Tommy Bolin

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Tommy Bolin
Tommy Bolin with a Yamaha SX.jpg
Bolin in 1975
Background information
Birth nameThomas Richard Bolin
Born(1951-08-01)August 1, 1951
Sioux City, Iowa, U.S.
DiedDecember 4, 1976(1976-12-04) (aged 25)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Genres Hard rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion, blues rock, funk rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Years active1966–1976
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Zephyr, Billy Cobham, James Gang, Deep Purple, Moxy, Alphonse Mouzon, Energy, A Patch of Blue
Website Official website

Thomas Richard Bolin (August 1, 1951 – December 4, 1976) was an American guitarist and songwriter who played with Zephyr (from 1969 to 1971), The James Gang (from 1973 to 1974), and Deep Purple (from 1975 to 1976), in addition to maintaining a notable career as a solo artist and session musician.


Musical career

Early years

Tommy Bolin was born in Sioux City, Iowa, United States, and began playing with a band called The Miserlous before he was asked to join another band called Denny and The Triumphs, in 1964 aged thirteen. The band included Dave Stokes on lead vocals, Brad Miller on guitar and vocals, Bolin on lead guitar, Steve Bridenbaugh on organ and vocals and finally Denny Foote on bass & Brad Larvick on drums. They played a blend of rock and roll, R&B and the pop hits of the moment, and when bassist Denny Foote left the band to be replaced by the drummer's brother George Larvick Jr, they changed their name and became A Patch of Blue. An album was released in 1969, Patch of Blue Live! from two 1967 concerts in Correctionville, Iowa and in Sioux City. In 1969, the band was inducted in the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Bolin moved to Boulder, Colorado, in his late teens and then played in a band called American Standard (with future songwriting collaborator Jeff Cook) before joining Ethereal Zephyr, a band named after a train that ran between Denver and Chicago. When record companies became interested, the name was shortened to Zephyr. This band included Bolin on lead guitar, David Givens on bass, and Givens' wife Candy Givens on vocals. The band had begun to do larger venues, opening for more established acts such as Led Zeppelin. Their second album, entitled Going Back to Colorado, featured a new drummer, Bobby Berge, who would pop up from time to time in musician credits in album liner notes from Bolin's later projects.

In 1972, the 20-year old Bolin formed the fusion jazz-rock-blues band Energy. Unable to secure a record contract, the band never released an album during Bolin's lifetime. However, several recordings have been released posthumously. Bolin briefly reunited with David and Candy Givens in a band called the 4-Nikators, after which he took nearly a year off from music. During this time, he wrote close to a hundred songs. [1]

James Gang and Billy Cobham

Stuck between the musical direction he wanted to pursue and a nearly-empty bank account, 1973 found Bolin replacing Domenic Troiano, who had replaced Joe Walsh, in the James Gang. [2] He recorded two James Gang records: Bang in 1973 and Miami in 1974. [2] Bolin wrote or co-wrote all but one song on these two albums.

In between the two James Gang albums, Bolin played on Mahavishnu Orchestra member Billy Cobham's solo album Spectrum , which included Bolin on guitar, Cobham on drums, Leland Sklar on bass and Jan Hammer (also of Mahavishnu Orchestra) on keyboards and synthesizers.

After the Miami tour, Bolin wanted out of the James Gang. He went on to do session work for numerous rock bands and also with a number of jazz artists including Alphonse Mouzon's album Mind Transplant , [2] considered "easily one of the best fusion recordings of all time" by AllMusic reviewer Robert Taylor. He also toured with Carmine Appice and The Good Rats. At the start of 1975, Bolin was a guest studio guitarist for Canadian band Moxy during the recording of their debut album, on which Bolin contributed guitar solos for six songs.

First solo album and Deep Purple

Later in 1975, Bolin signed with Nemperor records to record a solo album. Bolin was encouraged and coached by The Beach Boys to do his own vocals on this album as well. Session players on this record included David Foster, David Sanborn, Jan Hammer, Stanley Sheldon, Jeff Porcaro, Phil Collins and Glenn Hughes (uncredited due to contractual reasons). During the recording of this album, he was contacted by Deep Purple.

After Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple, the band had a meeting and discussed whether to disband or try to find a replacement, and chose the latter option. David Coverdale had been listening to the Billy Cobham LP Spectrum, on which Bolin was lead guitarist for four songs. He decided he wanted Bolin in Deep Purple, and invited him over for a jam. He jammed with the band for four hours and the job was his. The band then relocated to Munich, Germany, to begin work on Come Taste the Band . Bolin wrote or co-wrote seven of the record's nine tracks, including the instrumental "Owed to G," which was a tribute to George Gershwin. [2] Come Taste the Band was released in October 1975, and Australian, Japanese and US tours ensued. Bolin's solo album Teaser was released in November, but his obligations to Deep Purple meant he could not support his own album with a tour.

"A very sad stigma that followed Tommy joining these groups (James Gang, Deep Purple) was the fact that he was always a replacement. It was very hard for him to be on stage and hear, "Joe Walsh!" or "Where"s Ritchie?" This is what haunted him during the English tour, was ‘Where’s Ritchie?’... you know, booed off the stage. He played terribly, he was just so unhappy to be responded to like this. The reception was miserable, so his attitude was miserable."

— Karen Ulibarri-Hughes, Bolin's long-time girlfriend. [3]

While the Come Taste the Band album sold moderately well and revitalized Deep Purple for a time, the concert tours had many low points. Audiences expected Bolin to play solos that sounded like Blackmore's, but the guitarists' styles were very different. Bolin's issues with hard drugs plus fellow band member Glenn Hughes' cocaine addiction, also led to several below-par concert performances. [4] One such concert in Tokyo came after Bolin had passed out and fell asleep on his left arm for eight hours. At showtime, he was only able to play simple chords in a bar fashion, with keyboardist Jon Lord having to play many of the guitar parts on the organ. Unfortunately, this concert was recorded for a live album called Last Concert in Japan . Despite pleas by band members to not release the album, it came out in Japan and found its way into the UK and the US. [5] A better concert recording by this Deep Purple lineup was made in Long Beach, California in early 1976, and released in 1995 as King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: Deep Purple in Concert .

The Tommy Bolin Band and second solo album

After Deep Purple disbanded in March 1976, Bolin was free to form the Tommy Bolin Band and he hit the road while making plans for a second solo album. The Tommy Bolin Band had a rotating cast of players which included Narada Michael Walden, Mark Stein, Norma Jean Bell, Reggie McBride, Jimmy Haslip, Max Carl Gronenthal and eventually Bolin's younger brother Johnnie Bolin on drums.

By mid-1976, CBS Records signed Bolin and he began to record Private Eyes , his second and last solo record, in June. The album was released in September, and a supporting tour ensued. [2]


Bolin's tour for Private Eyes would be his final live appearances. He opened for Peter Frampton and Jeff Beck. In his final show, he opened for Beck on December 3, 1976 in Miami, and encored with a rendition of "Post Toastee." He also posed for his last photo, sitting backstage with Jeff Beck after the show, which appeared in Rolling Stone. [6] The article in Rolling Stone stated, "Just before Bolin's final concert, Jon Marlowe of The Miami News, after an interview with the guitarist, told him, 'Take care of yourself,' to which Tommy replied, 'I've been taking care of myself my whole life. Don't worry about me. I'm going to be around for a long time.'" (Issue No. 230; page 14). Hours later, Bolin died from an overdose of heroin and other substances, including alcohol, cocaine and barbiturates. [7] [8] He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa. [9]

Personal life

He was the first child in the family of Richard Bolin and Barbara Joseph. [10] Bolin's father Richard was of Swedish descent and his mother Barbara was the daughter of Lebanese immigrants from Ferzol, Lebanon. [11] [12] His maternal grandfather Abraham "Abe" Joseph was a recording musician in Lebanon before immigrating to the USA. [12] The Bolin estate has about 15 records of his grandfather in the safe vault. [12] He had two younger brothers named Johnnie (drummer with Black Oak Arkansas) and Rick (a singer).

In a 1975 article, Bolin called himself an entirely self-taught guitarist who plays by ear, stating, "I only ever had four lessons. I don’t know any scales at all. I know what to play, but don’t know any scales because I never bothered to learn any." [13]


In 2008, a book titled Touched By Magic: The Tommy Bolin Story by author Greg Prato was released, which featured all-new interviews with former bandmates, family members, and friends of Bolin, which recounted his entire life story. [14] The same year, a photo of Bolin was used for the front cover for the book Gettin' Tighter: Deep Purple '68–'76, by author Martin Popoff. [15]

