Tommy Kimball, RIP

I met Dan Kimball in 1979. We lived in the same dorm building at Colorado State University and shared the same taste in music (The Blasters, X, The Clash, The Stray Cats, The Rolling Stones) and became close friends. He told me his younger brother Tommy, who lived in New Jersey, was a great guitar player. Dan was trying to talk Tommy into moving from New Jersey to Ft. Collins to start a band. About a year later Tommy drove out with everything he owned packed into his car. He was rail-thin, had black hair and piercing blue eyes, and smoked incessantly. He was a huge misanthrope but we got along and eventually, he became one of my closest friends. Dan was right — Tommy was a brilliant guitarist, singer, and songwriter.

Tommy Kimball, photo by Randy Briggs (circa 1982)

The three of us formed a rockabilly punk band called The Elephant Boys (we were fans of David Lynch's movie, The Elephant Man). Tommy was the lead singer and guitarist, Dan was the drummer, and I played bass and sang background vocals. We played at bars and clubs in Ft. Collins, Boulder, and Denver, and when I graduated from school we moved to London and played at clubs and pubs there, too.

After the band broke up we moved to different parts of the country. Tommy moved to Portland with his wife and had a couple of kids, and Dan moved to Santa Cruz, started a church, and became a best-selling author of Christian books (I recommend his latest book, How (Not) to Read the Bible: Making Sense of the Anti-women, Anti-science, Pro-violence, Pro-slavery and Other Crazy-Sounding Parts of Scripture ). Dan and I stayed in touch over the years, but Tommy and I did not. I knew that he'd moved to Honolulu and was working for the US Postal Service, but that was about it.

On Saturday while I was eating lunch Dan texted me and told me Tommy had died. Even though Tommy and I hadn't spoken to one another for years, it came as a shock and I was overcome with emotion. We'd gone through a lot together.

Tommy was shy, sensitive, extremely intelligent, and antisocial, and though he recorded a lot of music after The Elephant Boys broke up, he didn't share it with anyone. He stayed away from social media and didn't have a SoundCloud account. I'm sorry the world didn't get a chance to hear Tommy's music.

I made digital recordings of The Elephant Boys' only recorded single. Listen to Old Town, and Dead End Kids.