Article about Hank Garland

Discussion in 'The Backstage' started by loneguitar, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. loneguitar

    loneguitar Senior Member

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    Aug 1, 2007
    For many of us guitarists, especially if you started in the 60s Hank Garland was a huge influence on me especially. I recently found an article that was written just prior to his death and the hazards of working in the music industry.
    If yall haven't already I would suggest a viewing of the movie Crazy about the life of Hank.

    From: Hank Garland
    To: AMY Garland ; Amy Garland ; Danny Wiggins
    Sent: Sunday, November 27, 2005 1:38 PM
    Subject: Emailing: Story/Hank's Jingle Bell Crock
    Category: Music: Profiles & Interviews
    Originally Published: 12/21/2004 in Folio Weekly

    'Jingle Bell Rock' Creator Gets Scrooged by Nashville
    By Susan Cooper Eastman (Staff)

    Christmas is a season of potent signifiers, when a pine tree hung
    with colored baubles, or just the fragrance of pine, evokes a winter coziness.
    In that dreamy period between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, the landscape
    grows ever more crammed with holiday iconography — candy canes, nutcrackers,
    twinkling lights, Santa. In the background of this annual vista, a shared
    holiday soundtrack washes over us, piped into department stores and government
    buildings, broadcast continuously over AM radio.
    In the canon of Christmas songs, the beloved and familiar lineup
    includes evergreens like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Silent Night” and
    “White Christmas.” Right up there with them is the swinging, soft-pedaling
    “Jingle Bell Rock.” Every holiday season since 1957 — the year Decca Records
    released the hit with crooner Bobby Helms singing the bouncy lyrics and Hank
    Garland on the happy guitar — “Jingle Bell Rock” has been a Christmas chestnut.

    Considering the song’s success, one might assume its authors
    celebrate the holiday season with years of fat royalties. Nothing could be
    further from the truth.

    Instead, songwriter Hank “Sugarfoot” Garland, now an Orange Park,
    Fla., resident, claims that Decca Records stole “Jingle Bell Rock” and the
    profits it generated from him and Bobby Helms. To this day, Garland hasn’t
    received a penny of ownership royalties.

    If Garland had received his due, his brother Billy claims he’d have
    made millions. This belief prompted a 2003 lawsuit against the company that now
    owns the copyright for “Jingle Bell Rock” and is backed by some convincing
    evidence. The Garland family home is filled with decades’ worth of music
    industry paraphernalia, including an original copy of the sheet music for
    “Jingle Bell Rock,” pencilled in Garland’s meticulous hand, and a sworn
    statement by one of the studio musicians on “Jingle Bell Rock” that Helms and
    Garland wrote the song. But such evidence hasn’t swayed Nashville’s powerful
    record industry, which the Garland family says cheated Hank Garland and reduced
    him from a pop music success story to a shell of his former self. An automobile
    accident in 1961 left Garland in a coma, and subsequent shock treatments of
    dubious medical value significantly reduced his mental capacity. Billy Garland,
    who holds his brother’s power of attorney and has cared for him since the 1960s,
    blames both pieces of misfortune on record industry thugs, whom he believes
    tried to kill Garland because he was a powerful creative force and demanded his
    fair share of artistic profits. It’s a claim industry insiders dispute, but one
    that Billy Garland insists is true.

    “They set him up on the road and tried to kill him,” he says. “And
    he didn’t die, so they took him out and shocked his brains where he wouldn’t
    remember nothing.”

    On a nondescript suburban street lined with the kind of ranch homes
    that seem to come with lawn and shrubbery attached, the man that many musicians
    regard as one of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument lies in
    a hospital bed in a small bedroom. Hank Garland is friendly, his disposition
    charming, but his body is weak, and his speech somewhat garbled. A 74-year-old
    diabetic who was recently hospitalized with stomach problems, he is inexorably
    moving closer to death.

