LOS ANGELES (CN) - The lead singer and founder of 1980s rock band Great White claims his former band mates fired him and stole the group's name after he recovered from surgery to repair a perforated bowel.
Jack Russell sued Great White lead guitarist Mark Kendall, drummer Audie Desbrow, guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist Michael Lardie, talent agency Bigg Time Entertainment, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition.
He claims he "has always been the lead singer and creative director of the band," despite a one-year absence to recover from an addiction to alcohol and cocaine, as reported on "ExtraTV."
Russell says he resurrected the band in late 2002, and embarked on a reunion tour with the old line-up, which included Kendall, Desbrow and Lardie, in 2006.
"In August of 2010, plaintiff was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery for a life threatening condition. While he recuperated from this surgery, other singers filled in for him during the band's live performances, however, it was undisputed that plaintiff's absence was temporary, and that he retained his position in the band's lineup and would resume singing with the band upon his recuperation," the federal complaint states.
"By December of 2011, plaintiff had recuperated sufficiently to be able to once again perform as lead singer," the lawsuit states. "However, defendants, who had apparently decided that they would prefer that band continue without plaintiff, stated that he would not be 'permitted' to return to his band until he agreed to a lengthy set of conditions (including, for example, that he agree to no longer take the pain medications or even the anti-inflammatory medicines that had been prescribed by his treating physicians) that was clearly designed to keep him from returning to the band."
Russell says that around the same time, Kendall, Desbrow and Lardie filed to register the Great White mark at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He has since asked the band to stop performing under that name, but it refused, the lawsuit states.
Left out, Russell enlisted a new line up to perform under the name Jack Russell's Great White, as he had done before the band's 2003 reunion.
According to the complaint: "In an attempt to injure the business reputation of plaintiff and interfere with his band's prospective economic advantage, defendants posted defamatory material about him on their website claiming that he was too infirm to perform as a musician. Defendants also claimed to be the true owners of the 'Great White' trademark, and posted threats to litigate against any venue or promoter that booked plaintiff's band. Plaintiff has also been informed by various venues that defendants, by and through their agents, contacted bookers that had employed plaintiff's band and threatened litigation."
Kendall, Desbrow and Lardie are planning to release a new Great White album later this year, Russell adds.
"Release of the album will irretrievably alter the discography of the band 'Great White,' tarnishing and diluting the trademark, reputation, and goodwill that plaintiff has developed over 30 years," the lawsuit says.
Russell is represented by Brian Acree with Carey & Acree of Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Great White could not be reached for comment, and Bigg Time Entertainment did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
Pyrotechnics at a 2003 show at Rhode Island night club The Station caused a fire that killed 100 people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley. In 2008, the band agreed to pay $1 million to survivors and families of the victims of the fire. The band then launched a multi-year benefit tour for the Station Family Fund.