Howard Stern’s ex-sidekick ‘Stuttering John’ loses Sirius XM appeal

NEW YORK (Reuters) – John Melendez, who used to work with Howard Stern and was known as “Stuttering John,” lost his appeal in a lawsuit on Tuesday. He said that Sirius XM Holdings Inc. took advantage of his fame on channels dedicated to the radio and TV host.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled 3-0 against Melendez’s claim that Sirius owed him money for using his name, persona, and voice from old recordings without his permission in advertising to get and keep listeners.

Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco said that Melendez didn’t have a good reason to say that Sirius “usurped his identity” by using his name or likeness without showing clips from old episodes. This meant that his “right of publicity” claims were invalidated by federal copyright law.

In a 34-page decision, Bianco set Melendez’s lawsuit apart from other rights of publicity cases in which sound-alikes used Bette Midler’s voice to sell Ford cars and Tom Waits’ voice to sell Doritos. Bianco wrote that Melendez’s appearances in Sirius XM’s advertising are related to the Howard Stern Show, where he was a prominent cast member for more than 15 years.

Melendez has said that while he worked for Stern, he made an average of $35,000. Melendez’s lawyer, Michael Popok, said that Melendez should have been paid “for years of creative work that he wasn’t paid enough for.” Mark Baghdassarian, who works for Sirius, turned down the chance to talk.

From 1988 to 2004, Melendez was on Howard Stern’s radio show. After that, he became the announcer for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on NBC. He quit Stern’s show the same year he signed a five-year, $500 million deal to switch from regular radio to New York-based Sirius starting in 2006.

This deal called for old shows to be shown, and Melendez thought that the archives had 13,000 hours of episodes with him in them. In Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty made a ruling in June 2021 that was upheld on Tuesday.

Melendez has had trouble with his speech since he was a child. Stern called him “Stuttering John,” and he got a reputation for asking rude questions to famous people.

Melendez v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., No. 21-1769, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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