In a move that has Charlottesville and the music world reeling, the Dave Matthews Band parted ways with longtime violinist Boyd Tinsley, 54, late May 17 following an explosive story that detailed a lawsuit against Tinsley for alleged sexual assault, harassment and long-term grooming.
Tinsley has denied the allegations in an online music news site Consequence of Sound article and in the lawsuit.
He had previously announced he would not be touring with the band February 2, the same day an attorney for James Frost-Winn filed a demand letter to settle his claims of assault and harassment. On Twitter, Tinsley said he needed a break to focus on his family and his health.
A statement from DMB says, “Though Boyd is no longer a member of the band, we are shocked by these disturbing allegations and we were not previously aware of them.”
Some find it hard to believe band members and Red Light Management knew nothing of Frost-Winn’s allegations, and social media lit up following the story.
“Of course they knew. The whole town has been calling it Fiddlegate for years,” says @arkSHOP on Twitter.
“A lot of the town knew,” says musician Jamie Dyer on Twitter. “I drew the line with Boyd in the early ’80s and he never messed with me again.”
Songwriter Lauren Hoffman writes on Facebook that three young men “separately confided their experiences to me” in the late ’90s.
Frost-Winn was 18 and homeless when he first met Tinsley in 2007. The two became friends, and in 2014, Frost-Winn joined Tinsley’s Crystal Garden band.
He filed a $9 million lawsuit May 17 in Washington state alleging Tinsley created a hostile work environment “where compliance with sex-based demands was tied to the band’s success,” Consequence of Sound reports.
Frost-Winn, a trumpeter, says Tinsley often requested his and band members’ dirty socks, and he describes waking to Tinsley masturbating beside him with his hand on Frost-Winn’s butt. Tinsley blamed the incident on a pill mix-up, according to court documents.
The two slowly became friends again with Tinsley bestowing gifts on the young man. But he also began sending more sexually explicit texts. A screenshot of a March 18, 2016, text from Tinsley calls Frost-Winn “boner material” and says he’s masturbating to the thought of photos of Frost-Winn and suggests he shave his pubic hair for an upcoming photo shoot.
“You are the dirty pretty boy of the band,” says the alleged Tinsley text. “I have to sexually exploit you as much as I can without looking like I’m sexually exploiting you. I’m in full jerk right now, catch you later.”
In 2016, Frost-Winn left Crystal Garden.
His is not the first lawsuit filed against Tinsley. Getty Andrew Rothenberg, Tinsley’s former personal assistant, filed a $10 million suit in 2015 that alleged Tinsley’s “cult of personality has a dark side that Tinsley has gone to great lengths to hide,” and claimed Tinsley was a “sexual predator” who used gifts, jobs and access to other celebrities “to gain leverage over the people in his world which he currently calls Narnia.”
Rothenberg described eight unidentified people who had allegedly been victimized by Tinsley. Rothenberg was convicted of embezzling from Tinsley between 2009 and 2012, sentenced to nine months in prison and ordered to pay $1.25 million in restitution. The lawsuit was thrown out.
“Everyone knew,” says a local familiar with the band who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “There’s going to be other people coming out.” The source says rather than getting Tinsley help, those around him “enabled” his behavior.
“This was an open secret within the company,” says a former Red Light employee, who also spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
“The band was not aware of these allegations until they read about them yesterday in the media,” says DMB publicist Allison Elbl in a May 18 email.
In a May 14 interview in Vulture before the Consequence of Sound story came out, Matthews says, “I have a deep love for Boyd, and he has to deal with his stuff. In many ways, I’m sure it would’ve been a lot easier for him to just say, ‘I’m good. Let’s go play.’ But you can’t just throw yourself away, your wellness away, because you play violin in a band. It doesn’t make any sense to do that.”
Matthews adds, “I can’t say, ‘I can’t wait till he comes back,’ because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But right now being away is better for him. Nobody is happy about this situation. Except that we’re happy he can figure some stuff out. I hope he does. But I’m going to miss having that whirling-dervish Adonis-Muppet over there on my right. I know the audience is, too. But we can’t serve that desire.”
For years, Tinsley has hosted the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic, a women’s invitational tennis tournament at the Boar’s Head Sports Club, which was most recently held in April.
“We’re just talking it over right now,” says Boar’s Head marketing and communications manager Joe Hanning about the future of the tournament. He says he’s “shocked like the rest of Charlottesville.”
“I’m truly hurt by the one-sided account that appeared on a blog about me yesterday,” says Tinsley in a statement. “I will defend myself against these false accusations. …These accusations have caused embarrassment for my family, my friends and my fans. I will fight both in and out of court to repair the damage that has been done.”
Frost-Winn’s lawyer, Jason Hatch, responds to Tinsley’s denial in Rolling Stone: “We are disappointed in Mr. Tinsley’s complete lack of personal responsibility for his actions.”