In the wake of similar allegations aimed at Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins, two former members of Sugar Ray are suing Mark McGrath, claiming the frontman’s diva behavior cost the band millions of dollars. The lawsuit comes from bass player Matthew Murphy Karges and drummer Charles Stanton Frazier, who are accusing McGrath of a “series of self-serving and vindictive actions.” According to the 29-page complaint, “McGrath spent the last year engaging in a bitter campaign to destroy the personal and professional reputations of Frazier and Karges,” but only after he licensed the Sugar Ray name to a “newly created shell corporation” and “unlawfully divert[ed] an addition 48 percent of the band’s revenues into his own pocket.” Both Frazier and Karges have been members of the band since its inception, with Frazier teaming with Rodney Sheppard in the late ‘80s to form The Tories, a group that would later become Shrinky Dinx, and then Sugar Ray.
The suit claims that McGrath was essentially absent from the band from 1995 to 2010, even during the height of the band’s popularity, when songs like “Fly” were tearing up the charts. Frazier and Karges claim that McGrath was moody, suffered from “erratic behavior,” and shirked his band duties after he started co-hosting Extra. Frazier and Karges also allege that McGrath demanded $10,000 per live show—more than anyone else in the group made—and insisted on flying first class while everyone else flew coach. He would also allegedly only perform on weekends in convenient locations, a decision that the plaintiffs say cost the band millions of dollars.
In 2008, McGrath stopped working with Extra, and the band made a new record, Music For Cougars. Frazier and Karges claim that McGrath “hijacked” that album, barring them from recording sessions and rewriting the whole thing without them. After the album was dubbed a commercial failure, McGrath then insisted the whole band tour to support the LP. The suit claims that McGrath then “proceeded to engage in a concerted and measured effort to push Karges, Frazier, and [DJ Craig] Bullock out of the band for the purpose of capturing the bulk of their share of revenues for himself.”
While both Frazier and Karges insist they never actually left the band, both admit to taking hiatuses. Frazier’s came after McGrath allegedly tore into him following a 2011 show at Disney World, and Karges left after he decided to run a record label for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a move that angered McGrath.
While they were absent from the band, both Frazier and Karges agreed to take a smaller cut of revenue from the band’s corporation, S.M.M.R.C. Last year, though, McGrath refused to renew that agreement, instead forming his own corporation, Maro, Inc., to negotiate a licensing deal with another corporation, Crown. That deal gives Crown 12 percent of the band’s touring revenue, something that Frazier and Karges say they never would have agreed to.
The plaintiffs also claim that McGrath attempted to register the name “Mark McGrath’s Sugar Ray” in early 2012, and that he’s repeatedly stated on Twitter and in interviews that Frazier and Karges have quit the band. In one tweet, for example, he wrote that “[S]ince those 2 left, we’ve become a world class band,” and in another said, “Sugar Ray is very happy with Stan cooking taquitos at the Fair and Murphy moving unit for Aaron Rodgers.”
The plaintiffs are seeking their cut of tour revenue, as well as permission to rejoin the band.
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