In 2010, several well-known artists gathered to create a tribute album titled Mister Bolin's Late Night Revival, a compilation of 17 previously unreleased tracks written by the guitar legend. The CD includes works by HiFi Superstar, Doogie White, Eric Martin, Troy Luccketta, Jeff Pilson, Randy Jackson, Rex Carroll, Rachel Barton, Derek St. Holmes, Kimberley Dahme, and The 77s. A percentage of the proceeds from this project will benefit the Jackson Recovery Centers. [16]

Producer Greg Hampton (who has previously worked on such archival Bolin releases as Whips and Roses ) co-produced (with Gov't Mule leader Warren Haynes) a tribute to Bolin, Tommy Bolin and Friends: Great Gypsy Soul , which was released in 2012, and featured contributions from Brad Whitford, Nels Cline, John Scofield, Myles Kennedy, Derek Trucks, Steve Morse, and Peter Frampton, among many others. [17]


19691969 Zephyr Zephyr Studio
19711971Zephyr Going Back to Colorado Studio
19731973 James Gang Bang Studio
19731973 Billy Cobham Spectrum Studio
19741974James Gang Miami Studio
19751974 Alphonse Mouzon Mind Transplant Studio
19751975 Moxy Moxy Studio; guitar solos (6 tracks)
19751975 Deep Purple Come Taste the Band Studio
1975Tommy Bolin Teaser
Teaser Deluxe
19761976Tommy Bolin Private Eyes Studio
1975 Deep Purple Last Concert in Japan
This Time Around: Live in Tokyo
Remixed & Expanded
1976Deep Purple King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: Deep Purple in Concert / On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat
Deep Purple: Extended Versions
Live at Long Beach 1976

1989compilationTommy BolinThe Ultimate: The Best of Tommy BolinGreatest Hits
1996compilationTommy BolinFrom the Archives, Vol. 1Outtakes
19971973ZephyrZephyr Live At Art's Bar And Grill, May 2, 1973Live
19971974Tommy Bolin & FriendsLive at Ebbets Field 1974Live
19971976Tommy Bolin1976: In His Own WordsInterview
19971976Tommy Bolin BandLive at Ebbets Field 1976Live
19971976Tommy Bolin BandLive at Northern Lights Recording Studio, Maynard, MALive
1997compilationTommy BolinThe Bottom Shelf, Volume 1Outtakes
1997compilationTommy BolinFrom the Archives, Vol. 2Outtakes
19981972EnergyThe Energy Radio Broadcasts 1972Live
19991967Patch of BluePatch of Blue Live!Live
19991972EnergyEnergyUnreleased Studio album
19991974Alphonse MouzonTommy Bolin & Alphonse Mouzon Fusion JamJam Sessions
1999compilationTommy BolinCome Taste the ManOuttakes
1999compilationTommy BolinSnapshotOuttakes
20001975Deep Purple Days May Come and Days May Go – The California Rehearsals: June 1975 and 1420 Beachwood Drive: The 1975 Rehearsals, Volume 2 Jam Sessions
20001976Tommy Bolin BandFirst Time LiveLive
2000compilationTommy BolinNakedOuttakes
20011976Tommy Bolin BandLive 9/19/76Live
20021973Billy CobhamLove Child: The Spectrum SessionsJam Sessions
20021976Tommy Bolin BandLive in Miami at Jai Alai: The Final ShowLive
2002compilationTommy BolinNaked IIOuttakes
2002compilationTommy BolinAfter Hours: The Glen Holly Jams, Volume 1Jam sessions
20031972EnergyLive at Tulagi in Boulder and Rooftop Ballroom in Sioux City, December 1972Live
20031976Tommy Bolin BandAlive on Long IslandLive
2004compilationBilly CobhamRudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthologygreatest Hts
20051976Tommy Bolin BandAlbany NY, September 20, 1976Live
20051976Tommy Bolin BandLive at the Jet BarLive
20051972EnergyEnergyDisc 1: Energy studio CD; Disc 2: Live at Tulagi and Rooftop Ballroom
20061975Tommy Bolin Whips and Roses Teaser outtakes
20061975Tommy BolinWhips and Roses IITeaser outtakes
2008compilationTommy BolinThe Ultimate ReduxGreatest Hits & Outtakes
20111975-1976Deep Purple Phoenix Rising CD: 1975/1976 tour live album; DVD: Documentary and Rises Over Japan
2013compilationTommy BolinWhirlwindOuttakes
20141973-1976Tommy BolinCaptured Raw Jams, Vol. 1Jam Sessions

Tribute albums

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