Originally created 06/13/06

Festival band sues Walker



One of the headliners at the James Brown Soul of America Music Festival filed suit Monday against the festival chairman, Charles Walker Jr.

The lawsuit, filed by Tony Wilson and The James Brown Tribute Band in Richmond County Superior Court, alleges that the group was coerced into performing at the Memorial Day weekend concert and was cheated out of compensation.

A lawsuit represents only one side of a dispute. Mr. Walker and his Heritage Crest Foundation will have 30 days to file a formal response.

Mr. Wilson is the leader of the 14-piece band, which was contacted by festival organizers in March. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Wilson agreed to one performance. In exchange, festival organizers were to pay travel, lodging, food and transportation costs and the band members, the lawsuit contends.

It wasn't until two days before the festival was to begin that Mr. Brown's attendance was confirmed. Mr. Wilson's suit alleges that he talked with Mr. Walker about playing with Mr. Brown, including the need for $300-$400 payments for each of the band members.

Mr. Walker, in an e-mail response Monday night to The Augusta Chronicle, said he was aware Mr. Wilson planned to file a lawsuit and also believes The Chronicle's management might have urged such an action as part of what he perceives as a vendetta.

"Mr. Wilson is not the least bit credible," Mr. Walker wrote. "He has been planning on suing us for some time."

According to the lawsuit, the event was a disaster for Mr. Wilson's band. First, Mr. Wilson was left waiting in the Atlanta airport for three hours. The promise of a nice hotel close to the festival site turned out to be one "riddled with prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers," the suit says. No meals were provided, and when pressed for payments for the band members, Mr. Walker gave Mr. Wilson only $400, according to the lawsuit.

"The contract was in writing. The Tony Wilson Band is the only band James Brown would have used outside of his own band," Mr. Wilson said at a news conference he convened after the lawsuit was filed Monday.

Mr. Wilson said he is upset because Mr. Walker "didn't keep his promises" and didn't run what should have been a great festival in a professional manner.

"I'm a businessman, and the festival should be run in a business way, period. It's just something that was very bad business," Mr. Wilson said.

He said he hopes this year's experience does not derail future festivals.

He is not suing the festival - only Mr. Walker and his organizations, he said.

The lawsuit accuses Mr. Walker of breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraudulent inducement. It seeks a minimum of $15,000 and court costs.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com, or

Amy Allyn Swann at (706) 823-3338 or amy.swann@augustachronicle.com.