A classic rock band lineup that had been stable for a while, has shaken things up: Journey has fired bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith.
The matter has hit the courts with Smith and Valory being accused of launching an “ill-conceived corporate coup d’état“ in an effort to take control of the band’s name. Court documents filed in the Superior Court of Contra Costa County, CA, by a lawyer representing band principles Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, state that Valory and Smith attempted to gain control of Nightmare Productions, a band business entity they believed held rights to the group’s name.
The lawsuit was filed yesterday (March 3) and claims that “in 1998, Schon, Cain and [former singer Steve] Perry entered into a written agreement providing Schon and Cain the sole, exclusive, irrevocable right to control the Journey Mark, including the Journey name. They are, therefore, authorized to perform together as Journey, with or without anyone else.”
The statement continues, “Defendants Smith and Valory were members of Journey at various times during the band’s history. Collectively, they only have a very few song credits on Journey albums. Nevertheless, they were compensated generously for many years. Recently, however, defendants attempted to launch an ill-conceived corporate coup d’état to assume control of Nightmare Productions.”
There are a few unsettling statements in the document, including one that insinuates Valory and Smith hoped that by taking over Nightmare Productions, “can hold the Journey name hostage and set themselves up with a guaranteed income stream after they stop performing.” According to the papers, Smith and Valory began their “campaign to take control of Nightmare Productions in December 2019 by conspiring to oust Schon and Cain from control.”
The documents add, “with their actions, Smith and Valory have destroyed the chemistry, cohesion, and rapport necessary for the band to play together. Journey can only tour successfully and succeed creatively if it is united and the band members trust one another. The actions taken by Smith and Valory shattered that trust. … Schon and Cain have lost confidence in both of them and are not willing to perform with them again.” The suit says Journey, in addition to firing the personnel, is seeking damages “in excess of $10 million.”
The history of Journey goes back to the early ’70s when Schon, who had been a member of Santana, co-founded the band in 1973. Schon is the sole remaining original member and the only one in the band to play at every performance. Perry joined in 1978, Cain in 1980. The band moved from being a regional success to international fame when they hit with the singles “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Open Arms” and 1981’s No. 1 album, ‘Escape.’
The band’s history, and especially its history with Valory and Smith, has been filled with turmoil. Valory was an original member, and Smith, who joined in 1978, were both previously fired in 1985 for creative differences. A decade later, they were back in the band. Smith then exited the band once more, in 1998, but returned in 2016.
Where does the band go from here? Journey is scheduled to start a summer tour with the Pretenders in May, and the documents outline that Journey will move forward by replacing Valory and Smith “with top musicians” to support “essential members” Schon, Cain and Pineda.