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Aerosmith Drummer Sues Band for Excluding Him Ahead of Grammys

Joey Kramer says he was forced to re-audition for his role and was held to ‘made-up’ standards not in contract

Jon Blistein Jan 22, 2020

Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer has filed a lawsuit against the band, claiming they're unfairly excluding him from the group. Photo: Robb Cohen/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

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Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer filed a lawsuit against the rest of the band, claiming they’ve unfairly excluded him from rejoining the group ahead of their upcoming Grammys performance and the continuation of their Las Vegas residency.

According to the suit, obtained by Rolling Stone, Kramer suffered a few minor injuries last spring that sidelined him just as the band was set to launch their Deuces Are Wild Las Vegas residency. By the fall, Kramer claims, he was ready to rejoin the group, but the suit alleges he was rebuffed in ways that were inconsistent with the terms laid out in Aerosmith’s band contract. The lawsuit comes ahead of Aerosmith’s scheduled performance at the 2020 Grammy Awards this Sunday, January 26th, as well as a tribute show in their honor, January 24th, as they accept the MusiCares Person of the Year award.

“This is not about money,” Kramer said in a statement. “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.”

According to Kramer, after he informed the band that he was ready to drum again last fall, they essentially made him re-audition for the group — not by having him sit in with the band for a rehearsal, but by recording himself solo as he played along to a click track.

Per the suit, Kramer was told he needed to demonstrate that he could “play at an appropriate level,” even though such a standard had never been used in the band’s history when other members had suffered injuries that kept them from the stage. Additionally, Kramer’s suit notes that there’s no provision in the band’s contract requiring a member to “take any action to ‘prove’ or otherwise demonstrate his ability to perform after a period of temporary disability” in order to rejoin the band.

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“Joey Kramer is our brother; his wellbeing is of paramount importance to us. However he has not been emotionally and physically able to perform with the band, by his own admission, for the last 6 months,” the band said via a representative. “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 an attempt to “defuse the situation,” the suit says, Kramer eventually relented and let his replacement, John Douglas, play the rest of the Deuces Are Wild shows for 2019. (Kramer was responsible for paying Douglas; per the band’s contract, all members are entitled to their full share of live performance income even if they’re sidelined, although the replacement’s pay comes out of the absent member’s cut.)

Earlier this month, Kramer finally acquiesced and auditioned with the click track. While other band members reportedly told him he sounded “great,” Kramer claims that on January 15th, Aerosmith held an unprecedented vote on his future and ultimately decided against him rejoining the band.

The suit claims that this decision wasn’t based on the already “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 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!”

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“Joey has now waited until the last moment to accept our invitation, when we unfortunately have no time for necessary rehearsals during Grammys week,” Aerosmith’s statement went on to say. “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.”

Along with the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute and the 2020 Grammys performance, Aerosmith are set to resume their Las Vegas residency later this month, with additional shows scheduled in May and June. The band also plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a European tour this summer.

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