Landlord sells Ex-The Band member's stuff
Published: 2:00 AM - 02/25/13
Kingston — Friends and fans of Garth Hudson rallied this weekend to buy up the famed musician's possessions before they were lost to posterity at a garage sale in Kingston.
A Kingston landlord decided to get rid of the famous musician's belongings, kept in an artist's loft rented for storage.
Mike Piazza, the owner of the loft, said Hudson failed to pay rent on the space for about seven years.
The items in Hudson's possession ranged from personal belongings and household items to boxes of handwritten sheet music. They took up a 2,000-square-foot loft at the Shirt Factory on Cornell Street, before being reduced and moved twice, the most recent move to the Pajama Factory on Iwo Jima Lane and Cedar Street. That's where Piazza began selling off Hudson's household and personal items this past weekend.
"It was everything, his entire life," Piazza said. He advertised the sale locally.
Hudson, the organist, keyboardist and saxophone player for the rock group The Band, moved the belongings to the Shirt Factory in 2002 just before losing his home to foreclosure. He has gone bankrupt several times.
About six months after the move, the rent checks ceased, requiring Piazza to track Hudson's representatives down in Hudson's native Canada, and on both U.S. coasts. Piazza managed to squeeze some sporadic rent payments from Hudson's representatives and from Hudson himself, but it didn't last. Over 11 years, the unpaid bill totalled $60,000 to $70,000, Piazza said.
The landlord made attempts to partner with Hudson, as well as his band mates Levon Helm of Woodstock, the drummer for The Band who died last year, and Robbie Robertson, the other surviving member of the original group, to sell off the items as a fundraiser. None of those band members showed an interest, he said. Piazza then received offers from the reality Cable TV show, American Pickers, but the show's producers stopped calling when attempts to reach Hudson's lawyers to get permission for the show failed.
Piazza's advertisement for the garage sale this weekend apparently caught the eye of Hudson or someone he knew.
Hudson's Facebook page and Twitter feed began offering reimbursements to anyone who purchased the items at the sale, which took place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days. The Twitter feed added Hudson just turned 75 and "plans to begin touring with his band for the first time in his life. Let's help keep Garth on his mission of music."
A friend of Hudson's who reached out to Hudson and his wife, singer Maud Hudson, over the weekend said neither wanted to be interviewed about the matter.
Piazza said he began receiving a flood of calls from the musician's supporters, who also stopped by the garage sale on the weekend to tell him personally what they thought of him.
"We're all going to go to the same place (after death), except you," one of the discouraged fans told Piazza, he said.
Piazza said it was either sell off the items or lose rent.
Piazza said he came upon signs of both genius and problems while going through the musician's belongings. Amid the boxes and boxes of meticulously labeled sheet music, CDs and old records, the landlord also found boxes of dusty, unopened junk mail and uncashed checks, including one for $26,000 from EMI Records issued in 1979.
"He's kind of out there," the landlord said,
Also in the pile of paperwork were thousands of letters from fans who thanked Hudson for staying as their guest during his many years of touring around the world.
Piazza has already agreed to sell off the music-related items with an online auction company on April 1, he said. On Saturday, he sold the musician's household items and personal belongings to a woman for just a few thousand dollars. The woman appeared to be buying up the items to return to Hudson, he said.
"My intent was just to get rid of it," he said. "I'm a real estate person, not a collector."
John W. Barry
1 March 2013
A state Supreme Court judge in Ulster County has issued a temporary order preventing the auction of historic musical items owned by Garth Hudson, an Ulster County resident and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Band.
Acting state Supeme Court Justice Mary Work today issued a temporary restraining order preventing the sale of Hudson's items — instruments, music books, sheet music and tape recordings among them — in advance of a scheduled April 6 auction in Kingston. Hudson's items had been in a Kingston storage unit owned by Mike Piazza, who arranged for their auction after, he said, Hudson failed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in rental fees.
Now, all sides, including Jay Werbalowsky, who runs JMW Auction Gallery, are due in state Supreme Court in Kingston Thursday. Hudson and his wife, Maud, have asked the court to place Hudson's items in a trust and, in the meantime, prevent the sale of the items.
In court papers, the Hudsons accuse Piazza of extortion and selling valuable items, including a pump organ, along with theft and breach of contract.
According to court papers, the Hudsons during the summer of 2004 entered into a two-year lease agreement with Piazza's Crossfield Management for warehouse space at 77 Cornell St. in Kingston. Furniture, rare books, household and personal items, instruments, sheet music, albums and memorabilia from Hudson's musical career — performing with The Hawks, The Band and musicians including Bob Dylan — were stored in Piazza's space.
In the court papers, the Hudsons accuse Piazza of falsely claming they owed $14,000 in rent. Representatives of the Hudsons offered to pay $11,000, Piazza refused, denied a request to return the items and instead demanded $50,000, according to court papers.
The Hudsons also accused Piazza of having "pilfered" the items and placing them for sale on eBay, the online auction site, according to court papers. In 2012, the Hudsons say in court papers, Piazza demanded back rental fees of $17,880. A representative of the Hudsons attempted to resolve the dispute and Piazza demanded $75,000 before returning any of the items, according to court papers.
The Hudsons also say in court papers that Piazza moved their items without permission and as a result, caused damage. The most recent developments came when Piazza offered the items for sale last weekend, which set the stage for next month's auction.