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Tommy Bolin

Today we will tell you about Tommy Bolin, guitarist and gifted songwriter who beyond his solo career collaborating with other artists including "Zephyr", "James Gang", Billy Cobham and "Deep Purple".

(Photo: Courtesy of AEG Presents)

He was born on August 1, 1951 as Thomas Richard Bolin, in Sioux City, Iowa, United States, to Richard and Barbara Bolin. Tommy grew up alongside two brothers, Johnny and Rick and also had another brother, Bobby, who unfortunately did not survive after his birth.

He has been interested in music since he was young and was influenced by artists like Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley.

His stardust could be noticed at a very young age. He appeared on a TV show called "Kids Corner" in an Elvis costume. His performance was so interesting that he got back on the show after only 3 days, because viewers fell in love with him and wanted more from the young and talented kid.

He was only 13 years old when he formed his first band "The Miserlous". He later moved to "The Velairs" and later at the age of 15 joined a band called "Denny and The Triumphs", which included Dave Stokes on lead vocals, Brad Miller on guitar and vocals, Tommy Bolin on lead guitar, Steve Bridenbaugh on organ and vocals, Denny Foote on bass and Brad Larvick on drums. They played a combination of rock 'n' roll, R&B and contemporary Pop hits.

When bassist Denny Foote left the band, he was replaced by drummer George Larvick Jr. and the band changed its name to "A Patch of Blue".

In 1969 the band released a live album called "Patch of Blue Live!", Which consisted of recordings from two performances they had performed.

Despite the relative success Bolin felt stuck. He thought he was not progressing with "A Patch of Blue" at a satisfactory pace, so he decided he to leave Iowa for Colorado. He was still in his teens and this was also supported by his parents.

When he came to Colorado he joined the band "American Standard" (where he met Jeff Cook his future songwriting partner).

He later joined the band "Ethereal Zephyr" named after a train that traveled between Denver and Chicago. Bolin was the lead guitarist, David Givens on bass and his wife Candy Givens on vocals.

The band managed to arouse the interest of record companies. Their name was shortened to "Zephyr", and they were signed by a small label called "Probe" and released their debut album in 1969.

After the first album the band gained momentum in performances in larger halls and even served as a warm-up band for more established bands like "Led Zeppelin".

Their second album, "Going Back to Colorado" was released in 1971 and their third album "Sunset Ride" in 1972.

In 1972 Bolin formed "Energy", which did not release an album because it failed to sign a contract deal with a record company. After joining other bands, including "4-Nikators", which included the Givens couple, he decided to take a break and started writing songs for a solo career. During this time Bolin wrote close to 100 songs.

In 1973 Bolin replaced Domenic Troiano, who replaced Joe Walsh, in the band "James Gang". He recorded with them two records, "Bang" from 1973 and "Miami" from 1974. Bolin co-wrote all the songs on the albums except one.

Between the two albums of "James Gang", Bolin managed to play on Billy Cobham's ("Mahavishnu Orchestra") solo album "Spectrum". Bolin's performance on this album will interest Jon Lord from "Deep Purple", who thought Bolin's playing was simply amazing.

Bolin's work with Billy Cobham made him a sought-after session player. He has worked with rock bands and a number of jazz artists, including in Alphonse Mouzon's "Mind Transplant" album, which is considered an excellent fusion album.

In early 1975 Bolin was a guest on the Canadian band's "Moxy" debut album and contributed a guitar solo to six songs from it.


That same year, Ritchie Blackmore left "Deep Purple." The band thought about breaking up as it was clear it would be very difficult to get into Blackmore's shoes, but David Coverdale who also heard Bolin's work on Billy Cobham's "Spectrum" album, decided he wanted Bolin in "Deep Purple" and invited him to a jam session. They played for four hours and at the end Bolin got the lead guitarist role in "Deep Purple".

In October 1975, the band released "Come Taste the Band". Bolin co-wrote seven of the nine tracks on the album, including the instrumental "Owed to G," which was a tribute to George Gershwin.

At the same time Bolin was signed on a recording contract as part of his solo career and released in 1975 his album "Teaser", just one month after the album "Come Taste the Band" came out.

During Bolin's time at "Deep Purple" he became addicted to hard drugs and used to take them along with bassist Glenn Hughes. This affected the level of playing of the two and this led to a number of cancellations or low level performances of the band.

At one of the performances in Tokyo, Bolin arrived after fainting and falling asleep on his left arm for eight hours, so he was only able to play simple chords, with keyboardist Jon Lord having to play many of the guitar roles. This show was recorded and released as part of the album "Last Concert in Japan".

After the dissolution of "Deep Purple" in March 1976, Bolin formed the "Tommy Bolin Band" and was immediately signed by "CBS Records", with which he released his second album "Private Eyes", in September 1976.

Bolin's last performance was on December 3, 1976 in Miami. Hours later, Bolin died of a heroin overdose. Cocaine and alcohol were also found in his blood. He was 25 at the time of his death.

For listening to his last solo album: Spotify, Apple Music

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