    Before Garland’s musical career ended with the auto accident, he was
    at the top of his game. The consummate session musician, Garland played with
    Elvis on “Little Sister,” with Patsy Cline on “I Fall to Pieces” and with the
    Everly Brothers on “Wake Up, Little Susie.” His guitar hooks became legend (he
    wrote the seven notes that cut in right after Elvis opens with the call, “Little
    Sister,” which guitar expert Wolf Marshall called “one of the greatest riffs in
    rock-and-roll”). Garland was in demand. He played with Roy Orbison, Hank
    Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis, and he cut his own original instrumental
    recordings, effortlessly moving from country to rockabilly to jazz. Determined
    to squeeze everything possible from his considerable gifts, Garland even
    recorded “Jazz Winds From a New Direction” in 1960, an influential jazz album
    that George Benson calls the work of “a guitar master.”

    Memorabilia from Garland’s too-short 15-year career fills the modest
    but comfortable home he shares with his brother Billy and Billy’s wife, Amy.
    Photographs line the walls: Hank playing with Elvis, backing up Patsy Cline,
    posing with Johnny Cash. Hank’s presence in the musical pantheon was strong
    enough at the time of his accident that he still commands the respect and
    reverence of musicians. On a Thursday morning in early December, a string of
    local guitarists files into the house. Garland’s home health aide motors his bed
    into an upright position and helps Garland dress before wheeling him into the
    living room to visit with his guests.

    The musicians — veterans of the local country and bluegrass scene —
    settle into easy chairs, among them bluegrass guitarist Jack Piccalo, western
    swing and jazz guitarist the Rev. Jerry Carris, and country and jazz guitarist
    Danny Taylor. At Billy Garland’s request, the group lights into “Low-Down
    Billy,” a fast-paced bluegrass standard that Garland wrote in 1950 for his
    younger brother. Garland keeps time by tapping one finger on the arm of the
    wheelchair. His doughy face glows with pleasure.

    Although the gathering seems an extraordinary tribute, the sessions
    are actually quite common. Musicians stop by frequently to play for Garland.
    “It’s therapy,” explains brother Billy.

    Today, though, a special guest drops by. Nashville fiddle-playing
    legend Vassar Clements and his brother Carroll, who lives in Jacksonville, stand
    toe-to-toe in the middle of the circle of guitarists. Carroll strums rhythm
    guitar while Vassar takes flight on the fiddle. Dubbed “the Miles Davis of
    Bluegrass,” Clements has performed with bluegrass greats Bill Monroe and Earl
    Scruggs, as well as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Grateful Dead and Dickey
    Betts. In Garland’s living room, his music sounds like water trickling over
    stones, like honey poured from a spoon, like a lover murmuring next to you in
    bed — warm, close, real.

    Garland and Clements know each other from the early days in
    Nashville when, barely out of childhood, both wowed elder statesmen of the
    industry. Clements left his Kissimmee home at 16 and took a bus to Nashville in
    1949 to play with Bill Monroe. Garland left South Carolina at 15 in 1946 to play
    with country-western bandleader Paul Howard. Child labor laws forced Garland
    back to South Carolina, but he returned to Nashville for good at 16.

    Taking a break from the music, Clements, a taut, rail-thin man
    wearing straight-leg Levis with a 32-inch waist, walks outside to a couple of
    white plastic lawn chairs set up in the Garlands’ driveway. He fills a pipe with
    tobacco and lights it. His hair is snow-white and falls over a face covered by a
    web of wrinkles.

    Clements recalls listening to Garland’s guitar work in live radio
    broadcasts from the Grand Ole Opry shortly after Hank began playing
    professionally. Clements says he could feel Garland’s desire to push his

    “They would play these fast tunes, and Hank would jump right in,”
    Clements says of the Opry shows. “He would do like myself, he’d go out on a
    limb.” Clements says sometimes Garland would drop a note or trip up, but he
    predicted that wouldn’t last. “I said, you just wait, I know he’s gonna get it,”
    Clements says. “And it wasn’t long before he just didn’t miss nothing, and he
    was right on the money.”

