Late last month, several of Garth Hudson’s belongings were sold to the public by a Kingston, New York landlord who claimed Hudson failed to pay more than $50,000 in storage space fees. The event drew Hudson supporters after the former Band keyboardist encouraged Facebook friends to buy the items and allow him to reimburse them. "Garth Hudson would like his belongings back," a message on the keyboardist’s Facebook page read. "We were not seeking funds, but were asking purchasers to allow us to reimburse them for what they bought as we were not on premises ourselves."
Hudson isn’t backing down: after his attorneys filed a complaint, a New York judge granted a temporary restraining order that puts a planned April 6th auction of more of Hudson’s belongings on hold. Hudson accuses Mike Piazza (no relation to the All-Star catcher) of attempting extortion and is demanding the landlord return items from his personal archive – including musical instruments, reel-to-reel tapes, memorabilia, sheet music, photographs and more – plus pay punitive damages and Hudson’s attorney fees.
Legal documents provided by Hudson’s attorney, John Clark, claim Hudson and Piazza entered an arrangement in 2004 for a two-year lease of a storage space in Kingston, New York for $567 per month. Over the next several years, Hudson alleges Piazza hiked the rent hundreds of dollars, at one point attempting to raise it from $800 to $1,600 per month. "Some increases were understandable, some were outlandish," says Clark. "[It's like] going to the store, buying your bagel for $1.75, then you walk in the next day and they want 15 bucks."
The complaint also alleges Piazza moved Hudson's possessions twice without permission, damaging some items. "He knew it was valuable. Memorabilia signed by the band, notebooks and sheet music by Garth Hudson – this stuff is highly collectible," says Clark. "At some point, they should end up in a museum or library."
Clark says Piazza demanded $75,000 in December for unpaid rent. Prior to that, the court complaint alleges that Piazza looted Hudson’s belongings, including a pump organ, putting some items up for sale on eBay and keeping some. "At [a meeting] in December 2012, Plaintiffs’ representative observed that Piazza’s office was adorned with several pieces of memorabilia, including gold records, that were the property of Plaintiffs which had come from the Garth Hudson Archive," the complaint reads.
In February, Piazza held a public sale of Hudson’s items to recoup some of the funds he says were owed for unpaid rent, including furniture, family mementoes and more. Other items from Hudson's archive were planned to be sold by an auction house next month. Now they are being moved to a new space where lawyers for both sides can inspect them. A meeting between both sides regarding document requests and depositions is scheduled for April 11th.
Clark says Hudson isn't letting the situation get him down. "He was in the recording studio a couple nights ago and he’s making music," he says. "He’s relying on the justice system to sort this out appropriately."
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