Welcome To The Ginn Music Group Website:
Ginn Music Group, PO Box 6747, Atlanta, GA 30315 - (404) 396-0270
Music Group (GMG), based in Atlanta, Georgia, consists of a unique
collection of record and publishing companies. Our sound
recording copyrights and musical composition copyrights were acquired
from the United States government by virtue of a seizure and sale conducted
by the Internal
Revenue Service on August 6, 1981. See Department
of the Treasury 'Certificate of Official Record' dated July 12, 2002.
GMG controls one of the most notorious hip-hop samples in history -- Click to hear "I Got It Made" by Special Ed, which includes the Top Ten Ripple hit "I Don't Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky" © and (p) 1973 GRC Records and Act One Music Co, Inc. Click to hear "I Don't Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky",
N' Play's bigest hit, "Rollin' With Kid N' Play" also includes
lyrics from Ripple's version of "I Don't Know What It Is, But It Sure
Funky" -- Oh La Oh La A!
The Old School Funk
catalogue includes more tracks from Ripple ("Funky Song" is especially
well know), The Counts, Loleatta Holloway, King Hannibal, Deep Velvet,
and Bill Brandon among others.
The GMG country and bluegrass catalogues contain some of the greatest music of this genre ever recorded, including Vassar Clements, Norman Blake, Red, White, & Blue(grass). Sammy Johns ('Chevy Van'), Moe Bandy, and Lonzo and Oscar are top artists from our Country releases.
Inquire to receive listening samples and licensing information of GMG compositions.
RECORDS - GRC RECORDS - HOTLANTA RECORDS - CHANT RECORDS
The Ballad of Jimmy Ginn
Cover Story - Creative Loafing Magazine - Vol. 28, No. 47 - 08 April 2000
Or, life as a footnote to the twisted world of the Atlanta music industry in the 1970’s
By Stephanie Ramage
There are at least a dozen stacks of paper laid out on a long table in the drafty, quiet interior of the Ginn Music Group recording studio on Howell Mill Road. The sight of them, of this accumulation of years of tedious tunneling through stark metal filing cabinets, is like the sight of a body laid out in a morgue. If the assembled documents had a toe tag it would bear the name of Jimmy Ginn Sr.
His hours and days and months are all accounted for in these pages. True, he’s not mentioned in them. But, since 1992, he’s been copying filing and presenting his complaint at one uninterested attorney’s office after another.
Ginn’s strange story is told by others in confusion and regret. The vagueness and vast gaps of knowledge are like those that surround figures in folklore and legend. People tend to say, “It’s a shame” when they talk about him.
So, at first I thought he was dead.
But he is not dead , only waiting. Waiting with his glossy 8-by-10s of early 1970s rock stars, his snapshot of himself with Minnie Ripperton and her son. Waiting with his archive of oddly-related documents in the tiny offices of Ginn Music Group. He is waiting for justice.
He is a bearded man with slow, almost slurring speech and dark eyes that are focused inward. No matter the subject, from food to cancer, he’ll find a way to bring the conversation back to the central point of his life, the wrong that burn like an arsonist’s fire in his head. He begins his story with the sleight-of-hand that killed Jimmy Ginn the music maven and replaced him with Jimmy Ginn the data collector. But he begins in the middle of his story, as if the whole world has been in storage since that summer’s day in Nashville in 1986 when he learned the truth. I have to ask him to catch me up, which he does, in the tired tones of a man who has told his tale a million times.
In the beginning, there was Mike Thevis. It was 1974, and Thevis was the country’s biggest pornographer. He ran a smut empire that stretched from Times Square to Pasadena, Calif., all from his offices on Peachtree Street. Thevis was the kingpin for a booming peep-show machine business. It was through his porn distributions that he became friendly with the Gambino crime family.
On the more legitimate side, Thevis owned General Recording Corporation. His attorney at GRC was Joel Katz, now one of the most powerful entertainment attorneys in the country, still based in Atlanta. Among GRC’s releases is the first and only solo album by multi-instrumentalist Mike Greene, 1975’s Pale, Pale Moon. Today Greene, goes by C. Michael Greene and is the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the organization that administers the Grammys. Greene is the guy millions of music fans see each year on the Grammy's, explaining the importance of NARAS, a not-profit-organization currently under investigation for allegedly pocketing most of the money it claims to raise for charities.
Thevis was sent to prison in 1976 for distribution of obscene material and ordering the arson of a competitor’s business. Katz began to batten down the hatches for the federal seizure that was sure to follow. He oversaw the sale of GRC, to Thevis’ secretary, Lavern Bowden, only one of several Thevis Businesses transferred to Bowden.
While Thevis was in prison, the the indictments began piling up: tax evasion, racketeering, bombing, extortion, attempted murder of a government witness and the murder of another Atlanta pornographer, Kenneth “Jap” Hanna. The indictments came courtesy of Thevis’ accomplice-turned-informant, Roger Dean Underhill, who also told agents Thevis killed an employee , James Mayes, in 1973 because he complained about his wages.