    Clements is joined by Billy Garland, and the two commiserate about
    the corrupt music industry. They talk about how record companies and managers
    have historically sucked money out of talent, offering perks like touring vans
    and record deals while stealing them blind. The books are always locked away in
    the record company’s office, Clements says, and in order to check them you’d
    practically have to hire a lawyer.

    Clements, who hasn’t seen Garland since his 1961 accident, is
    clearly shocked by his condition. “Hank was top of his heap,” he says. “He was
    on top of it, yeah.”

    Clements isn’t the only musical luminary who admires Garland. In a
    telephone interview from his New York home, eight-time Grammy Award winner
    George Benson says there was no one like Hank Garland. Benson first heard
    Garland’s guitar when he was 17 and learning to play in Pittsburgh. It affected
    him profoundly. Benson and a friend used to meet every week to listen to guitar
    albums, and one Saturday in 1960 they picked up “Jazz Winds from a New
    Direction.” The pair regarded the record suspiciously: The cover featured a
    picture of Garland in a Cadillac with four or five guitars beside him on the
    passenger seat. “It looked too country,” Benson says. But they gave it a try.
    “We put that record on, and we could not take it off,” says Benson. “It
    captivated us from bar one.”

    Benson wanted to break new ground, and Garland gave him inspiration.
    Even today, as an internationally recognized musician, Benson says he always
    credits Hank Garland as one of his influences. In 1992, when Benson was
    scheduled to perform in Jacksonville, he received a letter saying Garland liked
    his work and wanted to see his show. “To me, that was like receiving a Grammy,”
    Benson says.

    At the show, the Garlands say they received star treatment. Before
    he performed, Benson introduced Hank to the audience as one of the greatest
    guitarists ever. A spotlight shone on him, and the audience gave a standing
    ovation. “It was just wonderful,” says Amy.

    Garland’s accomplishments have been recognized by the music
    industry, too. He was inducted into the North American Country Music Hall of
    Fame in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. in 1998. His name appears on the Hollywood Rock Walk
    of Fame. But Billy Garland says the family won’t give the Country Music Hall of
    Fame in Nashville any piece of the man they believe the town destroyed. A few
    weeks ago, Billy says, Hall officials telephoned and asked if the Garlands had
    memorabilia for an exhibit on Hank. The family has every guitar Garland ever
    played, log books from his music sessions, his original notations for “Jingle
    Bell Rock” as well as master recordings from studio sessions with Elvis Presley
    and other artists.

    Billy Garland says the Hall of Fame will get none of it. “Yeah, I’ll
    donate something,” he says angrily. “I’ll give you his hospital bed and his
    potty chair.”

    Hank Garland’s wife, Evelyn, was a movie-star beautiful blonde with
    creamy skin and a shapely figure. She drove a green convertible Cadillac Coupe
    de Ville and favored fashionable clothes. Garland adored her. His brother says
    she was poison. She played around a lot, Billy claims, and the couple had
    terrible rows.

    Billy Garland knows how it went because he saw it up close. After
    finishing a stint with the U.S. Navy in 1957, Hank Garland urged his younger
    brother to come to Nashville. He wanted Billy to use his G.I. benefits to earn a
    law degree. Eventually, Hank hoped to start his own music publishing company and
    record studio, and he wanted Billy to help. “You be the eyes, and I’ll be the
    fingers,” Billy says his brother told him.

    Garland wanted his own label because he wanted artistic control. As
    late guitarist Chet Atkins told Guitar Player magazine in 1981, Garland was
    frustrated with Nashville producers. “Hank was very outspoken and he had a lot
    of ideas,” Atkins said. “If [producers] said something smart to him, his face
    would get real red and he’d say something back. But he was such a good musician
    that everyone had a terrible amount of respect for him, so nobody stepped on his

    Hank Garland also believed Nashville’s music publishing houses had
    ripped him off — and he wasn’t shy about saying so. When he was 19, he wrote and
    recorded the popular “Sugarfoot Rag” for Decca. Although he copyrighted the tune
    in his name, Billy says that two other names were later added to the copyright.
    And someone else absconded with two-thirds of the royalties that should have
    been Garland’s.

