Keep The Publishing

Wrote about meeting The Guess Who in 1969, and speaking at length with Randy Bachman. Recalled his advice to songwriters: “Keep the publishing”. Thought he had followed his own advice. Then read an extract from his memoir, Tales From Beyond The Tap (Penguin Canada, 2014) as found in “Randy Bachman writes about split with Burton Cummings“, Toronto Star, March 7, 2014. He didn’t, because he couldn’t:

(In 1969, Bachman and Burton signed a contract with Jack Richardson and his production company Nimbus 9, which originally took 100 per cent of publishing while Burton and Bachman got their writers royalties.)

When I left the Guess Who I thought I would get my songs back but Jack said no. There was something that said that five years after your record contract ends you can get your songs back. Then the next thing is Jack’s built this recording studio in Toronto but he’s going bankrupt so he’s selling Nimbus 9 which includes our songs. I heard about it a few years later from Garry Peterson who was playing again with Burton in a trio with bass player Ian Gardiner. It was a Christmas party when he told me but Burton never said anything. I figured, “Great. We can get our songs back.” What had happened, though, was that Jim Martin, Jumbo our road manager in the Guess Who, had been walking by Jack’s studio in Toronto for old times’ sake when one of the employees asked him if he’d like to buy Nimbus 9’s publishing, namely the Guess Who song catalogue. Jumbo was working for Burton at the time and told him about it. Burton wasted no time in contacting his lawyer in L.A., Abe Somer, who brokered the deal for Burton to acquire all the Guess Who songs from “These Eyes” onward. All the songs including the ones I write alone or with Burton now came under the control of Shillelagh Music, Burton’s publishing company.

But at that point it was really a dead issue in terms of an income stream because this was still around 1980 and there was no classic rock radio, nostalgia movies or CDs. It was just a bunch of golden oldies that might get played once in awhile. The Guess Who album catalogue wasn’t even in the stores anymore. All that changed a decade later.

The following year I saw Burton at another Christmas party at Garry Peterson’s house and asked him why I hadn’t gotten my songs back. He said to me, “Oh, just call Abe Somer and he’ll take care of it.” I called Abe Somer the following week and it’s the first and only time a lawyer has ever told me to f— off. He said that to me and hung up on me. So I ended up getting a lawyer and trying to sue to get my songs. But I lost. I should have gone after Burton on violating his fiduciary duty to me.

Then he was supposed to make it right when we got back together in 1987 but he didn’t. Maybe I should have spoken up when we were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame that year when I had the chance at the microphone…

During talks for the 2000 Guess Who reunion I was cautioned by management not to muddy the waters by bringing up the publishing or the tour would be off. Burton would walk out. So I bit my lip and kept quiet. Since then I’ve given Burton several opportunities to make things right. I’ve written him letters about it. But he’s never wanted to discuss it. Think of all the money that’s been generated by the Guess Who catalogue since that point? It’s in the millions.

About brucelarochelle
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