The long-awaited return of PBS?

PBS (Porter-Batiste-Stoltz) is one of those bands we wish could return to the city’s music scene. So why did the band disappear?

A few years ago, those in the local music community were shocked by a lawsuit against the members of the band (George Porter, Jr, Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste) by the band’s former management, Boston-based Highsteppin’ Productions, which claimed that the band owed it almost  $525,000 in fees . Highsteppin, headed by longtime George Porter Jr. fan Phil Stepanian, claimed damages against PBS for money it says it had spent on the band’s behalf. (Highsteppin’ also still manages Bonerama).

Porter-Batiste-Stoltz: in happier days.

The lawsuit shut down performances by PBS, of course, and all three band members filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in attempt to protect their assets.

The band ended up counter-suing Highsteppin’ for  breach of contract and unfair business practices, with the claim that  Stepanian’s group had overstepped its bounds by mismanaging the band’s limited funds in his enthusiasm to manage a group headed by one of his musical idols. (Stepanian reportedly spent an abundance of funds on high-end photography, publicity and advertising that apparently he believed need to be recouped from the band).

I can tell you—from many conversations with Porter and Stoltz—that this lawsuit threw them for a loop. They were both afraid of losing their homes and the rights to their music—basically the only real assets musicians have. They’ve kept mum on the details for years, advised by their attorney not to discuss the contents of the suit.

Last week, a judge ruled in the band’s favor, but Stepanian still has a limited amount of time to file an appeal, so the band’s problems may not be yet over. If and when the band settles totally with Stepanian, they still need to work themselves out of bankruptcy.

PBS: here’s to regrouping , recovering and moving on to another great future show.

I can remember how excited George Porter. Jr. was when the band was taken on by Highsteppin’…Ah, the vagaries of the music business…!


During Hurricane Katrina, I read a lot—since it was pretty difficult to work without an office, a staff, advertisers or a city. One of books I read was about the devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane (that was before they were even named because the U.S. didn’t have the technology to create a functioning weather service).

The book, Isaac’s Storm, started me thinking about what could happen to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, and I wrote a “Mojo Mouth” piece contemplating the city’s fate.

To my surprise, the piece was nominated for a New Orleans Press Club Award, and in some ways, it still resonates today. We’ve become much more of a hospitality industry-dominated city than we were pre-Katrina.  Read it and let us know your opinion on where the city’s been headed over these last eight years.


  • derek sibert

    Phil Stepanian is a scumbag.