Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer is suing his bandmates, claiming they have not allowed him to play again in the legendary Boston rock group for upcoming performances, including at the Grammy Awards this Sunday, because of arbitrary standards they set after he suffered minor injuries last year.
In a civil complaint filed in Plymouth County Superior Court Jan. 17, Kramer alleges he’s been put through an unprecedented process to get back to playing in the Rock-&-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-inducted band, and was made to essentially re-audition for his place behind the drum kit.
The ordeal breaks from the band’s contracts and longstanding practice, the lawsuit says, adding that Aerosmith members “are governed by the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the duty of loyalty, and the course of conduct of the members … over several decades.”
The group is slated to play both at the Grammys this weekend and at the MusiCares Gala on Friday, where the band is being honored as the 2020 “Person of the Year.”
Kramer, 69, is asking the court to let him perform at the two gigs.
“This is not about money,” he said in a statement shared with Boston.com. “I am being deprived of the opportunity to be recognized along with my peers for our collective lifetime contributions to the music industry. Neither the MusiCares’ Person of the Year Award nor the Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement honors can ever be repeated.”
A founding member of the band, Kramer missed several shows last spring due to injuries, but has been ready to get back onstage, particularly for the band’s “Deuces Are Wild” Las Vegas residency, since the fall, according to the 16-page filing.
But fellow members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, and Brad Whitford told Kramer he wouldn’t be allowed back until he proved he was “able to play at an appropriate level” — a request never before made in the band’s 50-year history, even in similar situations, the lawsuit claims.
Kramer was directed to “perform a series of solo rehearsals against a ‘click track’ (in essence a metronome used to keep time),” the court filing says. Other members were to listen to the recording and decide whether Kramer met the standard they set, the lawsuit claims.
Kramer requested to play with the band in person to demonstrate he was ready to join the group again and talk things over, but his fellow members refused to meet, according to the lawsuit.
“Joey Kramer is our brother; his wellbeing is of paramount importance to us,” the band’s four other members said in a statement. “However he has not been emotionally and physically able to perform with the band, by his own admission, for the last six months. We have missed him and have encouraged him to rejoin us to play many times but apparently he has not felt ready to do so.”
In the lawsuit, Kramer’s attorneys say he attempted to “defuse the situation and prevent further acrimony” when he agreed to let his replacement, John Douglas, play in his place for shows in November and December.
Under the band’s current contract, the absent member alone is required to pay the musician who performs on his behalf during missed performances. Kramer has done so in his absence, the lawsuit says.
Ultimately, Kramer made recordings of himself playing to the click track in Las Vegas earlier this month, according to the complaint. At least one band member told him the recording sounded “great,” the filing says.
In a conference call on Jan. 15, the other band members informed Kramer he needed to “‘demonstrate he is able to perform as well as John Douglas,'” a kind of request that has never been asked of a band member before, the lawsuit says.
That day, Kramer’s bandmates also, in an unprecedented move, voted to prohibit him from playing in both the MusiCares and Grammy Awards performances as well as their upcoming residency appearances.
The reasoning behind their votes was “not the made-up ‘play at an appropriate level’ standard, the made-up ‘play as well as the drum tech’ standard, or the made-up ‘technically correct’ standard, but a new and even more unreasonable and arbitrary and capricious standard: that Mr. Kramer did not have enough ‘energy’ in the recordings,” the lawsuit says.
“The fact that I would be asked to audition for my own job, demonstrate that I can play at ‘an appropriate level’ and play better than my temporary fill-in with a moving target of made-up standards is both insulting and upsetting,” Kramer said in his statement. “Other band members and their lawyers will likely attempt to disparage my playing and claim that I am unable to play the drums right now. Nothing could be further from the truth. I did everything they asked — jumped through hoops and made both a recording of playing along solo to a recent live recording of the band — one I had never heard before, and that process was videotaped. But I did it, and I did it well. In Aerosmith’s 50-year history, no other band member has ever been subjected to this scrutiny let alone be asked to audition for his own job!”
In their statement, other band members said Kramer waited until the last moment to accept their invitation for him to play.
“We unfortunately have no time for necessary rehearsals during Grammys week,” the statement says. “We would be doing a disservice to him, to ourselves and to our fans to have him play without adequate time to prepare and rehearse. Compounding this, he chose to file a lawsuit on the Friday night of the holiday weekend preceding the Grammys with total disregard for what is our limited window to prepare to perform these important events. Given his decisions he is unfortunately unable to perform but of course we have invited him to be with us for both the Grammys and our MusiCares honor. We are bonded together by much more than our time on stage.”
Aerosmith is slated to have a busy 2020. The band kicks off additional Las Vegas residency shows in January and May before heading to Europe for a 50th anniversary tour starting June 13.
“I hope our fans can understand that all I’m trying to do is get back to playing with the band that they love – and that’s Aerosmith with all five original members,” Kramer’s statement continued. “The greatest magic and success of Aerosmith happens when all the band’s founding members are together in the house. To be removed from my rightful place on stage to celebrate our success – a success that acknowledges my own life’s work – is just plain wrong.”