published Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The 'f-word,' the 'b-word' and Cee Lo: Singer not ‘banned’ but not welcome back, official says

Grammy Award-winning pop/R&B singer Cee Lo Green performs during the second night of the 2013 Riverbend Festival on the Coca-Cola Stage.
Grammy Award-winning pop/R&B singer Cee Lo Green performs during the second night of the 2013 Riverbend Festival on the Coca-Cola Stage.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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JUNE 7-15 • CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

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Should Riverbend have booked Cee Lo?

In the entertainment industry, "ban" is a four-letter word.

After a headlining performance Saturday that started late and included foul language in violation of a previous agreement between Cee Lo Green and Riverbend organizers, the Grammy Award-winning artist probably won't be asked to return to the festival, but he has not been officially banned, said talent and production coordinator Joe "Dixie" Fuller.

"I never used the b-word," Fuller said Monday in contradiction to language used in weekend media coverage describing organizers' reaction to Green's performance.

"I've been in this business for a long time, and banning somebody from coming back to Chattanooga to play music would be the most stupid thing I've ever heard in my life," he added. "There's no way you'd hear those words come out of my mouth."

In a Monday story, Fuller told the Times Free Press that he responded to "very, very, very many disgruntled emails" about the singer's behavior, which reportedly included more profanity than organizers expected based on discussions they had with Green's management before to his appearance.

Organizers said they were disappointed with some elements of Green's performance, which began well after the scheduled start time of 9:30 p.m. and reportedly included the artist drinking on stage. He also chose to bare more of himself than organizers expected.

"He mooned the crowd," said Chip Baker, executive director of Friends of the Festival, which runs Riverbend. "[That] was the part that bothered me. That just wasn't necessary."

In the story that ran in Monday's Times Free Press, Baker was quoted as saying, "It's safe to say he won't be coming back."

On Monday afternoon, Baker said he never meant that Green was permanently banned from the festival.

The Times Free Press attempted Monday to reach Green's management for comment on his behavior and any feedback he had received from Friends of the Festival, which manages Riverbend, but no response was received by press time.

As a general rule, playing the Coca-Cola Stage is a one-time event, and artists tend not to make a second appearance, even if the show goes well, Fuller said.

Nevertheless, Riverbend has made the occasional exception to the rule in its 31-year history, including The Beach Boys (1986/2012), Earth, Wind & Fire (1995/2007) and most recently Lynyrd Skynyrd, who will return to the barge Thursday, more than a decade after its first appearance in 2002.

Fuller said the contract signed by Green did not include a clean language clause, but months in advance of the performance, he began discussions with Green, encouraging the singer to avoid swearing at the family-driven event. Together, they reached "a gentlemen's agreement," said Fuller who declined to share a copy of the contract with the Times Free Press.

That Green chose to ignore the reported discussions during his show was unfortunate, Fuller said, but his ability to curtail an artist's behavior is essentially neutered once the show starts.

"Once they get in the spotlight, once it takes off, there are some things I can't control, but I can do everything within my power before they get here to stop it," he said. "It got a bit further out of control than I expected it to get. I'm totally accountable and extremely sorry for it."

Not everyone was upset with Green's performance. Twitter user Kayla Hayle said Monday that she walked away happy Saturday night.

"I don't care what anybody says. @CeeLoGreen was off the chain at Riverbend," she wrote. "Well worth the money."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

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about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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