(Reuters) – Don Everly, the surviving member of the Everly Brothers, has sued the family of his late brother Phil to reclaim his copyright interests in the country-rock duo’s 1960 U.S. No. 1 hit “Cathy’s Clown.”
In a complaint filed on Wednesday, Don Everly asked a federal judge to declare him the song’s sole author, and block Phil’s widow Patti and sons Chris and Jason from claiming half of the U.S. songwriter royalties.
Don said he and Phil had been credited as co-authors of “Cathy’s Clown” from 1960 to 1980, by which time the brothers were pursuing solo careers amid a well-publicized falling-out.
Phil then signed a release giving up his rights to the song and acknowledging Don as author while keeping half the royalties to that point, the complaint said. The release also covered the songs “Sigh, Cry, Almost Die” and “That’s Just Too Much.”
But in September 2016, soon after Don asserted his rights to “Cathy’s Clown” with the U.S. Copyright Office, Phil’s family filed a claim with that office to half of the U.S. copyright rights and songwriter royalties, starting in August 2018.
They consider Phil’s 1980 release unenforceable, saying the publisher Acuff-Rose owned the copyright and that Phil could not transfer it, court papers show.
Acuff-Rose’s catalog later became part of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, which is part of Sony Corp (6758.T). Don Everly is now 80, while Phil Everly died in January 2014 at age 74. The lawsuit was filed in the federal court in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Phil’s family wants to make clear that Phil and Don both wrote ‘Cathy’s Clown,’ and that Phil always wanted his family to exercise all of his rights resulting from his having co-written the song,” Jay Bowen, a lawyer for Phil Everly’s widow and sons, said in an interview.
A lawyer for Don Everly did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment.
The Everly Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in its inaugural class in 1986, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
They are also remembered for such songs as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.”
The case is Everly v Everly et al, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, No. 17-01440.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker