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Suit: Deal was just too funky

As a member of the legendary funk band Parliament Funkadelic, Garry Marshall Shider — known professionally as “Diaper Man” for the loincloth he wore on stage — penned nearly 400 songs and sold millions of recordings before his death in 2010. But his widow says his business dealings with a music publishing company left him “destitute and desperately in need of money,” and she wants the company to pay up.

Linda Shider, acting as executrix of Shider’s estate, filed suit this week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt seeking $1 million in royalties and $3 million in treble damages against Bridgeport Music Inc. and its owner, Armen Boladian. She claims that the company failed to pay Shider, an Upper Marlboro resident and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, his share of songwriter royalties. Instead, she says Bridgeport engaged in various fraudulent schemes.

“Defendants obtained Shider’s signature on documents which were at the time of signing incomplete, and wholly lacking as to any material terms,” the complaint alleged. “After receiving the signatures, Defendant Bridgeport Music would draft and finalize the material terms of the [agreements] without permitting Shider to ever see or review the final agreements. In fact, Shider never saw the finalized agreements.”

Shider’s attorney, William A. Sherman, II of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP in Washington, D.C., said in a telephone interview Thursday the case could have a broader effect on other musicians.

“If we are successful, it could open up the possibility for other artists to make similar claims,” he said. “It’s not an uncommon situation, but it is uncommon for it to be addressed. A lot of times musicians don’t know they have recourse.”

Shider was also known as “Starchild” and “Gary ‘DooWop’ Shider,” and was a member of Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band in addition to Parliament Funkadelic.

Linda Shider says Bridgeport required her husband to sign blank purchasing agreements. She said the company gave him “loans” or “advances” against his royalties on hits including “Flashlight,” “Atomic Dog,” “Knee Deep,” “One Nation Under A Groove” and “Cosmic Slop.”

Rather than paying Shider’s royalties as per industry standard procedure, she claims, the company would charge him interest on the advances, thereby giving him the impression that he was “perpetually in debt to [Bridgeport] despite the fact that Shider’s share of royalties on millions of records sold far outpaced all alleged loans/advances in interest.”

A telephone message for the legal department at Southfield, Mich.-based Bridgeport and an email to its corporate offices were not returned Thursday.

Shider’s widow also accuses Bridgeport of issuing licenses and collecting earnings on Shider’s derivative work compositions without legal authority. She claims the company engaged in a “scheme to deceive Shider into believing that he was “perpetually in debt to [Bridgeport]” and that he was in financial distress.

She says the company “exploited Shider’s distressed financial state” by offering to “buy out” Shider’s rights to receive the remaining 50 percent of his royalties for $290,000, and when Shider signed an agreement to that effect in March 2009, he was addicted to cocaine and alcohol and was suffering from brain cancer.

Shider was diagnosed with cancer in March 2010, and died on June 16, 2010, at age 56.

Because he was suffering from “a debilitating mental disease, brain cancer, and was addicted to drugs and alcohol,” Linda Shider says her husband “was not of sound mind and lacked sufficient mental capacity to understand and appreciate the nature” of the March 2009 agreement. As a result, she says, Bridgeport and Boladian have no right to collect royalties pursuant to the agreement, and asks that the agreement be voided due to his lack of sufficient mental capacity.

She is asking for at least $75,000 for unjust enrichment and disgorgement of all songwriter royalties due Shider and which were wrongly received and retained by the defendants. She also seeks 100 percent of the earnings wrongfully received and retained by the defendants for the derivative work compositions.

Judge Alexander Williams Jr. has been assigned to preside over the case, Shider v. Bridgeport Music, Inc. et al., 8:13-cv-00527.