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Scottish comedian/actor/musician Billy Connolly still owes me about $50,000

Am empty-handed on my royalty grievance against movie star Billy Connolly...


MTS cover close-up of CD cover-->blow-up

In a friend's living room in Los Angeles, quite by accident, I discovered that there is a tune called "Waltz of the Waves" at Track 11 of a CD titled "Musical Tour of Scotland" by a former folk musician now comedian and movie star named Billy Connolly. It is played on autoharp in the key of F, and is very clearly the tune I wrote in 1988, which is also an autoharp instrumental in F. Harvey was in McCabe's music store in Santa Monica CA the day Billy bought my 1988 Of Wind & Water CD that had the tune on it, and signed it to Billy, and after he left the clerk said "You should have gotten his autograph. He's way more famous than you." It is credited on the CD as "Traditional." Billy is a very big deal, is a famous comedian and actor (he was in the movie "Mrs. Brown" and "Head of the Class" TV show, an HBO special with Whoopi Goldberg, Lemony Snicket movie, and even had a brief TV show of his own called "Billy.")

billy web site

Not only is this a major label CD that has sold a lot of copies, but it was also a TV show on BBC, and a website found under Billy's video company (at http://www.sarsen.demon.co.uk/billy/videos.html) called "Sleepy Dumpling" brags that 400,000 copies of this video have been sold!

The show had been run in Australia and New Zealand also, and that Polygram released the CD in at least 2 countries. Actually the CD is the soundtrack from a 6-part TV show called Billy Connolly's World Tour of Scotland, that won all kinds of awards, and was a hugely successful show. My song was the only one Billy was actually pictured playing in the whole 6 hours of the show! This means they shoud have gotten synchronization and grand rights, which they did not.

I am honored that Billy liked the tune, and thrilled that someone famous plays autoharp! Billy is reputedly the most popular comedian ever to come out of the UK, and you know how long I have hoped for someone famous and cool to popularize the autoharp... Billy is a fan of mine and came to hear me play on Sunset Strip at the Rainbow Club a few years ago when this picture was taken:

harvey & billy


Well, at first things look really good. I contacted Billy, and Billy called personally to apologize for the mistake, and to assure me that things would be set right and that he would be paid his proper royalties. (Click here to hear Billy's phone message)

Here is a transcript of what Billy said: (in case you can't understand the phone message quality and the Scottish accent or don't have the time to listen the file.)

"Hello Harvey, this is Billy Connolly. I got your letter and the T shirt and all the goodies, and thank you very much. I'd like to apologize from the bottom of my heart. The fault entirely rests with me. I had forgotten your name when we were putting it down, and I promised them I would get it and I totally forgot. I'm really sorry, and everything has been put absolutely right... so you can expect a nice wee windfall. Thanks again for the... I'll try and phone again and get you because I'd like to get you personally. Buddy, thanks for the humane way you've treated me, and I'll be in touch. Bye, man." (12:46 PM Wednesday May 27 1998.)

This is a vastly complicated process involving wrtiter and publishing royalties for radio and TV airplay and sales of CD's, tapes and videos in at least 3 countries. So far only radio and TV airplay money has been paid, by the organizations that do that, who have been satisfied that the tune does indeed belong to me and have paid me for airplay royalties. Thus far no payment has come from Billy or his record company. Billy's people have replied occasionally to my letters and faxes, but offered no accounting or payments. The smallest record company in the world is not really in a great position to take on the largest one in the world in an international royalty battle, but something needs to be done to right this wrong.