In 1977 Ginn was running the Bistro, a local recording studio, and did some of the production on a record by the group Kansas. GRC’s studio had been standing empty for months when Thevis’ former business associates ask Ginn to come aboard, blow the dust off the speakers and make records. Ginn accepted the job. He worked on records by Sammy johns and Moe Brandy, two second-tier, country-crossover artist.
Then, in April 1978, Thevis broke out of prison and became one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.
“He was on the loose, agents were everywhere,” says Ginn “I didn’t think much about it. I was doing my job and into the whole music scene.”
But, in June, the feds descended on the studio. A restraining order kept employees and anyone other than the government agents away from the studio’s 120 Simpson Street address. Ginn’s short stint with GRC was over. In July, GRC officers filed for an injunction to lift the restraining order, but when the studio reopened in August under the name apogee, Greene not Ginn was hired as manager.
If Ginn was down on his luck, Thevis was generating his own bad karma. In October, the porn king on the lam returned to Atlanta to kill two people: the informant Underhill, of course, and a bystander, Isaac Galanti. Thevis was arrested and while in a federal prison confessed to his cellmate that he commited the murders and was later convicted.
That same year, the RICO act, now famous in drug-dealer circles, gave the government the green light for confiscating anything that belonged to Thevis that could be linked to his illegal activities. The studio was seized and an IRS team moved in to mark, catalog and trace the origins of everything in it. Some recording were returned to their owners when it had been determined that they had only been made at the studio but weren’t owned by Thevis or GRC. But 400 master tapes –heavy, cumbersome reels- were deemed the property of GRC, which the IRS and the FBI already had determined to be supported by porn and racketeering money.
Finally, in 1981, the IRS put everything Thevis owned up for auction. His jewelry collection was sold at Christy’s in New York. Two houses in Sandy Springs and a rambling northwest Atlanta mansion were also auctioned.
The recording studio and its contents were sold on a hot, June afternoon at the Simpson Street property. Ginn stood in the crowd, neck sweating under his shoulder length hair, shifting his weight.
When bidding on the studio’s master tapes began, in a seemingly insignificant moment that would change the course of his life and the lives of those close to him, he raised his hand and placed the winning bid. As the auctioneer went on to the next item, Ginn’s mind whirled around how, exactly, he was going to come up with nearly $400,000 in the 72 hours allotted to him to pay for the 400 master tapes.
He managed to scrape together $90,000 for the deposit. But when he couldn’t come up with the rest the ninety grand was lost. Ninety grand down the drain. The tapes were put up for auction again, and this time a business man named Ron Kinder placed the winning bid. Within 24 hours, however, kindler called a news conference to announce he was giving up the tapes because he had received death threats.
The tape went up for auction again, and this time Ginn was prepared. He had found a man named Ed Vanderslice who was in the business buying salvage and re-selling it. Vanderslice placed the winning bid and, in turn, sold them to Ginn on a payment schedule.
Finally, the songs, publishing rights and copyrights were Ginn’s. All he had to do was wait for the royalties to come rolling in.
Or so he thought.
Some royalties did arrive in the mail, among them those from" I Don’t Know What It Is, But It Sho' Is Funky,” by a group called Ripple, Loeatta Holloway’s “ Cry to Me” and Norman Blake’s “Last Train from Poor Valley” – songs that, for whatever reason, have not stood the test of time. Ginn thought he was being paid for the use of all the songs he had purchased at auction.
But in 1986, the clumsy hand of fate took yet another swipe at Ginn. He broke his neck in an auto accident. Recuperation was long and difficult. He whiled away the time by visiting Nashville and while in a record store he happened to pick up a Waylon Jennings album. On it was the song “America” written by Sammy Johns. Ginn was dumbfounded. He thought he owned that song, along with dozens of other Sammy Johns tunes. But, he’d never gotten a cent from Waylon Jennings or his people for the use of it. He saw that the record was distributed by Broadcast Music Inc.
“I walked over to BMI and told them I owned that song and should be paid for it,” says Ginn, who adds that BMI told him basically," So What?”
The phrase seems to echo, even now. It sounds like a slamming door when Ginn says it, a denial so firm and unbending that it’s possible to feel what he felt- stunned. Lost, afraid that something was about to go very wrong. And it did.
Gary Roth, an attorney for BMI who has been getting phone calls and letters from Ginn for about a decade, says he has always encouraged Ginn to litigate the matter.
“He sent us some paperwork” says Roth, sighing wearily." But it was not persuasive that he owned the song rights that he claims to own.”
Roth explains there is a difference between owning a master tape and owning the rights to a song. He recognizes that Ginn owns the master tapes to a lot of songs, but unless a record company wants to use an original recording, there's no need to pay for the master tape. Record companies like to buy the rights to a song to protect the song itself from being recorded by other artists. Of course, artists generally prefer to keep the rights to their songs, so that even if the master tapes end up, say , at a government auction, they still control the song itself.
After his brief conversation with BMI, Ginn devoted himself full-time to finding out what he owned and what other people were being paid for. He left his job as a talent scout at Atlanta International Records and lived off royalties.
