Hank Williams' heirs--Jett and Hank Williams Jr.--have won a yearlong court battle with Legacy Entertainment Group and Polygram Records over control of scores of their father's radio performances from
Hank Williams’ heirs—Jett and Hank Williams Jr. – have won a yearlong court battle with Legacy Entertainment Group and Polygram Records over control of scores of their father’s radio performances from the early 1950s.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Division, on Jan. 20 ruled that William’s heirs are the sole owners of recordings of his radio performances.
Legacy claimed ownership of the rights to acetate recordings of Hank Williams’ music that were played by WSM radio for its Mother’s Best Flour program. The recordings were used solely for radio broadcasts when Williams was on tour. The acetates were passed from a private collector, who first salvaged them from the trash, to a former member of William’s band the Drifting Cowboys and then ultimately sold to Legacy.
The court found no record that either the parties in previous possession of the recordings, or Legacy, had any legal rights of ownership to them or the intangible rights the performances contained.
Polygram claimed it too had rights of the Williams’ performances stemming from its acquisition of MGM Records’ exclusive recording contracts with Williams. The court found that those contracts only covered recordings that had been made for the purpose of producing phonograph records—the radio acetate recordings were therefore not part of that deal.
There is no word yet what the Williams heirs will do with the recordings. Representatives for Legacy and Polygram could not be reached for immediate comment.