Listen Up: Entertainment lawyer features unique platform for radio show

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By Jeanine Matlow
Legal News

Sheldon Kay wanted to be a musician since he was a kid. As the Farmington Hills-based entertainment lawyer with Sheldon L. Kay & Associates explains, he had a musical family history.

For starters, his uncle was a prominent band leader in Detroit and a musical director for WXYZ radio and TV. Kay fondly recalls digging Boogie Woogie records during family gatherings.

“That really caught my ear,” he says. “I had music in my house and in my head.”

Soon, he would fall hard for the guitar, learning how to play as a teen after hearing an E chord that he says went through him like an electrical spark.

Still, when a relative convinced him to pursue a more secure career path by getting a law degree, Kay agreed.

Upon graduating from Cooley Law School, Kay would combine his love for music with his likable personality to practice entertainment law.

“I had to teach myself because they didn’t teach it back then,” says the attorney who would become a founding member of the Entertainment Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

Since he had no clients, Kay began offering legal seminars on the subject.

“As I taught it, I learned it,” says Kay, who would go on to handle record contracts and more for clients like the Michigan Opry with musicians that included Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn among others.

When he began working with Aretha Franklin, his career became real. 

Among the other highlights would be representing Detroit’s Mumford High School that was featured in the movie “Beverly Hills Cop” directed by Mumford graduate Jerry Bruckheimer. As Kay recalls, the promotional T-shirts from the film raised more than $1 million for the school.

Other clients include everyone from American poet and jazz musician, Gil Scott-Heron, known for the song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” to Aerosmith, along with up-and-coming talents like Mark Kassa with the band Slight Return.

“I represent a lot of local artists,” says Kay, who also practices criminal law.

He sees a common link between the two.

“Entertainment contracts have a lot of morals clauses,” he says.

His weekly radio gig that airs on Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on WCXI 1160 AM rates high on his list of creative pursuits. The Rock & Roll Lawyer Show (rockandrolllawyer.com) features the law, music and entertainment all rolled into one.

“The glue that holds it together is the rare music that we play, from big bands to rhythm and blues and contemporary,” says Kay, who compares the program to NPR. “We talk about the tunes and the times.

“There’s the music side and there’s the legal side,” he says. The show has covered topical matters from medical marijuana and cyberbullying to copyright and trademark issues.

Through the years, Kay has continued to pursue music on the side.

“I’ve always loved my career as a semi-professional guitarist and I stayed with that all my life. I’ve got my band, The Alternatives, my law practice and my radio show,” he says.

George Seedorff, co-host of the radio show, recently reconnected with Kay, an old friend he’s known since the two were 18.

“He’s an exquisite musician and a really funny person,” he says. “He’s gregarious and he’s just a wonderful human being. It’s a pleasure to be co-hosting with Sheldon.”

Seedorff, a retired English teacher who also worked in PR and writes music reviews and more, calls Kay a very talented lawyer who’s affable, too.

“He can strike up a conversation with a prosecutor or a judge,” Seedorff says. “His secret weapon is that he’s able to converse as a human being. He touches people’s lives wherever he goes.”

Perhaps it’s his talent and compassion that have led to his unique blend of endeavors.

“Sheldon has a heart,” says Seedorff. “He’s very empathetic, which goes along with the music side of him. He’s a superb artist and a superb lawyer. He’s a deep thinker and that just shows in his work. He’s a true renaissance man.”


 

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