TOMMY BOLIN’S YOUTH IN SIOUX CITY

Thomas Richard Bolin was born on 1st August 1951 in Sioux City Iowa. His father Richard was of Scandinavian descent and his mother Barbara was of Syrian. Tommy was later joined by younger brothers Johnnie and Rick (“Pudge”). Tommy’s early interest in music centered around the sight of Elvis Presley on the Caravan of Stars television show, followed by Richard taking some of the family to see an Elvis performance when Tommy was five years old.

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DENNY & THE TRIUMPHS

When Tommy Bolin joined Denny & The Triumphs in 1964 the band were already an experienced group of teenagers organized by George Larvick, Sr., father of band members Brad and George, Jr. The band first became aware of Tommy after guitarist Brad Miller saw him playing with his band the Miserlous.

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PATCH OF BLUE

Patch of Blue was formed in 1965 by the remaining members of Denny & The Triumphs after George Larvick, Jr. replaced bassist Denny Foote. The band were managed by George Larvick, Sr., father of band members Brad and George, Jr. George, Sr. did the bookings and drove the bands to gigs in a van with “Patch of Blue” painted on the side. George, Sr. was impressed with the 13-year-old Tommy’s playing.

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TOMMY MOVES TO DENVER

In 1967 Tommy was 15 years old, and had just left high school in Sioux City, Iowa while in the 11th grade due to problems which included battles with the school over the length of his hair, which he had cut to the length of their requirements but then was told again to have it cut even shorter. Tommy was totally immersed in music by then and decided to commit himself to it.

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AMERICAN STANDARD

Tommy arrived in Denver from Sioux City during the fall of 1967 following the breakup of Patch of Blue and leaving high school in the 11th grade at age 15. He was getting by living wherever he could and playing for change on the streets around Larimer Street and in clubs at night. One snowy winter evening Tommy was walking downtown and heard a band playing in the basement of a dress shop.

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ZEPHYR

Zephyr’s first gig was in Boulder at the Faw-Set Room, at 1165 13th Street, a small carpeted space upstairs from The Sink that was furnished with pillows on the floor and a few side tables where people got together. It was plush in comparison to The Sink, and hot cider with butter, 3.2 tap beer and sandwiches were served. The entrance was located in the alley behind The Sink, the restaurant managed by Tommy’s future manager Chuck Morris.

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ENERGY

Tommy Bolin and Bobby Berge were set on forming a jazz-rock fusion band, bolstered by Tommy’s experiences meeting players such as Jeremy Steig and Jan Hammer while Zephyr was recording Going Back to Colorado at Electric Lady Studios in New York City at the same time that Steig was working on his Energy album. Tommy and Tom Stephenson had finally met through Sioux City guitarist John Bartle, who had played with Stephenson.

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BILLY COBHAM: SPECTRUM

Spectrum was the album that presented jazz and funk in a form that young rock record buyers could immediately relate to. The door was thrown open for other fusion acts such as Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, as well as Alphonse Mouzon and Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House. On the rock side, after hearing Spectrum guitar superstar Jeff Beck almost immediately went into an intense fusion foray that lasted for many years.

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JAMES GANG

The James Gang had not been doing as well as they had hoped for with Domenic Troiano on guitar, and Joe Walsh was quick to recommend Tommy for a replacement. That recommendation was partly based on the intensely positive rush Tommy’s playing on Spectrum was generating, plus possibly an effort to pay Tommy back for Joe having nicked Kenny Passarelli and Tom Stephenson from Energy for his own band.

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ALPHONSE MOUZON: MIND TRANSPLANT

Mouzon first became aware of Tommy from his playing on Billy Cobham’s Spectrum album. Tommy had also sat in with Mouzon and guitarist Larry Coryell at a club in Boulder in late 1974. On October 6, 1974 Mouzon booked rehearsal time at Glen Holly Studios in Los Angeles, and convened there with Tommy on guitar, Rocke Grace on keyboards and Stanley Sheldon on bass.

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MOXY

Tommy’s appearance on Moxy’s self-titled first album was simply a stroke of luck. He happened to be in the same studio at the right time, and Moxy manager Roland Paquin knew Tommy from when Paquin was road manager for the James Gang. In spite of the short notice, Tommy plays some outstanding solos on a collection of great straight out hard rock tunes.

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TEASER

Demos Tommy had been working on paid off, and Nat Weiss, head of Nemporer Records and a friend of Fey, signed him to a contract in April 1975. Tommy’s initial idea was to do the album with Mike Finnigan on vocals, Jan Hammer on keyboards, Stanley Sheldon on bass and Lenny White on drums. Finnigan and White ended up not appearing on the album, instead Tommy relied on Sheldon, Hammer and an extensive lineup of friends.

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DEEP PURPLE

As desperation was setting in from the growing bill for studio time and wear and tear from the auditions for a replacement for Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple roadie Colin Hart was talking about the situation with Robert Simon when Tommy Bolin’s name came up. Simon had done sound on shows for promoter Barry Fey, including the James Gang, and he had been very impressed by Tommy’s abilities on guitar.

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THE TOMMY BOLIN BAND

On March 15, 1976 Deep Purple Mk 4 played their final show ever at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. Overnight Tommy Bolin went from playing guitar in one of the most successful rock bands ever to scrambling to reinvigorate his solo career, which had been put partly on hold while he concentrated on Deep Purple. In some respects the seeds for a Tommy Bolin band had been sown in January 1975 when Tommy was recording his Teaser album.

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PRIVATE EYES

Private Eyes was co-produced by Tommy Bolin and Dennis MacKay. MacKay had first met Tommy in October 1975 at Trident Studios in London during work done there to complete Tommy’s Teaser album. At that time MacKay had been instructed to help Tommy play back the 16-track tapes of Teaser basic tracks so he could hear the sound of Trident’s mixing room, and they had developed a connection.

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MORE HISTORY

A collection of short but informative notes about projects and experiences Tommy Bolin had in between the main sections of this history. Learn more about Tommy’s jam with Bobby Berge and Jeff Beck, Dr. John, Mike Finnigan, Lonnie Mack, The Legendary 4-Nikators, the T&O Shortline (with Otis Taylor) and more.

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