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Blues Battle

July 28, 1996|Steve Hochman

B.B. King's Blues Club may soon have to do business without the help of B.B. King--or even his name. The blues great's representatives have filed suit in a Memphis court against the operators of the clubs using his name in that city and at the Universal CityWalkin Los Angeles, claiming a breach in the licensing agreement.

The claim, filed July 16, alleges that the Beale Street Blues Co. has failed to meet agreements to pay King $110,000 in each of the five years since 1991 for the Memphis club and an additional $105,000 per year since 1994 for the Universal facility. That, the claim states, also voids the operators' option to renew the agreements, which expired in February, for another five-year period.

Meanwhile, Beale Street Blues filed its own complaint in a New York court charging that King failed to live up to agreements to make no fewer than four unpaid appearances per year at each club. It further claims that by signing on as spokesman for a Mississippi casino about 25 miles from Memphis, King violated a clause requiring him not to appear at or be publicly associated with similar establishments in an area within a 120-mile radius of Memphis.

Michael Lynn, president of Beale Street Blues, says he has contingency plans ready should the actions result in King's name being removed from the clubs, but he's confident it won't get to that point.

"I'd like to resolve our differences and I hope the other side would like to do so as well," he says. "And I want to stress that this has nothing to do with Riley B. King as an individual or our relationship with him. He's an icon and we're proud to have him on our sign. It's simply a business issue."

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