bray created a webpage promoting himself as a patriotic musician and almost exactly re-creating the Madison Rising business model using ideas, concepts, strategies and other intellectual property that were stolen from the company,” the lawsuit states.
Purple Eagle wants punitive damages for breach of contract, defamation and tortious interference. It is represented by Benjamin Tessler.
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