Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 10, 2009


Page 9



A Night With Road Kill


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Every Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Michael Kellogg, Mark Mooney, Michael Tynan and Michael Solner gather at Kellogg’s ranch just past the Los Angeles county line for an evening of homemade chicken tacos, folk music and merriment.

On this particular evening, Kellogg’s veterinarian, a horse trainer, a ranch hand, and a neighbor—Sherman Oaks criminal defense practitioner Louisa Pensanti—have also joined in the fun.

Kellogg said that his house is “open to everybody,” and that he enjoys the eclectic mix of individuals. “That’s what makes life go ‘round,” he said. “Everyone has got something to offer.”

To join in, Mooney said, “You just have to enjoy yourself, and don’t have any pretenses about your ability, or ours.”

The group calls itself Road Kill. “You know what Road Kill is, don’t you?” Kellogg asked. Just like a “once beautiful creature of God” can be mangled by a speeding vehicle into an unrecognizable mess, he explained, the band can similarly ruin a great song.

The band settled in on the sofas and began to play Hoyt Axton’s “Water for My Horses,” but it was unrecognizably discordant.

Kellogg exclaimed, “That song died! Those poor horses…”

Next up was Charlie Rich’s “You Can Have Her,” which the group started without Kellogg. “What are we doing?” he asked, looking around with bewilderment.

The song started to falter after a few bars, but Mooney was able to keep the song going until its conclusion.

Kellogg commented with evident surprise: “We all finished on the same note!” Pensanti added, “for once.”

After a few similarly clumsy songs, Kellogg’s wife called for everyone to come eat.

“Food takes priority over music!” she shouted, but no one moved. Instead, they began a rancorous version of Axton’s “Greenback Dollar,” Tynan’s favorite song, collectively bellowing out the chorus.

Road Kill was formed 12 years ago by Kellogg, Mooney, Tynan and deputy district attorney James Toro when Kellogg was just learning how to play the guitar.

Because the group all worked at the same courthouse, Kellogg said they used to practice together every day during lunch. But about eight years ago, everyone was transferred to different courthouses, “so we went from playing together for an hour and a half every day to playing just once a week,” Kellogg explained.

Pensanti, a former professional singer, said she joined the group about three years ago. She explained that she is one of Kellogg’s neighbors and joined in because she heard the group playing, but Tynan joked she had come to complain about the noise and then was forced to stay.

Tynan plays guitar for the group, but claimed his playing was limited to “three chords and a grunt.”

Mooney jokingly observed that “the grunt has gotten much better.”

Turning somewhat more serious, Tynan said he began playing the guitar when he was 18, learning to play from his fraternity brother, future Kingston Trio member Dave Guard.

After college “I kept hearing the Kingston Trio on the radio and I gnashed my teeth,” he recalled jokingly. “That coulda been me.”

Mooney plays the guitar, banjo and mandolin, and the others said he is also in charge of the music selection, although Tynan quipped that some of the songs Mooney plays, “nobody knows, not even the guy who wrote it.”

As the group drifted out of the kitchen to resume playing, Kellogg sighed and said, “this isn’t our day job, thank God,” as he went to join them.


Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company