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Aerosmith Feud With Drummer Joey Kramer Explained
Just days before Aerosmith is set to perform for Grammys festivities this weekend, a Massachusetts judge has ruled that drummer Joey Kramer will not be permitted to join the band for its live shows. The decision comes down after Kramer filed a suit against the band, alleging that Aerosmith was unfairly excluding him from rejoining the band following a recovery period for a “minor injury” early in 2019.
Aerosmith is due to perform twice this weekend: once at the MusiCares Person of the Year gala this Friday, where the band will be bestowed with the honor. Then, on Sunday, the band is set to perform at the televised Grammys ceremony. Kramer will not be joining the band, after the judge’s ruling on the lawsuit that Kramer filed last Friday. But the controversy around the decision goes back more than just a couple of days.
Where Did This All Start?
Technically, the root of the lawsuit starts in April 2019. Kramer had sustained a “minor injury” to his shoulder, keeping him from performing with the band at its “Deuces Are Wild” residency in Las Vegas. After missing a few shows, Las Vegas Review journalist, John Katsilometes, tweeted out that he had heard from Aerosmith’s management. The team reported that Kramer had a hurt shoulder and would not be performing the next day with the band either.
But when the second leg of the residency came along, a nine day run in June 2019, Kramer did not return behind the drum kit. Instead, according to a conversation with online publication Rock Titan, the band’s drum tech John Douglas was called by Steven Tyler to step in for Kramer. Though the specific injury wasn’t noted, Douglas says, “Actually, I’m not even sure they even asked me—I think they told me. It’s kind of a blur… I got the phone call from Steven, saying that Joey couldn’t play.”
What Has Happened Since?
Aerosmith’s story about what happened doesn’t exactly match up with Kramer’s memory of the events. When the third and fourth stints of Aerosmith’s legacy kicked off in the fall of 2019, TMZ reported that Kramer was not allowed to rejoin the band even though he was allegedly back in shape to perform. Instead, the drummer alleges that he was asked to “re-audition” for the band, which he rebuffed for months. Eventually, Kramer ended up in the hospital in November, citing stress from the ordeal as a cause in the lawsuit. At the time, no explanation was given to fans who expected Kramer to be in attendance.
Eventually, in January, Kramer caved and allegedly submitted drum recordings that the band did not find up to par with the their standards, according to documents acquired by Rolling Stone.
According to a statement offered to Billboard, Aerosmith expressed love and gratitude for its drummer, but noted that Kramer only chose to accept its offer to return to the band in January, right before the event, and they did not find his performance up to standards of the band. However, Kramer was only being barred from performing with the band. In the same statement, the band notes, “Given his decisions he is unfortunately unable to perform but of course we have invited him to be with us for both the Grammys and our MusiCares honor. We are bonded together by much more than our time on stage.”
What is the Lawsuit?
The suit, filed on the Friday of the holiday weekend preceding the Grammys, sought to overturn the band’s decision. In references to the documents obtained by Rolling Stone, the suit alleges that the band’s treatment of Kramer is unprecedented and that there is no section in the band’s contract that requires any member to prove their ability to play before returning to the band after a hiatus.
The documents also allege that in an attempt to “defuse” the situation, Kramer allowed Douglas to step in as his replacement, paying Douglas’ compensation out of what he would have made from being on stage during the residency. When he finally submitted recordings of his performance, Kramer alleges that the band said he had to play up to par with the performance of the drum tech. After the band voted that he failed to do so, he was denied re-entry to the band.
In a statement also reported by Rolling Stone, Kramer said, “The fact that I would be asked to audition for my own job, demonstrate that I can play at ‘an appropriate level’ and play better than my temporary fill-in with a moving target of made-up standards is both insulting and upsetting.”
In a section cited by CNN, Kramer also alleges that other bandmates who “have suffered periods of injury and illness, including physical injury and treatment for addiction and substance abuse” have not been subjected to this kind of recourse in the history of the band’s half-century tenure.
Per the decision made just two days before the band’s first performance, Rolling Stone reported that Kramer’s suit was unsuccessful. Alleging that the band breached contract, the judge ruled against Kramer, citing, “As Kramer concedes, nothing in the parties’ Agreement creates specific rights or obligations with respect to the procedures to be followed when a member of the band desires to return from a temporary incapacity or disability. The Agreement is simply silent on that issue.” Essentially, the same thing that is allowing Aerosmith to seemingly make new rules against Kramer keeps the court from making a ruling in his favor. The ambiguity reigns supreme.
Kramer admits that the suit was an “uphill battle,” but states to Rolling Stone, “The band waited until January 15th to tell me that they weren’t letting me play at the awards ceremonies this week. I can hold my head high knowing that I did the right thing…”
Any Bonus Information?
Like most iconic classic rock bands, Aerosmith is not without its fair share of internal arguments. Disagreements between Kramer and Tyler date back years—nearly 45 to be exact. Geoff Edgers, Washington Post reporter and author, tweeted out a bit of context for the latest installment of Aerosmith’s issues, noting that the two have been embroiled in a dispute of who technically created one of the band’s most recognizable songs, “Walk This Way.”
The follow up response from Tyler, responding to Kramer’s claims that he was emotionally abusive, are as icy as you might expect from a rock feud.
Though the saga will surely continue (Aerosmith’s Vegas residency will continue through June 2020), one thing is certain: Joey Kramer will not be joining the band on stage Friday or Sunday. Perhaps when Aerosmith’s story gets its nearly inevitable film adaptation one day, we’ll get another side of the story.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.