Ask yourself how much can a notebook be worth? In the case of one of country music’s best-known songwriters, the answer is quite a lot. $250,000, in fact. Music publisher Sony/ATV has filed a lawsuit against a pair of collectors after reading that Stephen Shutts and Robert Reynolds (the Honky Tonk Hall of Fame) had acquired a notebook containing lyrics and notes by the late Hank Williams (the writer of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Cold Cold Heart”) from a lady in Nashville. Sony/ATV claim it was stolen and would like the notebook back.
This is not the first time there has been conflict over Williams’ work. After he died, his second wife Audrey Williams filed a suit in Nashville against then-publishers MGM Records and Acuff-Rose. The suit demanded that both of the publishing companies continue to pay her half of the royalties from Hank Williams’ records. Williams had an agreement giving his first wife half of the royalties, but allegedly there was no clarification that the deal was valid after his death. Because he may have left no will, the disposition of the other fifty percent was considered uncertain; those involved included the second Mrs. Williams and her daughter and Hank Williams’ mother and sister. On October 22, 1975, a federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, finally ruled Jones Eshlimar’s marriage was valid and that half of Williams’ future royalties belonged to her.