Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The #45 Guitarist of the Rock Era: Tommy Bolin

#45 was around just a short time but he made a tremendous impact on guitarists for a generation.
#45:  Tommy Bolin, Zephyr, James Gang, Deep Purple
11 years as an active guitarist

Thomas Richard Bolin was born August 1, 1951 in Sioux City, Iowa.  He played guitar for Zephyr, the James Gang and Deep Purple.

Bolin played in bands around his hometown of Sioux City before moving to Boulder.  He soon joined Ethereal Zephyr, a band named after a train that ran between Denver and Chicago, but the name was shortedn to Zephyr.  Bolin, bassist David Givens, and Givens' wife Candy opened for acts such as Led Zeppelin.  In 1972, Bolin formed the jazz-rock-blues fusion band Energy.  

Joe Walsh had left the James Gang, and in 1973, Tommy joined the group in time to record two albums with them:  Bang!  and Miami.  Bolin began looking for session work and played on the Alphonse Mouzon album Mind Transplant, considered one of the best fusion recordings of all-time.  Bolin also signed with Nemperor Records for a solo album, getting help from Phil Collins, David Foster, David Sanborn, Jan Hammer and others.  While recording the album, Tommy was contacted about replacing Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple.

Bolin's solo debut, Teaser, was released in 1975 and Tommy also helped out the group Moxy with their debut.  Plus, Bolin had earned a tryout with Deep Purple.  After a four-hour jam, Tommy had won the job.  Deep Purple proceeded to work on the album Come Taste the Band and Tommy wrote or co-wrote seven of the tracks on the album.  But Deep Purple broke up in March of 1976, so Tommy continued with his original plan of being a solo artist.  

CBS signed Bolin to a major contract and Tommy recorded his second and last solo album, Private Eyes.  On tour, Bolin opened for Peter Frampton and Jeff Beck  Tommy's final show was December 3, 1976.  The following day, he died of drugs.

Dean Guitars currently produces a Tommy Bolin Tribute guitar, modeled as a superstrat, with three single-coil pickups and a maple neck and fingerboard.  In 2010, several artists joined to record a tribute album called Mister Bolin's Late Night Revival, a compilation of 17 songs that were written by Bolin but not released.

Tommy Bolin's star burned bright for a short time and then he was gone.  His influence can be heard all around us to this day.  Bolin ranks #45 for the Rock Era*.

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