Tommy Bolin

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Tommy Bolin
Tommy Bolin with a Yamaha SX.jpg
Background information
Birth name Thomas Richard Bolin
Born (1951-08-01)August 1, 1951
Sioux City, Iowa, U.S.
Died December 4, 1976(1976-12-04) (aged 25)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Genres Hard rock, blues rock, funk rock, jazz fusion
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals, bass, drums, piano, keyboards, synthesizer
Years active 1966–1976
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Zephyr, Billy Cobham, James Gang, Deep Purple, Moxy, Alphonse Mouzon,
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul

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

Musical career[edit]

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 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, 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 to 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 Records 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 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.[1] 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.[2] He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Sioux City, Iowa.[3]


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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

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 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.[7]


Year Recorded Artist Album Notes
1969 1969 Zephyr Zephyr Studio
1971 1971 Zephyr Going Back to Colorado Studio
1973 1973 James Gang Bang Studio
1973 1973 Billy Cobham Spectrum Studio
1974 1974 James Gang Miami Studio
1975 1974 Alphonse Mouzon Mind Transplant Studio
1975 1975 Moxy Moxy Guitar Solo
1975 1975 Deep Purple Come Taste the Band Studio
1975 Tommy Bolin Teaser
Teaser Deluxe
1976 1976 Tommy Bolin Private Eyes Studio
1975 Deep Purple Last Concert in Japan
This Time Around: Live in Tokyo
Remixed & Expanded
1976 Deep 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

1989 compilation Tommy Bolin The Ultimate: The Best of Tommy Bolin Greatest Hits
1996 compilation Tommy Bolin From the Archives, Vol. 1 Outtakes
1997 1973 Zephyr Zephyr Live At Art's Bar And Grill May 2, 1973 Live
1997 1974 Tommy Bolin & Friends Live at Ebbets Field 1974 Live
1997 1976 Tommy Bolin 1976: In His Own Words Interview
1997 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Live at Ebbets Field 1976 Live
1997 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Live at Northern Lights Recording Studio Live
1997 compilation Tommy Bolin The Bottom Shelf Outtakes
1997 compilation Tommy Bolin From the Archives, Vol. 2 Outtakes
1998 1972 Energy The Energy Radio Broadcasts 1972 Live
1999 1967 Patch of Blue Patch of Blue Live! Live
1999 1972 Energy Energy Unreleased Studio album
1999 1974 Alphonse Mouzon Tommy Bolin & Alphonse Mouzon Fusion Jam Jam Sessions
1999 compilation Tommy Bolin Come Taste the Man Outtakes
1999 compilation Tommy Bolin Snapshot Outtakes
2000 1975 Deep Purple Days May Come and Days May Go: The 1975 California Rehearsals & 1420 Beachwood Drive: The 1975 Rehearsals, Volume 2 Jam Sessions
2000 1976 Tommy Bolin Band First Time Live Live
2000 compilation Tommy Bolin Naked Outtakes
2001 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Live 9/19/76 Live
2002 1973 Billy Cobham Love Child. The Spectrum Sessions Jam Sesions
2002 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Live in Miami at Jai Alai: The Final Show Live
2002 compilation Tommy Bolin Naked II Outtakes
2002 compilation Tommy Bolin After Hours: The Glen Holly Jams – Volume 1 Jam sessions
2003 1972 Energy Live at Tulagi in Boulder and the Rooftop Ballroom in Sioux City 1972 Live
2003 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Alive on Long Island Live
2004 compilation Billy Cobham Rudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthology greatest Hts
2005 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Albany NY September 20, 1976 Live
2005 1976 Tommy Bolin Band Live at the Jet Bar Live
2005 1972 Energy Energy Disc 1: Energy studio CD, Disc 2: Live at Tulagi and the Rooftop Ballroom
2006 1975 Tommy Bolin Whips and RosesI Teaser outtakes
2006 1975 Tommy Bolin Whips and Roses II Teaser outtakes
2008 compilation Tommy Bolin The Ultimate Redux Greatest Hits & Outtakes
2011 1975-1976 Deep Purple Phoenix Rising CD: 1975/1976 tour live album, DVD: Documentary & Rises Over Japan
2013 compilation Tommy Bolin Whirlwind Outtakes
2014 1973-1976 Tommy Bolin Captured Raw Jams, Vol. 1 Jam Sesions

Tribute albums[edit]



  • Popoff, Martin (2008). Gettin' Tighter: Deep Purple '68–'76. Power Chord Press. ASIN 0-9811057-1-8.
  • Prato, Greg (2008). Touched by Magic: The Tommy Bolin Story. Createspace. ISBN 0-5780031-7-1.
  • Smets, Eric (2012). Tommy Bolin: Voodoo Child (French Edition). Camion Blanc. ASIN B-00CW9WP-7-8.
  • Thompson, Dave (2004). Smoke on the Water: The Deep Purple Story. ECW Press. ISBN 1-5502261-8-5.

External links[edit]