    According to Harold B. Bradley, president of the Nashville
    Association of Musicians and brother of former Decca Record executive Owen
    Bradley, such disputes were legion at the time. In fact, he says, the flip side
    of “Sugarfoot Rag” prompted a similar ownership lawsuit.

    But Garland, who believed record company executives ripped him off,
    refused to sign long-term contracts with any of the Nashville labels. Instead,
    he decided to start his own record company and produce his own music. Just
    before the accident, Garland started a music publishing company with country
    crooner Eddy Arnold, founded Sigma Music publishing company with some other
    partners and located a spot for a music studio in Miami. Billy believes it was
    this drive that first put his brother in the crosshairs of the Nashville
    machine. He notes that musicians loved working with his brother and says record
    company executives feared Garland’s company would lure away the best in the

    Certainly, Garland’s track record pointed to success. He was a
    licensed pilot and a scrupulous recordkeeper. He even designed an instrument for
    the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1955 with guitarist Billy Byrd. The hollow-body
    Byrdland guitar (named after both men), features a short neck and closer frets
    so it can be played quickly.

    The late 1950s was a heady time to be in Nashville. According to
    Billy, Hank Garland knew everyone. Everywhere they went, he was welcomed like a
    star. The clubs were rocking and the combination of so much money, music and
    talent concentrated in one place brought drugs and prostitution.

    John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and
    Museum, agrees. The music industry in Nashville after World War II boomed along
    with the rest of the country, and it fostered a wildcat mentality. “You could
    arrive broke, have a hit record, buy a Cadillac, get cold, and wind up owing
    everyone in town,” he said.

    Ultimately, Nashville spooked Billy. Paranoia permeated the place,
    he says, and unsavory characters were all around. Everyone carried a gun. Then
    Evelyn made a pass at Billy, and he told Hank. The brothers fought, and Billy
    took off, moving his family to Los Angeles.

    In a large bound book filled with tan ledger paper, Hank Garland’s
    studio session logs from 1961 show a musician at the height of his powers. In
    meticulous script, Garland lists gigs with Mel Tillis, Elvis Presley, Hank Snow,
    Brenda Lee, Hank Williams and George Jones. He performed with Elvis in the
    Hawaii farewell concert, and he laid down the tracks for the Elvis movie “Follow
    That Dream.” But Garland was also increasingly concerned for his own safety.
    After Billy left, he asked his father to stay with him, saying he was afraid
    someone might try to kill him. He didn’t offer specifics, but his dad didn’t
    need any. He came to Nashville for a week. He returned to Spartanburg, S.C.
    feeling that his son was safe, but a week later, on Sept. 8, Garland nearly

    Earlier that day, Garland had words with a studio executive. He
    quarreled with record execs frequently, disagreeing about the way a song should
    be done or complaining about his royalties. That day, the exchange may have been
    complicated by a rumor that Evelyn had begun an affair with the executive’s son,
    and an earlier fight between Evelyn and Hank. Later, when Garland was at the
    studio, a telephone call interrupted his work. Evelyn had taken the children and

    When Garland heard the news, he jumped into his 1959 Chevy Nomad
    station wagon and headed north, hoping to catch up to her. Garland was speeding
    near Springfield, Tenn. when the front tire of the station wagon blew out. The
    car careened out of control, rolling end over end. The force of the crash threw
    Hank through the windshield. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, head injuries
    and lacerations on his face.

    An ambulance rushed an unconscious Garland to Vanderbilt University
    Hospital. He lay in a coma for three weeks. Doctors told the family he would
    probably die.

