Sunday, July 10, 2011

Monte Hellman/George Kimball

Two summers ago I heard director Monte Hellman was trying to reach me. I was familiar with Monte’s Two Lane Blacktop, the ultimate American road movie. James Taylor and Dennis Wilson, drummer of the Beach Boys, race their hopped-up car across the America, against another car driven by actor Warren Oates. Helluva movie. Monte also directed early Jack Nicholson films and produced Reservoir Dogs. He was a fan of my music. Had all the records. Would I like to write the music for his new film (released last month) The Road to Nowhere? Hell yes. He sent me the script. I had a hard time with it. A dense story within a story. Cubist. Sorta. But I worked on a title song and recorded it on a little hand held recorder. He loved it and used the demo and quite a few other songs in the film.

Monte also wanted me to act in it, on location in Rome, but that didn’t end up happening. He also used my song “Roll the Credits,” for the film’s closing credits. Two months ago we attended the premiere at the old Egyptian theater in Hollywood. We’d seen an earlier cut in Monte’s bedroom screening facility; drinking his Xylitol extreme Margaritas. Fine man. Cool movie. A Hollywood homecoming for me. As a kid I’d take a bus from Inglewood to Hollywood and walk up and down Boulevard, reading the Hollywood Stars embedded in the sidewalk.

The songs “Road to Nowhere” and “Roll the Credits” are on the coming record Mesabi.


George Kimball died several days ago. One of our finest Sports writers. A friend. A throwback to a time of cigar chewing, scotch drinking characters that cared about the art of sports journalism and the search for the right word or phrase that resonated with hard truth. He wrote like Alexis Arguello boxed. Toughness, laced with finesse, and the occasional eye drop of humor. The dance. He was in the mold of Leibling and Joseph Mitchell. He knew and loved the territory. The gym. The bar. The street. The word. The song.

My friend Steve Bodio told me that George wrote a story on the Boston Marathon once by stopping at every bar along the route. There are a lot of them. I met him in Austin, a few years ago, when he showed up at the gallery opening of my boxing paintings. He bought two and they were used on the cover of his book: The Manly Art. I met him beneath the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree last year and he gave me a whole bag of his books. They got me through the winter. Finally we did a gig together a few months ago at the Williams Burroughs house in Lawrence, Kansas. George had friends among folksingers, beats, boxers and some of the finest writers of our age, like Pete Hamil and Colum McCann. Here’s to you George. An Irish toast to all of our eternities.


editor said...

Thanks for the comments on George Kimball. When you look at ESPN, it's hard to remember that there ever was such a thing as sports journalism.

Shout out to Tom Russell on my new blog at

Jim Cornelius

editor said...

Very nice piece on Kimball here:

Steve Bodio said...

KImball was a brave writer and a brave fighter himself-- "we shall not see his like again". Lift a glass...

Editor-- good new blog!

Timo said...

Hi Tom,

I hope it's not inappropriate to leave a request here - I recently discovered your music Tom, and absolutely fell in love with it. What can I say, you are an amazing storyteller.

I also found out that you've visited Scandinavia often, and even my current home town Tampere! When you tour in Europe the next time, give us a visit too. I would love to have a change to hear your stories live.

All the best,