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Tag: royalties

Blake Shelton names his new honky-tonks after classic (but not his own) country song

Not since a fried chicken chain opened under the name Bojangles, has a name been so blatantly borrowed from the music world for personal gain.

Blake Shelton is opening a chain of restaurant/music venues/retail stores later this month under the name Ole Red — a slightly altered spelling of his hit song “Ol’ Red,” which wasn’t really his song either.

I don’t know if Bojangles restaurants pay any form of royalties to Jerry Jeff Walker, who wrote and first recorded “Mr. Bojangles,” or, for that matter, if Shelton’s new restaurants give much of a nod (financial or otherwise) to George Jones, who originally recorded “Ol’ Red,” but it makes me wonder.

sheltonmugAre song names fair game? Can anyone appropriate them for their own personal or business use? Can I, without repercussions, or lawsuits, open a business named after a song?

Perhaps a hoagie restaurant called “Yellow Submarine,” a home cleaning service called “Another One Bites the Dust,” or a vitamin and health food dispensary named “Stayin’ Alive?”

It may be legal, but it’s still a little presumptuous.

What Shelton is doing would be the equivalent of David Lee Roth opening a chain of Hooters-like restaurants and calling it California Girls.

Blake Shelton took George Jones’ song — written by James “Bo” Bohan, Don Goodman and Mark Sherrill — and turned it into a hit of his own in 2009.

jonesgraveThe song tells the delightful story of an inmate who enlists a prison bloodhound — whose job was to track down prisoners — to assist in his own escape.

It is narrated by an inmate who is serving a 99-year sentence for a violent act committed when he caught his wife with another man. After gaining a position of trust, though, he is allowed to take the bloodhound, Ol’ Red, for his evening run.

The inmate secretly arranges for a cousin in Tennessee to bring an especially alluring female blue tick hound to the outskirts of the prison and put her in a pen. The inmate, during that evening run, begins regularly dropping Ol’ Red off there for nightly trysts.

Ol’ Red gets so smitten with the blue tick hound that when the inmate makes his own escape, he knows Ol’ Red will be released to chase him down — and he knows Red will head in the opposite direction, straight for his new girlfriend.

The escape is successful, as the final line of the song points out:

“Love got me in there, love got me out.”

(You can hear George Jones’ version — still preferred by many — here.)

Jones died in 2013.

namethedogsI’m sure Shelton had to pay some person or entity to record the song, but I’m not so sure if any deals were involved in naming his two new establishments after the song.

Maybe altering the name — from Ol’ Red to Ole Red — served as a loophole, even if it does lead some people to give it the Spanish pronunciation: Olé.

Shelton opened the first location of his new honky-tonk chain yesterday in in Tishomingo, Okla. A second will open later this month in Nashville.

And today he released a new album, entitled, interestingly enough, “I’ll Name the Dogs.”

I don’t know what that song is about, but once it shows up on the Internet I’ll bring it to you — just in case you, like me, have an interest in dog songs, or if maybe you want to use that name when you open your own hot dog stand.

Oh wait, here it is now:

How nice. Not what I’d call a dog song, though. Shelton sings of how he and the woman he is proposing to will divide household duties once they are married: “You name the kids; I’ll name the dogs.”

This is what country singers do. They sing about their undying love for their woman. Then they sing about breaking up with that woman. Then they sing about their forevermore loyalty to the next woman.

(George Jones has Blake Shelton beat in this category too, having married at least four times, once to Tammy Wynette, who was married five times and who recorded the No. 1 song of 1968, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” She married Jones the next year. It lasted six years.)

When they’re not singing about love realized and love lost, country singers turn to simpler topics, like beer and whiskey, their truck, fishin’ and their dog.

They also sing each other’s songs, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when they establish an entire franchise based on somebody else’s song? One could argue that’s going too far. One could say that’s bad manners. One could say, in more countrified terms, “That dog don’t hunt.”

(Photos, At top, Shelton shows off some of the merchandise at his new honky-tonk, USA Today; middle, George Jones’ dog, Bandit, visits his grave, Facebook; bottom, cover of Shelton’s new album)

Steinbeck home is source of discontent


Novels need conflict. Houses don’t. But the former Long Island home of John Steinbeck is smack in the middle of one that branches out in nearly as many directions as the mighty oaks in his former front yard.

It’s a modest two-bedroom bungalow, scenically set amid gigantic oak trees, on two acres that jut into Noyac Bay in the town of Sag Harbor — the house where Steinbeck wrote “Travels with Charley,” the house behind which Charley is buried, and the one we left from yesterday to retrace, at least in part, the route of the author and his poodle.

The house is also part of a long battle over the Steinbeck family estate. Jean Boone, the sister of the author’s third and final wife, Elaine, says it is hers. Thomas Steinbeck, John’s oldest son, disputes that.

“The house belongs to Steinbeck’s blood heirs,” Thomas Steinbeck, 65, told the New York Times.

The two parties have different ideas about what the house should become. Boone is against preserving the home as a historic site or museum because her family enjoys vacationing there. Thomas would like to see it become a school for writers.

Mrs. Boone, 81, says her sister Elaine left it to her upon her death in 2003, and that she plans to leave it to her family.

In 2004, though, Thomas Steinbeck and his niece sued the family of Elaine Steinbeck. The suit alleges a “30-year conspiracy” to cheat Steinbeck blood heirs out of royalties and copyright control, according to the Times article. The suit was dismissed in 2009, but Thomas Steinbeck appealed, and arguments will be held next month in Manhattan.

The appeal is mainly over the rights to John Steinbeck’s books, and, in it, Thomas Steinbeck does not lay claim to the Sag Harbor property, where John Steinbeck found the same salty-sea-air inspiration he did in Monterey, California.

Times reporter Corey Kilgannon received a tour of the property earlier this week, and noted many reminders of Steinbeck are still there, including marks on the wall of the kitchen where the author recorded the height of family and guests, including Charley. Steinbeck’s books and other belongings were removed from the shack in recent years, but other signs remain, including one over the doorway that says “Aroynte,” which the Times article says may be derived from an old English term meaning “Be gone!”

Other Steinbeck scribblings are on the walls and tool drawers, one of which reads, “Knives, Chisels and Bladey Things.” A miniature steel cannon Steinbeck used to scare the geese away remains in the living room, and the walls are still lined with photographs of Steinbeck.

Steinbeck set off from the house 50 years ago yesterday on his 10,000 mile trip with Charley in a camper named “Rocinante,” after Don Quixote’s horse. He returned 11 weeks later and wrote the book there.

“Elaine used to say that John enjoyed having no distractions,” the property’s caretaker, John Stefanik, told the Times. “The words just flowed out here.”