    Garland didn’t die, but while he was in the coma, the family began
    to suspect foul play. According to Billy Garland, a truck driver who claimed to
    witness the accident showed up at the hospital. He said that he’d seen a man
    carrying a rifle running along a ditch next to the highway after Garland’s tire
    blew. The trucker suggested they check the car for bullet holes. Billy visited
    the yard where police towed the car, but he couldn’t get a good look at the
    vehicle. When he tried to see it again later, he says, the car had been

    Garland emerged from the coma after three weeks, but he never
    completely recovered. When Vanderbilt Hospital released him on Nov. 18, his
    doctor noted he didn’t have brain damage but seemed to suffer from “organic
    post-traumatic psychosis.” Although the condition sounded grim, the doctor
    predicted that Garland’s mental state would gradually improve.

    Whether it eventually would have will never be known. Twelve days
    after his release, Evelyn dropped Garland off at Madison Sanitarium, a mental
    institution in Nashville, saying he was agitated, disoriented and hostile.

    The hospital’s assessment of Garland upon admittance was less
    damning. Doctors merely noted, “This 31-year-old, well-developed, well-nourished
    white male is a very successful world-known guitar player.” Doctors also
    observed that Garland and his wife fought, that she had become infatuated with
    another man, and that Garland had been in a bad accident.

    Over the next six weeks, doctors administered 12 shock treatments
    and drugged the 31-year-old with Thorazine. On Jan. 14, 1962, a notation in his
    chart describes him as “quite retarded.” The next day, Garland was released.
    Doctors opined he had improved during his stay at the institution. The final
    diagnosis describes him as “more manageable and sociable.”

    On March 27, 1962, Evelyn again contacted the doctors at Madison
    Sanitarium. She complained that Garland acted “on guard all the time, watching
    the stairs as if he were afraid someone was after him.” She said he tried to hit
    her and burn her with a cigarette. He was taking two Thorazine tablets three
    times a day, but Evelyn said they seemed to make things worse. Billy believes
    Garland acted paranoid because he knew someone was after him. Doctors again
    admitted Garland to Madison. This time, he received 100 milligrams of Thorazine
    four times a day, and — inexplicably — chemotherapy.

    Billy now believes the car crash was attempted murder, and that the
    subsequent shock treatments were an effort to fry his brother’s brain. “He was
    getting well, and I think he would have remembered too much,” Billy says, “so
    they rushed him out to the sanitarium to give him shock treatments.” Billy is
    vague when asked about who “they” might be, and he admittedly didn’t do much to
    alert authorities. He never called police to report the trucker’s claim that his
    brother’s car had been fired upon, and he told no one then about his brother’s
    fear for his life. But he points out that the continued interference with his
    brother’s mental state effectively ended his career. Hank Garland’s doctor
    thought he would improve if left alone. But after the shock treatments, Billy
    says, Garland didn’t have the dexterity to play the guitar and had the mental
    capacity of a 2-year-old. He has recovered somewhat, but he hasn’t been able to
    work since.

    Although Garland was released back into his wife’s care on April 11,
    1962, he stayed with her for only two years before the couple split. After
    Evelyn returned to her hometown, she put her husband on an airplane back to
    Spartanburg. According to Billy, Garland was found on an airplane in New Orleans
    with a $20 bill in his pocket. At the time, Billy was a construction contractor
    at Cape Canaveral. In 1965, he moved his parents and Hank to Titusville. He’s
    been Garland’s caregiver ever since.

    The same year she split with Garland, Evelyn met her own tragic end.
    On Christmas in 1964, she was driving her Cadillac convertible in Milwaukee when
    a stoplight fell and decapitated her.

    Billy believes Evelyn was in on the plot to destroy Hank, and that
    she’d outlived her usefulness. “Evelyn would have received a $2 million
    insurance settlement if Hank died,” he says. “She was in on it. I believe she

    For the past 10 years, Billy Garland has kept 10 copies of Psalm 91
    tucked inside the right heel of his shoe, 10 copies in the left, and five more
    in his wallet. Psalm 91 talks about near misses — how 1,000 may fall at your
    side and 10,000 at your right hand, but you will be spared. Billy interprets
    this to mean that God has designated 11,000 angels as protectors, but he’s not
    sure 11,000 is enough. So he multiplied his chances.

    “If somebody tries to get to me they are going to have to bust
    through 275,000 angels,” he says. He admits the 25-Psalms-in-the-shoe thing may
    seem a bit “nutty,” but he believes it works.

    He also believes the menace out there is real. Over the years, Billy
    says he’s received numerous telephone death threats. The first came in the late
    1960s. Billy picked up the phone in Titusville and a man said, “If you mess in
    Hank’s business, you’ll never see your kids grow up.” The calls continued in the
    1980s, when Billy says he received a series of messages where the caller’s voice
    was altered by reverb, as though from a recording studio. The message was always
    the same: Back off Hank Garland’s business. The callers didn’t specifically
    mention “Jingle Bell Rock.” They just said things like, “Lay off.”

    At the time, Billy says he’d begun asking questions about his
    brother’s missing royalties. Hank Garland does receive occasional checks for his
    work as a studio musician on “Jingle Bell Rock.” He received around $250 when
    the song opened “Lethal Weapon.” He also received payment when the song was used
    in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, “Jingle All the Way.” But ownership royalties
    are the big payout, and Billy Garland believes his brother is owed plenty.

    According to Bobby Helms’ biographer and Fort Myers author David
    Ward Davis, it was a common practice for studios to claim copyright for work
    created by artists under contract. Helms complained that he and Garland had been
    cheated out of royalties on “Jingle Bell Rock,” says Davis, but he just accepted
    that was the way of the industry.

    Garland, who wasn’t under contract with Decca when the song was
    written, chafed at the studio’s usurpation. Before the accident, Garland met
    with an attorney to discuss recovering his due for the Decca hit song,
    “Sugarfoot Rag.” Billy says the lawyer dissuaded him from pursuing the claims.
    He said, “Hank, you have a family. You’re working here. I would suggest you just
    be quiet about this.” Billy, who attended the meeting, thought the comment odd
    at the time, but says it was not in his brother’s nature to be quiet when he
    thought he had been wronged. “He was very angry about the way the record
    companies were doing people,” Billy says. “He basically grew up in it and knew
    how crooked it was.”

    After the 1961 accident, Billy says he became suspicious about the
    official version of events. He knew Hank had asked their father to be with him
    in Nashville because he feared for his life. He remembered the warning of the
    truck driver. And Billy grew even more certain that his brother had been
    targeted after Evelyn’s death. In a pile of Garland’s things, Billy found a
    series of black-and-white 8-by-10 photographs of the Chevy Nomad. Taken at the
    junkyard, the pictures show tiny, jagged holes in Garland’s car. There’s one in
    the front passenger window. There’s another in the roof of the car in the back.
    And there are some in the wheel well of the tire that blew. An investigator
    Billy hired in the late 1960s believed the photographs showed Garland’s car had
    been fired upon.

    Asked the name of the investigator, Billy says he doesn’t remember.
    He no longer has a copy of the investigator’s report. And he didn’t take this
    information to the Nashville police. He says he didn’t believe the police would
    investigate a crime that might involve music industry bigwigs.

    Bradley, brother of Decca Records exec Owen Bradley, vehemently
    disagrees. He notes that Hank Garland was “well loved by everyone” in Nashville,
    and says if his accident had smelled of foul play “there would have been a
    tremendous investigation.”

