Thomas Richard "Tommy" Bolin (August 1, 1951 – December 4, 1976) was an American-born guitarist who played with Zephyr (from 1969 to 1971), The James Gang (from 1973 through 1974), and Deep Purple (from 1975 to 1976); in addition to maintaining a notable solo career.
Tommy Bolin was born in Sioux City, Iowa and began playing in bands around the city as a youth ("A Patch of Blue" and others) before moving to Boulder, Colorado, in his late teens. He had played in a band called American Standard 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 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 Bolin, at the age of 20, formed the fusion jazz-rock-blues band Energy. While the band never released an album during Bolin's lifetime, several recordings have been released posthumously. He also played on Billy Cobham's Spectrum album, which included Bolin on guitar, Billy Cobham of Mahavishnu Orchestra on drums, Leland Sklar on bass and Jan Hammer (also of Mahavishnu Orchestra) on keyboards and synthesizers.
1973 found him as Domenic Troiano's replacement, who had replaced Joe Walsh, in the James Gang. He had two records with this band: Bang! in 1973 and Miami in 1974.
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, considered "one of the best fusion recordings of all time" by Allmusic reviewer Robert Taylor. He also toured with Carmine Appice and The Good Rats.
Bolin signed with Nemperor records to record a solo album. Bolin decided to do his own vocals on this album as well. Session players on this record included David Foster, David Sanborn, Jan Hammer, Stanley Sheldon, Phil Collins and Glenn Hughes. During the recording of this album, he was contacted to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple.
In the start of 1975, Bolin contributed some studio guitar assistance to Canadian band Moxy during the recording of their debut album. Later in 1975 saw the release of Bolin's first solo record, Teaser, on the Nemperor label. After Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple, the band had a meeting and discussed whether to disband or try and find a replacement, and chose the second option. David Coverdale had been listening to the Billy Cobham LP Spectrum. He decided he wanted Tommy in Deep Purple, and invited him over for a jam. Tommy showed up with his girlfriend in tow wearing a see through mesh mini-skirt. He plugged into 4 Marshall amps and jammed with the band for 4 hours. 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. Come Taste the Band was released in late 1975, and Australian, US and Japanese tours ensued.
After Deep Purple disbanded in March 1976, Bolin was back on the road with his solo band with plans for a second solo record. The 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 signed Bolin and he began to record Private Eyes, his second and last solo record.
Bolin's tour for Private Eyes was his last concert date. He opened for Peter Frampton and Jeff Beck. In his final show, he opened for Beck on December 3, 1976, and encored with a rendition of "Post Toastee." He also posed for a photo with Beck after the show. Hours later, Bolin died from an overdose of heroin and other substances, including alcohol, cocaine and barbiturates. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Sioux City, Iowa.
In 1999, Bolin's former Deep Purple bandmate and good friend Glenn Hughes, embarked on a 4–5 city tribute tour in Texas. Bolin's brother, Johnnie (of Black Oak Arkansas) played drums, and Rocky Athas and Craig Erickson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) played guitar as they performed a roster of Bolin's songs.
Dean Guitars currently makes a Tommy Bolin tribute guitar, based on one of Tommy's favourites, being modeled as a superstrat, with 3 single coil pickups and a maple neck/fingerboard. It has a special inlay at the 12th fret, as well as a graphic modeled after his album Teaser on the body.
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 band mates, family members, and friends of Bolin's, which recounted his entire life story. 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.
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 77's. A percentage of the proceeds from this project will benefit the Jackson Recovery Centers.
Producer Greg Hampton (who has previously worked on such archival Bolin releases as Whips and Roses) co-produced (withGov't Mule leader Warren Haynes) a star-studded 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.
DiscographySolo Studio albums
- Teaser (1975)
- Private Eyes (1976)
- Live at Ebbets Field 1974 (1997)
- Live at Ebbets Field 1976 (1997)
- Live at Northern Lights Recording Studio (1997)
- First Time Live (2000)
- Live 9/19/76 (2001)
- Live in Miami at Jai Alai: The Final Show (2002)
- Alive on Long Island (2003)
- Albany 9/20/76 (2004)
- Live at the Jet Bar (2004)
- The Ultimate: The Best of Tommy Bolin (1989)
- From the Archives, Vol. 1 (1996) : demo archive
- The Bottom Shelf (1997)
- From the Archives, Vol. 2 (1998) : demo archive
- Come Taste the Man (1999)
- Snapshot (1999)
- Naked (2000)
- Naked II (2002)
- After Hours: The Glen Holly Jams – Volume 1 (2004)
- Whips and Roses I (2006) : Teaser outtakes
- Whips and Roses II (2006) : Teaser outtakes
- The Ultimate Redux (2008)
- Teaser Deluxe (2011)
- Whirlwind (2013)
- Patch of Blue Live! (1999)
- Zephyr (1969)
- Going Back to Colorado (1971)
- Live at Art's Bar and Grill (1996)
- The Energy Radio Broadcasts 1972 (1998)
- Energy (1999) (Studio CD Recorded in 1972)
- Live at Tulagi in Boulder and the Rooftop Ballroom in Sioux City 1972 (2003)
- Energy(2 CDs) (2005) (Disc 1:Energy studio CD , Disc 2:Live at Tulagi and the Rooftop Ballroom)
- Bang (1973)
- Miami (1974)
- Spectrum (1973)
- Love Child. The Spectrum Sessions (2002)
- Rudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthology (2004)
- Mind Transplant (1975)
- Tommy Bolin & Alphonse Mouzon Fusion Jam (1999)
- Moxy (1975)
- Come Taste the Band (1975)
- Last Concert in Japan (1977)
- This Time Around: Live in Tokyo (2001)
- 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
- Days May Come and Days May Go (The California Rehearsals Volume 1) / 1420 Beachwood Drive (The California Rehearsals Volume 2) (2000)
- Tommy Bolin: 1997 Tribute (1998)
- Mister Bolin's Late Night Revival (2010)
- Great Gypsy Soul (2012)
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