Roth, Van Halen In Royalty Spat


Forget teacher–it looks like Diamond Dave is hot for profit.

Former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth is taking his old bandmates to court, accusing them of intentionally withholding royalty payments.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court by the singer and his Diamond Dave Enterprises, claims that guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony secretly signed a deal in 1996 with Warner Bros. Records that gave the trio increased royalties from the Van Halen-Roth era (1977-1986), while cutting the singer out of any financial gain.

The suit contends the group breached its current contract with Roth by keeping the money for themselves, costing him at least $200,000 through last year.

Neither Warner Bros. Records nor Van Halen’s manager returned phone calls seeking comment.

To ensure he gets his fair cut (plus interest, natch), the “Just a Gigolo” crooner is demanding a full review of the VH royalties earned not just since the purported secret deal in ’96, but since he left the band in 1986. He’s also seeking unspecified compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages, and wants the band to bankroll his legal fees.

“This is not the first case–and probably not the last case–to examine entertainment industry financial and accounting practices,” Roth’s attorney, Daniel Hogue, says in a written statement. “Until the defendants’ financial records have been produced and reviewed, we will have no further comment.”

Roth handled vocal and lyric-writing duties for Van Halen from the band’s inception through the mid-1980s, when he left to pursue a solo career (“California Girls,” anyone?).

All told, Roth and Van Halen completed six albums and recorded such seminal rock anthems as “Jump,” “Hot for Teacher,” “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “Panama” and “Dance the Night Away.” The split was hardly amicable–with Eddie & Company increasingly annoyed by Roth’s bigger- than-the-band antics.

Roth did return to record two new tracks with the band in 1996, but a much rumored reunion tour never materialized.

Van Halen has been sidelined for the past few years as Eddie recovered from cancer. In May, he said he was cancer-free and ready to resume recording, although there’s been no word on who’ll man the microphone.

Roth, meanwhile, rebounded and this summer joined forces with his Van Halen replacement, Sammy Hagar, to coheadline Song for Song: The Heavyweight Champs of Rock and Roll Tour (unofficially dubbed “Sam & Dave” or “Sans Halen,” tour).

Roth also taped a weird promo video titled David Lee Roth’s No Holds Bar-B-Que, which featured him dressed up like a sailor and doing karate moves during a luau that featured pirates, dwarves and real martial artists. The video was supposedly Roth’s bid to get TV executives to award him his own Osbourne-esque reality show.

Needless to say, no network bit.

But maybe his people should call Court TV: Aside from his lawsuit versus Van Halen, Roth is battling one of his own. Guitarist Bart Walsh has filed a complaint against the singer, claiming Roth breached a verbal agreement made in June 2001 by refusing to pay him a $1,500 weekly allowance.

Josh Grossberg courtesy of E! Online