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Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer sues band for shutting him out

Updated January 21, 2020 - 3:57 pm

This is different sort of cymbals crash.

Joey Kramer, Aerosmith’s drummer for 50 years, is suing the band for preventing him from returning to the stage. He’s clearly not liking this solo.

“Being prohibited from playing with a band that I have given 50 years of my life to supporting, is beyond devastating,” Kramer said Tuesday in a statement issued by a PR representative. “This is not about money. I am being deprived of the opportunity to be recognized along with my peers, for our collective, lifetime contributions to the music industry.”

A self-taught drummer since age 14, Kramer cited Friday’s MusiCares’ Person of the Year Award and Sunday’s Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement honor as events that “can never be repeated.”

MusicCares is the Grammys’ charity that provides assistance to music figures in need.

Set to be honored on its 50th anniversary, Aerosmith is set to perform live at the Grammys at 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS. The band returns for its wildly popular “Deuces Are Wild” residency at Park Theater on Jan. 29.

The band’s bond is legendarily strong. Kramer and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler met in high school. Speaking of the musicians’ long-standing relationships, the band issued its own statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Joey Kramer is our brother; his well being 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 six months,” read the statement, issued by a band rep. “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. Joey has now waited until the last moment to accept our invitation, when we unfortunately have no time for necessary rehearsals during Grammys week.

“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.”

The band added that Kramer filed the lawsuit Friday night, entering a holiday weekend, creating a short time window to prepare for the important performances.

Over the past several months, Kramer has effectively been replaced by the band’s drum tech, John Douglas. Kramer left the stage last April and has not played since. Initially, the band said an unspecified shoulder injury led to his absence.

Kramer also has reportedly suffered from other physical concerns, none of which have been explained. He was reportedly hospitalized in November because of stress. The 69-year-old musician says he was required to pay for Douglas as a fill-in — $20,000 a week for performances, $10,000 a week for rehearsals.

A source close to Aerosmith counters that Kramer was given ample multiple opportunities over several months to return to the lineup. Instead, the band claims, Kramer sprung the request to return too late to properly rehearse for the big upcoming weekend and its return to Park Theater.

Reports from inside Aerosmith indicate there will be no auditions for a new permanent drummer. Douglas will be in the band for the foreseeable future, until Kramer is ready to return. That option is not being ruled out, even amid the legal entanglements.

But Kramer clearly feels wounded by the recent events, especially being asked to once again prove his skills to members of Aerosmith through a video and audio tryout.

“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,” he said. “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.”

A member of Aerosmith since 1970, Kramer says he was required to audition to a “click track” without any of the other band members present.

Such a move is uncommon for Aerosmith, whose long personal and professional relationship is recounted in the band’s 30-minute documentary video played before each show at Park Theater. As the doc relates, Kramer is the member who came up with the band’s name.

Nonetheless, fans have noted Kramer and Tyler bickering onstage, with Tyler enforcing his perfectionism as the band’s front man. The two reportedly exchanged words just before final bows at the April 16 performance, as the band closed with a choppy “Walk This Way.”

Tyler re-introduced Kramer with, “On the drums, I love him like a brother, though he may not think so, Joey the (expletive) Kramer!” Tyler continued to introduce Douglas as the man sitting in for Kramer, indicating the original drummer was expected to return.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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