“El Rey del Acordeón” sued one of his bandmates this summer and the bandmate is suing him back.
Ramon Ayala — norteño musician, Hidalgo resident and noted accordionist — sued longtime Bravos del Norte singer and guitarist Mario Marichalar late in August over a disagreement about music royalties court documents say could be worth millions of dollars.
Ayala says he’s the sole owner of those royalties and Marichalar’s claims to them are unfounded.
Marichalar countersued Ayala last week, disputing the claims in Ayala’s suit and saying that he is entitled to a portion of those royalties.
Ayala played with Marichalar and the rest of sus Bravos del Norte at RodeoHouston in March, just before the COVID-19 outbreak in Texas. According to his Facebook page, he began touring again last Friday.
Ayala has been a staple Tejano performer for decades — producing 105 albums, winning four Grammy Awards and taking part in 13 films during his career, court documents say.
“Ayala has defined norteño music with signature songs and definitive instrumental styling that have made him a superstar on both sides of the Rio Grande,” the documents say. “In sum, Ayala is one of the most memorable iconic super stars today.”
Ray Thomas, Ayala’s lawyer, said via text Friday that his client had been forced to seek legal intervention because of a recent demand by Marichalar for a share of Ayala’s royalties.
Ayala’s suit, filed in August, says he entered into a Featured Artist Membership Agreement with digital performance rights organization SoundExchange in 2013 to distribute royalties to him for his entire body of work.
Payments from SoundExchange stopped recently, Ayala claims, because of Marichalar.
“Even though he was paid for his work, Marichalar made a demand on SoundExchange, a company that collects and pays royalties to music artists,” Thomas wrote Friday. “Once SoundExchange receives a demand, it automatically suspends payment of royalties until the dispute is resolved.”
Court documents allege Marichalar is “seeking to cash in on Ayala’s life work by asserting a false claim of ownership and through extortion,” and dispute Marichalar’s claim to the royalties on a variety of grounds.
“Marichalar is not entitled to any royalties from Ayala’s Music,” the documents say. “First of all, most of Ayala’s Music was recorded before Marichalar was part of the band. In fact, some of the songs were recorded when Marichalar was still in diapers. Secondly, there is no contract or agreement between Marichalar and Ayala or Ayala’s record label or recording company suggesting that Marichalar has any right, title or interest in Ayala’s Music. Thirdly, to the extent that Marichalar contributed to some of the songs that make up Ayala’s Music, his participation was on a ‘work-for-hire’ basis and he was paid for his work, just as all the other band members.”
Marichalar’s countersuit denies Ayala’s allegations, saying that he contributed to 21 albums and approximately 270 individual sound recordings while playing with the band.
“During his 20 years with Ramon Ayala Y Los Bravos Del Norte, Marichalar created and performed numerous sound recordings,” the documents say.
Marichalar claims Ayala fraudulently cut other band members and performers out of the SoundExchange agreement and demands monetary relief in excess of $1 million.
He claims that Ayala’s agreement with SoundExchange has put about $5 million in the Accordion King’s pockets so far.
“These funds should have been distributed proportionally among the band members who created and contributed to the sound recordings,” the documents say. “However, Ayala failed and refused to distribute any of the funds to Marichalar or any of the other performers who created these works.”
Marichalar is demanding an accounting of all funds and revenues received from SoundExchange and other sources from Dec. 2013 to present day, damages in the amount of any and all royalties due, a share of payments for the recordings going forward, attorney’s fees and costs of suit.
He’s also requesting a jury trial.
Thomas, Ayala’s attorney, called Marichalar’s claims against Ayala frivolous Friday.
“Marichalar is now making frivolous claims against Ramon Ayala based on falsehoods and fiction,” he wrote in a text. “Marichalar is either badly misinformed on the law or he has sour grapes, maybe both. Ramon Ayala looks forward to his day in court.”
Marichalar’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment as of press time Friday.