Cro-Mags founder sues ex-bandmates over New York show

They went from fighting in a mosh pit to fighting in a courtroom.

A founder of New York hardcore punk band Cro-Mags sued his ex-bandmate Monday in Manhattan federal court for allegedly stealing the group’s brand name to publicize a show.

Former lead singer John Joseph McGowan used the name “Cro-Mags Jam” to promote an April 23 benefit concert in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village — leading to confusion over who was actually performing, according to the filing.

The lawsuit, filed by a company controlled by founding bassist Harley Flanagan, alleges the use of the phrase violated a 2019 settlement agreement that said it controls the rights to the Cro-Mags name.

McGowan and another former member of the group, meanwhile, were allowed to use the “Cro-Mags JM” name under the terms of the deal.

“The improper term Cro-Mags JAM suggests that Mr. Flanagan, the original member of Cro-Mags, would jam with other musicians — which is evidently not the case,” the lawsuit reads.

Harley Flanagan.
Harley Flanagan alleges that John Joseph McGowan violated a 2019 settlement agreement whereby Flanagan controlled the rights to the Cro-Mags name.
Riyadh Hasan
John Joseph McGowan.
John Joseph McGowan used the name “Cro-Mags Jam” to promote an April 23 benefit concert in Tompkins Square Park in NYC.
Rick Kern/Getty Images

“This clearly constitutes unfair competition, trademark infringement and a material breach of the Settlement Agreement as it constitutes an improper use of plaintiff’s CROMAGS trademark,” the filing adds.

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a long, bitter, and at times violent dispute that has been playing out among the band’s founding members in recent years.

Flanagan has claimed Cro-Mags was entirely his idea when he formed the band in 1981. He filed a federal trademark infringement claim against other members, including McGowen, in 2018, claiming they took over the band in 2002 and used the Cro-Mags name without permission.

Harley Flanagan.
Harley Flanagan is the founding bassist for Cro-Mags.
snapshot-photography/ullstein image via Getty Images
John Joseph McGowen.
John Joseph McGowen is the former lead singer of Cro-Mags.
Stacia Timonere/Getty Images

In 2012, Flanagan allegedly stabbed two other members of the group backstage at the CBGB Festival at Webster Hall.

“You think they’re playing my f*cking music that I co-wrote?” Flanagan reportedly cooked before the fight, The Post reported at the time.

Flanagan said in an interview later that year that the charges were dropped and that he acted in self-defense.

Cro-Mags appear.
Cro-Mags was founded in 1981.
Stacia Timonere/Getty Images

After the backstage commotion, McGowan told the Post that Flanagan had told people he was planning to attack his former bandmates while claiming he was the sole founder of the Cro-Mags.

“He tells everyone he started the band,” McGowan said. “we formed the band.”

Ahead of the April show at Tompkins Square Park, Flanagan’s wife, Laura Flanagan, wrote a cease and desist letter urging McGowan not to use the name to promote the concert.

Harley Flanagan.
Harley Flanagan has claimed Cro-Mags was entirely his idea.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
John Joseph McGowan.
Flanagan filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit in 2018 against fellow Cro-Mags members, including John Joseph McGowen, above.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN

“We wish you every success with your benefit. Should there ever be an interest in Mr McGowan attending a charity event with the Registrant and the Cro-Mags, this is an opportunity we would like to discuss. the offer has been extended several times in the recent past,” the letter said.

An attorney for Flanagan did not respond to a request for comment.

McGowan was not immediately available.

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