    Whether or not Billy’s version of events is cautious or
    unnecessarily paranoid, it’s widely known in Nashville circles. It’s also echoed
    somewhat by Davis. In his biography of Helms, he describes a series of death
    threats — to Helms and to him personally. While working on the book, Davis says
    he got voice-distorted calls warning him not to write it. “We can’t stop the
    movie or the book,” one caller said, “but if you’re dead, what good will it do
    you?” In the book’s epilogue, Davis writes, “To the people who threatened our
    lives. Well, to them I say, ‘READ this you bastards … we got the story told … WE

    After reading Davis’ book and talking to the author, Billy was
    prompted to prepare a lawsuit against Warner/Chappell music, the company that
    now holds the copyright to “Jingle Bell Rock.” Though he has worked
    intermittently with attorneys, on Aug. 8, 2003, he filed suit himself in U.S.
    District Court in Florida’s Middle District, accusing Warner/Chappell of fraud
    and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Several newspapers
    reported the suit against the Warner Music subsidiary; all conceded his claim to
    “Jingle Bell Rock.” The story was picked up by the Associated Press and CNN.
    Billy, worried the lawsuit would stir up trouble, contacted the FBI.

    Two months later, he says, trouble knocked on his door.

    One evening in October 2003, Billy opened the door to an attractive
    blonde in her 40s. The woman explained she was a lawyer, and said she thought it
    was horrible what the recording industry had done to Hank Garland. Over the
    course of several nights, Billy and his wife Amy say Jacksonville attorney Lisa
    Lovingood camped out in front of their house, delivering speeches in the
    driveway in a loud voice, reenacting previous cases and promising to
    successfully litigate Hank’s claim.

    If Lovingood’s actions amounted to soliciting business, it would
    have been a violation of Florida Bar Association codes, according to Kathy
    Bible, Bar ethics counsel. But as Lovingood talked, the family began to believe
    that she might be the savior they sought. Although a colleague now says she’d
    mainly handled employment discrimination cases, not intellectual property suits,
    Lovingood convinced the family that she was the lawyer to battle

    Lovingood did not return repeated calls for comment on this story.
    But the image that emerges from her e-mail correspondence in the Garland case
    and Billy Garland’s formal complaint to both the FBI and the Justice Department
    is troubling.

    In November 2003, Lovingood created a company, HBA, LLC, for which
    she served as managing partner. (Billy says the letters HBA stand for “Hank and
    Billy’s Angels.”) On Dec. 4, Lovingood filed a notice with the court announcing
    that she was the attorney of record for Hank Garland. She also filed paperwork
    amending Billy’s original complaint to include issues of copyright infringement,
    unfair trade practices, unfair competition, fraud and unjust enrichment.

    To finance the case, Lovingood involved another attorney, Ricky
    Lamkin, who practices law in Murray, Ky. Lamkin served as the chief investor in
    the case, giving Lovingood $50,000 between November 2003 and March 2004,
    including nearly $5,000 a month for her work on the case, according to invoices
    provided by Lamkin. In return, Lovingood promised Lamkin a 10 percent slice of
    the settlement.

    This arrangement does not appear to be illegal, but it does raise
    questions, as does the fact that neither Lovingood nor Lamkin had a written
    agreement with the Garlands.

    Lamkin acknowledges financing the suit with hopes of getting a
    return on his investment. “I was approached to aid in the prosecution of a case
    that, if successfully prosecuted, then I would share in the recovery,” Lamkin
    says. He adds, “I probably made a mistake [funding the litigation].”

    Lovingood also fired off a letter to Gibson Guitar Corporation
    regarding the guitar that Garland helped design but for which Billy says his
    brother was never paid. Lovingood demanded $8 million from Gibson to settle
    Garland’s claim. To pursue the suit, Lovingood estimated she’d need $100,000,
    and she again approached Lamkin via e-mail to put up the money in exchange for
    10 percent of the settlement.

    “I need to know if you can financially commit to the costs ... for a
    10 percent fee in this case,” she wrote in a Jan. 22 e-mail.

