Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library Film Series

Life of Guitar Genius, Wes Montgomery


The first film documentary on the life of guitar genius Wes Montgomery now has a broadcast home and a fiscal agent to administer fundraising for the multi-year project. 

Jukeboxer Productions has signed an agreement with Bloomington, Indiana-based PBS affiliate WTIU-TV, which will host the premiere of the film in March 2023. That debut date will mark the 100th anniversary of Montgomery’s birth in Indianapolis. The multiple Grammy-winning artist died in 1968 at age 45. 

WTIU is also the “presenting station,” launching nationwide distribution through the country’s public television system.

“WTIU is excited to partner with Jukeboxer Productions to feature Wes Bound to our broadcast and digital audiences,” said Rob Anderson, interim executive director of WTIU. “Each of us will learn, be inspired by, and benefit from a deeper understanding of Mr. Montgomery’s life and his lasting impact on the jazz world. WTIU is eager to bring this program to public television in Indiana and beyond.” 

Wes Montgomery helped bring the jazz guitar out of the rhythm section to the front of the band as a solo instrument. He shows up on many lists among the Top Five jazz guitarists of all time, often listed as No. 1. 

At age 19, he taught himself how to play a six-string guitar while in Indianapolis listening to Charlie Christian records and repeating the licks over and over again. Soon, he was playing gigs on Indiana Avenue with his brothers, Monk (bass) and Buddy (piano and vibes). Wes could not read music, yet wrote more than 60 jazz compositions, was nominated for several Grammy Awards and won two, earned a Gold Record, and won Best Jazz Guitarist in the DownBeat magazine Critics’ Poll six times. 

Montgomery’s family is working with Jukeboxer Productions on the film, including sharing never before seen home movies Wes shot at home and while on tour. Wes’s son Robert is the point person for the documentary. 

“We are so jazzed to have such enthusiastic production partners on this important project,” said Jukeboxer producer Kevin Finch. “WTIU brings a ton of experience in programs about music and they also have close ties to the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Also, Wes used to record with the late Jacobs faculty member Dr. David Baker, another natural tie.”

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, now located on historic Indiana Avenue where Wes and brothers Monk and Buddy often played, agreed this week to serve as an executive producer of the film and its fiscal agent. 

“What a location,” Finch said. “And Julia Whitehead and KMVL have experience in supporting important projects. After all, Kurt believed in the creative process.”

That includes accepting tax-deductible donations to support the production of Wes Bound.

“We are thrilled to work with our friend, the talented Kevin Finch, on this exciting and important project highlighting yet another extraordinary Hoosier,” said Julia Whitehead, founder and CEO of the KVML. “WTIU’s involvement is essential to making the kind of film Wes Montgomery deserves. The KVML is honored to work with Jukeboxer and WTIU in our capacity as executive producer.”

Finch worked with Whitehead and the Vonnegut Library in 2015 and 2016 when he produced and directed A Writer’s Roots: Kurt Vonnegut’s Indianapolis, the first documentary to explore the author’s considerable ties to his hometown of Indianapolis. The film was distributed nationally by American Public Television (APT) and was an Official Selection in the Heartland Film Festival. 

Vonnegut friend and fellow bestselling author Dan Wakefield described the Vonnegut documentary as “the most accurate and true to the spirit of the man and his work of anything I have seen – or, in fact, anything I have read.”

Robert Montgomery said he’s excited to tell a story that hasn’t been told.

“We are going to interview musicians, but we’ll also let those of us from in his own house tell you what kind of man he was,” he said. “There was talent there, but there was more to the man than talent.”

He also noted the synergy of WTIU and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library helping to celebrate another Indiana icon: “Wes … KVML … IU. Hoosiers celebrating a Hoosier,” he said. 

 

About WTIU

Founded in 1969, WTIU is a PBS member station owned and operated by Indiana University. The station serves more than 600,000 households in 29 counties in south central Indiana. WTIU airs programming on five digital channels 24 hours a day, and its broadcast schedule combines the full national schedule of PBS programs with additional locally-produced series and programs.  Information is at wtiu.org.

 

About the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Renowned author Kurt Vonnegut took an unflinching look at the world, tempered with a satirical eye and sardonic sense of humor. In honor of his wit and wisdom, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library champions the literary, artistic, and cultural contributions of the late writer, artist, teacher, and Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut. The library and museum serve as a cultural and educational resource unique to the nation. In November 2019, KVML moved to its “forever home” located on the historic Indiana Avenue in a 10,000 square foot building built in 1882.

 

About Jukeboxer Productions

Besides, Kevin Finch, the Jukeboxer Productions team includes editor and co-producer Jim Hall, a member of a two-time Peabody Award-winning television news investigative team. Hall’s work in short films has garnered international screenings and awards from film festivals. 

NPR media critic Eric Deggans, an Indiana University graduate and accomplished musician, will narrate the film. Multiple Emmy Award-winning graphic designer Kris Burke, who worked on Jukeboxer’s last film, Triton: America’s Deep Secret, is back for this production. 

 

Contacts:

Kevin Finch, producer/director, Jukeboxer Productions, [email protected]. 317-997-1808

Rob Anderson, interim general manager, WTIU, [email protected]. 812-855-8900. 

Julia Whitehead, CEO, Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, [email protected]. 317-652-1954.


My Friend Mickey: Common Decency and the American Dream

My Friend Mickey: Common Decency and the American Dream is a feature-length documentary film about Hoosier Michael S. “Mickey” Maurer. Mickey grew up helping his father (a World War II veteran) on Saturdays and summers with his work in the family junkyard business and went on to become one of the Hoosier State’s most successful entrepreneurs and most generous philanthropists. Viewers will learn more about the experience of Jewish families in Indiana from the last century through current times, get a sneak peek into Indiana politics learning about Mickey’s work as Secretary of Commerce during the Governor Mitch Daniels’ years as Mickey accepted a salary of only $1 per year, and be entertained with unique stories and adventures of a family that has contributed far more than financial success to the greater good of the state.

Mickey’s “unique” stories include climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, lobster diving, writing six books from topics of entrepreneurship and biographies to crossword puzzles, Indiana University football and, his pride and joy, a collection of photos of tiny fish captured with a special lens during his underwater photography expeditions. Mickey has written more than 500 columns for the Indianapolis Business Journal, for which he is one of three owners. He started the National Bank of Indianapolis, Mickey’s Camp, and more.

Narrated by former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, this film features more than 45 interviews with friends, family, business competitors, and collaborators such as Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle; Angie Hicks of Angie’s List; Sen. Joe Donnelly; Gov. Mitch Daniels; and more.

To order a copy of the video, click here.

My Friend Mickey: Common Decency and the American Dream was selected to premier at the 2018 Heartland Film Festival.