Peter Russell

Pete is a technology expert. He founded Joomla with a great group of people in Europe. He is an author of a range of content including stories and tutorials.

Tommy Bolin — Rock's Forgotten Prodigy

Tommy Bolin — Rock's Forgotten Prodigy

In rock circles, there are those who are considered the musician's-musician.  A long-forgotten guitar hero whose meteoric career took place during a decade of extremes in creativity and self-destruction, is Tommy Bolin.

Self-taught, Bolin had the uncanny ability to listen to something once or twice and be able to play it — this made him his early financial stakes by being a virtuoso session musician.  No need for sheet music.  In fact, he couldn't read it ... just listen and play.

Guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Steve Vai, Doug Aldridge and Steve Stevens all say they were heavily influenced by at least one of the styles Bolin had mastered before dying from a heroin overdose, aged 25.

Bolin’s solo albums were stylistically all over the map, but both contained their fair share of resident rockers, and with riffs like “Post Toastee” (a fan favorite from Private Eyes) under his belt,  it’s not hard to see why Bolin was chosen as successor to both Walsh and Blackmore.

In a span of 10 years performing professionally, Bolin had played rock, jazz, funk, regae, jazz-fusion, psych-rock, soul ... the list goes on!  Bolin played in Albert King's band for a year where King had told him to "hold fire" and save his "blistering licks for the crescendo."  Bolin's recordings show his time with King were lessons well learned.  It’s not often that a guitarist gets a chance to replace one living legend, let alone two, but following the Spectrum sessions in 1973 and at Joe Walsh’s request, Bolin enlisted in the James Gang, recording Miami and Bang before moving on to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple in 1975, with whom he would cut Come Taste the Band.

When talking guitarists, you hear people talk about greats like Hendrix, Gary Moore and those aforementioned but you rarely hear about Tommy Bolin.  Much of his back catalogue up until recently had been deleted.  The advent of iTunes has changed that and much of his material is again now available.  A milestone solo album, Teaser, was recently re-released in all formats including vinyl.

Tommy Bolin was born in 1951 in Sioux City, Iowa USA. He was first a drummer, then he switched to guitar at the age of 13. After playing in local Sioux City bands he moved to Denver. In 1968 he toured in Lonnie Mack's band, and later joined Zephyr, who released two albums with Tommy : 1969 "Zephyr" and 1971 "Going Back To Colorado", the later being produced and engineered by Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix Experience) and recorded at the Electric Lady Studios in NYC. In 1972 at the age of 20!!!

Tommy was in that studio the day news of Hendrix's death arrived.  He took the opportunity to pick out one of Hendrix's guitars — that had been in the room  — and played some tribute Hendrix tunes.

Tommy formed the fusion jazz-rock-blues band Energy. Billy Cobham was inspired by Tommy's guitar playing in Zephyr and Energy, and invited him on Cobham's legendary solo 1973 debut "Spectrum".

Bolin told Guitar Player Magazine, “I’ll hear something on a record or in my head, then eventually play it. But it’s a subconscious thing. I don’t sit down with a record and copy licks directly. Most of the time, I really don’t know what I’m playing. Lots of times it truly doesn’t matter what notes come before and after a run. You can be very unorthodox, but if you have the right note before and after, you’re cool.”


Tommy traded blistering solos with Jan Hammer on Mini Moog, and the rest is history.  In 1973 Tommy replaced Domenic Troiano in the James Gang and released "Bang !" that year, and "Miami" in 1974.  He then played studio sessions for Canadian band Moxy, he was featured on Alphonse Mouzon's 1975 "Mind Transplant", and toured with Carmin Appice.

In 1975 Tommy released his famous solo debut album "Teaser" on Nemperor Records, he replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, recording with them "Come Taste The Band", and then he embarked on a world tour with Deep Purple, (where they ended up playing the Hordern Pavillon in Sydney. Gerry Joe Weise says "Tommy Bolin was in excellent form, he played outstanding guitar solos, and sang "Wild Dogs" with all his heart"; Weise still remembers "the unbelievable presence Tommy Bolin had on stage".)

Private Eyes
Tommy Bolin
Songs 8 Comments 0
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 / 0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 Added on 15 January 2016
Released 1976
Format CD
Length 0:00
N discs 1
Label Columbia
Genre Rock
Price 0.00
Cat N C 34329

In 1976 Tommy released his 2nd solo album "Private Eyes" on the CBS label. During the tour for the album that year, Tommy Bolin died early December, after partying to shake off the financial worries, the usual pains for professional musicians in the music business. It was a tragic Saturday morning in Miami, during the US tour supporting Jeff Beck.  Tommy's girlfriend found him unconcious. His death was later officially declared as caused by "multiple drug intoxication".

Tommy Bolin was so young, just 25.  Had he lived who knows what he could have produced.

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