Initially, he did a copyright search and discovered that the copyrights to at lease 27 songs from the Sammy Johns catalog were claimed by several record companies and distributors, as well as Sammy Johns himself. Atlanta based Lowery Music Group is one of the companies that claims ownership of some of the songs. Probably the best known is “Chevy Van” which climbed to the no.5 spot on the Billboard pop chart in the spring of 1975.
Scott Sanders, attorney for Lowery Music, says he believes Ginn owns the master tapes and that Ginn has every right to market those masters. But he doesn’t believe Ginn owns the actual rights to the songs.
To this, Ginn replies by producing a copy of a certificate of purchase given to him the day of the auction by the IRS. It assigns him the “publishing rights” for everything that was part of the lot he purchased that belonged to Thevis.
Unfortunately for Ginn, a lot of songs and their rights were sold to different companies during the topsy-turvy time after Thevis’ first imprisonment, while his businesses were in the name of his secretary.
It took Ginn a lot of time to unravel the history of those sales- so much time that he began to fade from the lives of his wife and children. Staking his claim to the songs became his reason for being. His wife, whose inheritance he says he used to pay for attorneys, lost faith in him. In 1990, they divorced.
Nonetheless, Ginn was buoyed by the prospect of a legal remedy to his problems and pressed on. In 1991, Ginn’s attorney Ron Thompson argued in Fulton County Superior Court that the sales could not have been legal because they were a part of an obvious attempt to hid assets. The court, however, decided the sales should stand.
Ginn fired his attorney and retreated into the cool, dry spaces of the federal archive in East Point. As if he was being paid to do it, he got up each morning and dug deeper and deeper into the mystery of ownership until he virtually abandoned the one thing that each of us owns without question – our lives.
Each day he felt he would find the one document that would prove his absolute ownership of the songs on the tapes. But each days findings only led to the next days quest. There were times when he would greet the archive workers when the building opened and he would leave when they left for the evening.
“I was finding things” says Ginn. “I was figuring out what really happened.”
Finally, as the rest of Atlanta prepared for the Olympics, Ginn emerged from his years of research with a federal lawsuit in hand. He was confident the lawsuit would support beyond any shadow of a doubt his claim to the publishing rights of those 27 songs and what he estimates is about $3 million in royalties owed to him.
What he found was Federal Deposit Insurance Company vs. Global Industries Inc., in which the government determined that Thevis’ sale of Global Industries to Fidelity Equipment Leasing Corp. (the company set up under the name of Thevis’ secretary Laverne Bowden) was, according to court documents, “a sham contrived by Thevis and Bowden to hide the formers continued control and ownership of Global Industries Inc.”
Ginn reasons that if that sale was a sham, then the subsequent sale of song rights by Bowden were also shams. Which means, they were seized along with everything else the government seized back in 1978 and auctioned in 1981. Hence, they are Ginn’s.
With that in mind Ginn filed a newly fashioned lawsuit against Thevis and “co-conspirators” in May 1999 claiming he was damaged by Thevis’ racketeering. He claimed he was swindled out of song rights, that he suffered sleepless nights and heartache resulting from the machinations of the Thevis empire, which he believes is still being run by former Thevis employees on the West Coast. Last summer, Ginn’s motion to transfer the case from the courtroom of Federal District Court Judge Willis B. Hunt to the courtroom of Judge Harold B. Murphy – because Murphy heard the original charges against Thevis 20 years ago – was denied. Then on Feb. 16, Hunt dismissed the case.
Another man might have given up at that point, he might have accepted the judges order, he might have looked back on his paper trail and decided it was a road to nowhere, but not Ginn. Undeterred, on March 15, Ginn filed a supplemental brief with the results of his copyright searches. Ginn searched the Library of Congress and found the certificates of purchase and other documents he himself had filed earlier.
Despite Ginn’s persistent filings, the case remains closed. When asked to double check it’s status, a clerk in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building does so, then repeats for the third time that the records show, clearly, that the case is still closed. Asked to explain how something can be filed after a case is closed, he says, “We can’t stop people from filing things. The case is closed but he can keep filing thing for eternity if he wants to.”
That’s exactly what Ginn’s son expects. Jimmy Ginn Jr. is in his early 30s and works for a company that tests the applicability of software. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Slim Chickens and produces local records. He refers to the stacks of papers, the evidence of his father’s obsession, with resignation that smacks of resentment “He can get however many millions of dollars,” he says. “But is that really going to pay for all the years? What about what it’s cost in terms of relationships?” “But consider this, what if it doesn’t happen? What if he doesn’t get the money? At this point in his life how will he make a living?”
His father has given too much to this fight to give up now. Somewhere along the line, it seems, the whole thing became a mathematical problem. As Ginn got further into the case, he became too invested to back out. The time and energy he put into the pursuit elevated it to the status of a cause.
But what cause? The defendant, Thevis ( who did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story), is after all, serving a life sentence, and then some) in Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility, a sprawling , entirely underground institution outside Minneapolis.
Ginn has served his own sentence of sorts and now says he wants his life back.
spent my lifetime, which should have been spent in the music business,
being a racketeering investigator, something that I care nothing about.
I want justice. I might not ever get it, but I’m not going to stop trying.”
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