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Bobby Kent sues ASCAP over "Charge!" stadium anthem

Mark Poutenis

Given there are few pastimes more patriotic than yelling random shit during sports contests, filing lawsuits in pursuit of striking it rich, and squabbling over creative rights, consider this story the most American tale ever told.

On April 7, Bobby Kent, CEO of Pompano Beach's Hollbrand Music, filed in local court a frontrunner for the best lawsuit of 2011. He sued the licensing corporation American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for 30 years of unpaid royalties for a song he composed. "The operative and most commonly known part of Kent's composition," read the suit, "goes 'da da da da da da... CHARGE!'"

Yep. Kent claimed to have invented the now-ubiquitous "Charge!" stadium chant while he was musical director for the San Diego Chargers in 1978. He copyrighted the tune, which he called "Stadium Doo Dads," in 1980. And though, according to the suit, Kent was paid "approximately $10,000-$20,000 per year" by the Chargers for the song, and even licensed it to NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the songwriter accused ASCAP of collecting "millions of dollars" by licensing the song to stadiums and not giving him his fair share.

After Riptide wrote about the lawsuit, NBC 6 ran a segment about Kent, who professed that hearing the tune upsets him: "I get very angry. Because I'm supposed to be paid for this."

But Riptide has discovered one major problem. A good two-and-a-half decades before Kent had his alleged epiphany, a University of Southern California student dreamed up an identical song. In 1955, Tommy Walker and his buddy Dick Winslow — both since deceased — copyrighted the tune, which they called "Trojan Warriors, Charge!" Their creation got so big in Los Angeles that in 1959, according to a Sports Illustrated article published 31 years later, the Dodgers sold 20,000 toy trumpets that played only "da da da DUT da DUH."

Says Tony Fox, director of the USC Trojan Marching Band: "If this guy is claiming that he wrote it, he's lying. USC has been using it since the 1950s. He's full of you-know-what."

"His copyright is worthless," says Milo Sweet of California-based Sweet Music, Inc., which filed for the original song's license.

"I never knew it," a stunned-sounding Kent says when confronted about the USC students' song. "I have no clue."

His lawyer, Richard C. Wolfe, jumps in on the call: "We have a registered copyright with a properly documented certificate that has gone unchallenged for 30 years. We have years of ASCAP paying us small amounts of money, and years of The Tonight Show paying us for its use. What's this guy got? Nothing."

We can only imagine that assertion could be challenged in court. Imagine the spectacle of two "Charge!"-related lawsuits being tried concurrently. A song that conveyed the bravado of heading to battle would be totally appropriate right now. If only such a ditty existed.


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