    The payout would have been big — $800,000 on an $8 million claim —
    but the Kentucky attorney balked. Responding to her e-mail, he challenged fees
    that Lovingood itemized on an invoice, including money for her swimming pool
    service, her housekeepers and for ice cream. Lovingood responded she’d been
    unable to clean her pool or do housework since taking on the Garland’s case,
    which she referred to in a March 25 e-mail as “the biggest copyright
    infringement case in U.S. history.”

    “Before I took the case .... I had the time to clean,” she
    explained. “I no longer have the time.”

    She also told Lamkin that she was on disability and had received
    permission from her insurance carrier to work on the case only if she was
    co-counsel. If the company requested her paperwork, she told Lamkin in a March
    20 e-mail, “I can’t have it appear as if I am the only lawyer on the file.”

    Lovingood’s legal salvos didn’t intimidate Warner/Chappell
    attorneys, who asked for the case to be dismissed on technical issues. On Sept.
    15, 2004, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan dismissed all of the counts
    except one. Even if that claim is successful, because of the way Lovingood
    restructured Billy’s claim, it now appears that Garland would be able to claim
    only three years’ worth of royalties rather than the 47 his family says he’s

    By the time Lovingood withdrew as counsel on the case on Oct. 7, the
    Garlands had soured on her legal representation. Billy even asks if she was
    another manifestation of the Nashville machine, sent to mess up his brother’s
    claim. “Who sent this woman over to my house to put on this show?” he wonders.
    Billy, whose allegations against Lovingood go well beyond legal malpractice,
    contacted the FBI and the Justice Department and reported the incident.
    Investigators from both agencies declined comment.

    Lamkin has since sent the Garlands a bill for $50,000. And last
    week, the family received a letter from Warner/Chappell saying the company
    intends to recoup its legal expenses.

    After his accident, Hank Garland struggled to relearn the guitar. He
    would never make the instrument sing the way he once had, but he was able to
    play several of his own songs. In 1975, he performed his “Sugarfoot Rag” at the
    Grand Ole Opry.

    For some folks in Nashville, Garland’s story remains a tragedy. But
    by learning that song and others, he reclaimed a part of himself. He started
    playing guitar at 6, and people in Cowpen, S.C. would come from miles around to
    hear him play. “He was just a natural-born talent,” Billy says.

    In his heyday, Garland did finger exercises to improve his reach and
    his ability to fly over the frets. Now, musicians who drop by his Orange Park
    home give Garland a taste of that pleasure as they play for him for more than an
    hour. Between songs, Garland and Vassar Clements talk about mutual friends.
    Clements tells Garland how he ran into a drummer they both knew, but says the
    man isn’t working anymore. “He never did,” Garland cuts in, showing a little of
    his old ego. Clements agrees. “Yeah,” he says, “He’s the only drummer I’ve ever
    seen read comic books while he’s playing.”

    Just a few miles away, the song that should have made Hank Garland
    rich plays in stores throughout the Orange Park Mall. For his family and
    friends, righting this seasonal wrong remains their annual Christmas wish.

    Six days after this story appeared, Hank Garland died at Orange Park
    Medical Center near Jacksonville, Fla. of a staph infection.
  2. sonar1

    sonar1 Senior Member

    Likes Received:
    Apr 7, 2011
    "Jazz Winds From a New Direction" is a great CD that shows Hank right up there with Johnny Smith in his phrasing and technique. A favorite of mine.

    Thanks for the article. I was only partly aware of some things, and certainly not all the intrigue surrounding that fateful accident.
  3. loneguitar

    loneguitar Senior Member

    Likes Received:
    Aug 1, 2007
    Hank was such an influence in my playing and since retired begun to delve deeper into Hank's life and the tragic events that happened in '61. Hank was quoted as saying the music business can be hazardous to your health.
    Truly an amazing talent and innovator. RIP Hank.


    Likes Received:
    Nov 26, 2008
    I had no idea that car accident was an attempted hit. Record companies have stole billions from artists, songwriters etc.

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