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Tommy Bolin

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Tommy Bolin
Bolin in 1975
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.
Occupation(s)Guitarist, songwriter
Years active1966–1976
Formerly of

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 career as a solo artist and session musician.



Early years


Tommy Bolin was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and began playing with a band called the Miserlous before he was asked to join another band called Denny and the Triumphs in 1964 at age 13. The band included Dave Stokes on lead vocals, Brad Miller on guitar and vocals, Bolin on lead guitar, Steve Bridenbaugh on organ and vocals, Denny Foote on bass, and 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 to 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. A Patch of Blue was inducted in the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

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 the California Zephyr train that ran between Oakland 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, 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, Bolin in 1973 replaced Domenic Troiano, who had replaced Joe Walsh in the James Gang.[2] He recorded two albums: Bang in 1973 and Miami in 1974;[2] Except for one song on Bang, Bolin wrote or co-wrote every song on these two albums.

In between the 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. Jon Lord of Deep Purple called Spectrum "an utterly astounding album. There was Tommy Bolin just shredding away like mad. And it was just gorgeous stuff, all improvised, all just off the top of his head."[This quote needs a citation]

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.[citation needed] 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 perform 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 barre chords, with keyboardist Jon Lord having to play many of the guitar parts on the organ. Unfortunately, this concert was recorded for a live album: 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. Deep Purple Mk IV disbanded in July 1976.[6]

The Tommy Bolin Band and second solo album


Bolin was now free to form the Tommy Bolin Band and hit the road touring 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 were 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.[7] 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.[8][9] He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa.[10]

Personal life


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 US.[12] The Bolin estate has about 15 records of his grandfather in the safe vault.[12] He had two younger brothers: 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, Touched By Magic: The Tommy Bolin Story, by author Greg Prato 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 Bolin. It 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 others.[17]


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 Studio; guitar solos (6 tracks)
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, Maynard, MA Live
1997 compilation Tommy Bolin The Bottom Shelf, Volume 1 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 California Rehearsals: June 1975 and 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 Sessions
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 Rooftop Ballroom in Sioux City, December 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 Rooftop Ballroom
2006 1975 Tommy Bolin Whips and Roses 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 and Rises Over Japan
2013 compilation Tommy Bolin Whirlwind Outtakes
2014 1973-1976 Tommy Bolin Captured Raw Jams, Vol. 1 Jam Sessions
2021 1976? Tommy Bolin Shake the Devil: The Lost Sessions alternates, demos, and outtakes from Private Eyes

Tribute albums



  1. ^ Talevski, Nick (April 7, 2010). Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 43. ISBN 9780857121172 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Heavy Metal (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 60/1. ISBN 0-85112-656-1.
  3. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "tommy bolin "the ultimate" documentary - part three". YouTube. February 8, 2011.
  4. ^ "Gettin' Tighter: The Story Of Deep Purple Mk. IV". YouTube. Archived from the original on April 6, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  5. ^ "YouTube". YouTube.
  6. ^ Smoke on the Water: The Deep Purple Story p. 191. Retrieved October 23, 2011
  7. ^ Issue No. 230; January 13, 1977; pp 14.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 11, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "SHOOTING STAR". Angelfire.com. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  10. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (November 12, 2002). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate. ISBN 9781841953120 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Barbara Joseph in the 1940 Census in Sioux City, Iowa In the WWII Draft Registration of 1942 in Sioux City it is stated that Abraham "Abe" Joseph was born in Ferzol, Lebanon. Abraham Joseph death certificate of 1964 Information from the National Archives, United States. Scans of official acts of Tommy Bollin's maternal grandparents on familysearch.org
  12. ^ a b c Schwinden, Richard (2015). "Bolin and Mouzon: 1974". Patch.com.
  13. ^ Welch, Chris (October 18, 1975). "Bolin: No Practise Makes Perfect". tommybolin.com. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  14. ^ "Amazon.com: Touched by Magic: The Tommy Bolin Story (9780578003177): Greg Prato: Books". Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  15. ^ "Gettin' Tighter: Deep Purple '68-'76: Amazon.com: Books". Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  16. ^ "Tommy Bolin Demos, Mister Bolins Late Night Revival Album, Deep Purple, Jackson Recovery Centers, Sioux City, Iowa". Misterbolinslatenightrevival.com. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 1, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


  • 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