Steve Hunter is well-known for cutting the thrilling solos that energized scores of classic-rock hits. But just like legions of "officially" anonymous and uncredited session musicians who helped birth decades of chartbusters, Hunter was not cut in on the airtime performance royalties for many of those songs.
To right that situation, Hunter's wife Karen embarked on an administrative quest for which she showed as much tenacity and grit as one of her husband's ferocious guitar solos.
Now, thanks to her efforts, Steve Hunter will start receiving royalties for his contributions to Aerosmith's "Train Kept A-Rollin'" in 1974, and Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Babies," "Hello Hooray," "Raped and Freezin'," "Unfinished Sweet," "Generation Landslide," and "Sick Things" in 1973. In some countries, those royalty payments will be backdated up to ten years — perhaps a small victory compared to the more than 40 years Hunter has missed out on performance revenue, but certainly a major triumph for the guitarist's reputation, official legacy, and future earnings.
"A London-based performance-rights society, PPL, collects and distributes money for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers," says Karen Hunter. "There are many countries around the world that participate in this collection process."
Using session musicians was a common practice in the 1960s and '70s, so there are no real bad guys here — that is, unless you count the United States of America, which, according to Karen Hunter, does not participate in the PPL collections.
"If your performance as a session musician is played on the radio or TV across the world, there should be a performance royalty due to you as a non-featured artist," explains Karen Hunter. "In order to make any claims, you need to get an account with PPL, and then learn how to navigate the claims process. Once you enter the name of an artist you have worked with, a search will find any tracks that are applicable, and, even then, some of them will be no longer claimable. Steve has played on quite a lot of records, so my first job was to search and claim all the tracks that he was given credit for on the album covers. For every record I located that remained currently claimable, I photographed the album cover and the musician credits, and then uploaded the evidence for each individual track.
"The challenge really started when it came to tracks Steve had played on that he did not get a visible credit for. In order for PPL to find these royalties for you, they need evidence that you actually played on the record. In Steve’s case, even though it is fairly common knowledge that he had played the opening solos on "Train Kept A-Rollin'" and the solos on several Billion Dollar Babies tracks, I needed to get signed statements of corroboration from someone who was involved with the recording. In this case, it was Bob Ezrin, who produced Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies, and Jack Douglas and Ray Colcord, who produced Aerosmith's Get Your Wings (on which "Train Kept A-Rollin'" appeared). They all took the time to help Steve, and, eventually, I had all the relevant statements to put in as evidence. It remains to be seen what will be paid out, but any performance royalties are welcome at a time when Steve needs it most, as he is going blind with Pigmentary Glaucoma, and touring is now impossible without assistance."
Photo of Steve and Karen Hunter by Anthony Scarlati.
Take the train...
Rock the baby...