A new documentary film focusing on visionary artist and innovative thinker Tommy Hall is currently in the works. He’s best known as one of the founding members of the revolutionary ’60s band and originators of psychedelic music, The 13th Floor Elevators. Tommy is noted for turning the traditional jug into an electrical mystifying sound machine by placing a microphone next to the mouthpiece to a emit strange and alien signal. The title of the documentary is Slip Inside This House: The Tommy Hall Story, an homage to the first track on the 13th Floor Elevators second album, Easter Everywhere.
According to the official film site ,
“This project is to showcase his life: his childhood, his days as a student at UT in the 60s, his studies in Gurdjieff, Korzybski, Herman Hesse, and the Indian Vedas, and philosophies in consciousness and cosmic human experience, the inspiration behind his art, the forming of his band, and aspects of The Design (his current work).”
I spoke with filmmaker George Ripley about the project, and he shared some insight about what inspired this endeavor and why the Tommy Hall story is important for future generations.
“I grew up in Maine where I first saw The 13th Floor Elevators on Where the Action Is in 1966.” George informed me. After a tour of duty in the army, Ripley was an active member of Maine bands the Stains and Ghostwalks. Following a move to San Francisco in 1995, George was introduced to the late Chet Helms. Known as “The Father of the Summer of Love”, Chet Helms was a prominent figure in the San Francisco 60’s counterculture, having formed the promotion company/communal family The Family Dog, showcasing events at seminal venues The Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom.
“Within two months of arriving here, I met and became friends with Chet Helms who invited me to work at The Family Dog. Upon arriving, I was put to work with a gentlemen that I was introduced to as ‘Tom’. Tom and I worked together day in and day out for 3 weeks preparing the Maritime Hall for its inaugural concert. After 3 weeks, Jack Ortman stopped by and was more than happy to point out to me that ‘Tom’ was in fact, ‘Tommy Hall’ of The 13th Floor Elevators, and we have been good close friends for the past 20 years.”
Ripley has compiled an enormous amount of interview footage for the project, including over 30 hours with Tommy Hall himself. Various contributors include Tommy’s former wife Clementine Hall, 13th Floor Elevators members Ronnie Leatherman and Danny Thomas, Billy Gibbons of Moving Sidewalks and ZZ Top, and Christian Bland of The Black Angels. While this is Ripley’s first go at a documentary, over the years he has recorded live footage of bands such as Powell St. John, Spirit, The Electric Prunes, The Chocolate Watchband, and some of Roky Erickson’s (The 13th Floor Elevators guitarist and vocalist) solo work.
One purpose of the film is to clear the air of the various misinformed stories that exist about both 13th Floor and Tommy himself. “Tommy was greatly appalled at all the erroneous information as well as stating that several of the so call interviews weren’t done with him, and that he greatly refutes a great deal of information that has been put forth about him”, George explained. As the film is currently in post-production, the biggest challenge so far has been raising enough capital to complete the editing process. While the filming costs were able to be raised piece by piece, the editing costs have to be allocated upfront.
“Currently we have a store on both our website, as well as on eBay (selling t-shirts, posters, and limited edition CDs from Tommy Hall). Any and all purchases will go towards finishing the movie. (As far as when the film will be released) it just depends on how long it takes to raise the funds needed.We are looking into having a contest of some sort in which the winner will receive a one-of-a-kind signed ceramic jug along with a video of Tommy signing said jug. This information will be posted on both our website and on our Facebook page.”
The importance that this film sees a proper release is monumental for fans of music history, giving attention to an artist who transformed the tapestry of alternative culture. “Tommy Hall is the finest psychedelic lyricist to pick up a pen and put it to paper”, Ripley notes. “He invented psychedelic music and had planned to start this band in February 1964. It just took him 22 months to accomplish what he set out to do.”
Stay tuned for updates on the film, and head over to the Slip Inside This House store to show your support and pick up official merchandise.