Tommy Bolin had at least one personal encounter with Jeff Beck previous to the night of Tommy’s passing after opening with the Tommy Bolin Band for Jeff Beck on December 3, 1976 in Miami. This is given light by an interesting piece of audio that collectors have enjoyed for years, a jam with Tommy, Jeff and Bobby Berge on drums.

Bobby Berge relates: “Jeff Beck was in town playing a gig at a venue called the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, CA. Since Tommy knew Jeff was in town doing this gig, he got in touch and invited him over to Phillip Polimeni’s Glen Holly Studio. We first jammed for a half hour or so with Tommy on bass and Jeff on guitar, then took a little break and started again with Tommy on guitar and Jeff on bass. We lost the first jam with Jeff on guitar though because Phillip recorded over first jam somehow, he recorded the second jam over the first one.” The existing audio in the collectors network is not of perfect audio quality, but the performance is strong from all the participants. Tommy sounds a lot like he did in his glory jam days with players such as Jeremy Steig, playing with power and imagination. Jeff Beck played the Starlight Bowl on June 12, 1976, so the BBB jam was recorded close to that date. It’s also interesting to note that the jam took place after the departure of drummer Narada Michael Walden from the Tommy Bolin band and prior to the short Private Eyes tour of the Tommy Bolin Band with Berge on drums.

Mike Jeszka provided the scan seen at right of an ad for the three-day Midwest Rock Festival that ran in the July 21, 1969 edition of Milwaukee Journal. This shows Zephyr slotted to play on Sunday, July 27 with such artists as Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter, Joe Cocker, Jethro Tull and Bob Seger. Zephyr co-founder and bassist David Givens relates that Zephyr missed that show, and also that they had a second chance of playing on the same bill at Fillmore West but Beck cancelled and was replaced by Chuck Berry.


After leaving the James Gang at the end of August, 1974 Tommy Bolin returned to Colorado and attempted to form a band with Mike Finnigan on vocals and keyboards and Stanley Sheldon on bass. That project folded and by the end of December Tommy and Stanley had both moved to Los Angeles in search of opportunities. There they met keyboardist Ronnie Barron who was a friend of Dr. John (the Night Tripper), which lead to Tommy and Stanley recording tracks with Dr. John for what would become the Hollywood Be Thy Name album. Sheldon remembers that the recording sessions also included Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (Carole King, Carly Simon, James Taylor, The Section) on second guitar. Some of the tracks recorded included “Hollywood Be Thy Name,” “Stick With Me” and “Love Without An End.” At some point soon after the sessions Dr. John took a different direction and erased Tommy and Stanley’s parts, replacing them with other musicians. Of the material they worked on only the song “Hollywood Be Thy Name” would be included on the album, which would be released in October 1975, and as stated the track at that point featured other musicians. The tracks mentioned above can be found on the internet in various forms, and though all instances are some generations away from the source material in audio quality, they show the sessions to have been tight and professional. It’s somewhat of a puzzle as to why the tracks weren’t used, but Dr. John has stated that he thought Tommy was very special and holds his memory in high regard.


After leaving the James Gang in August, 1974 Tommy attempted to form a band with noted keyboardist/vocalist Mike Finnigan, who had played with artists including Jimi Hendrix and Dave Mason. The proposed band would consist of Mike Finnigan on keyboards and vocals, Stanley Sheldon on bass, Guille Garcia on percussion and Marty Rodriguez on drums and vocals. Garcia and Rodriguez had played on Captain Beyond’s Sufficiently Breathless album with ex-Deep Purple member Rod Evans in 1973, Garcia also played on Joe Walsh’s So What album in 1974. The new band lasted only three weeks, so it’s tantalizing potential went unfulfilled.


After the breakup of American Standard in 1968, Tommy left Denver and travelled to Cincinnati, where he continued to live on the streets. This resulted in serious problems with the police, and he wound up doing a small amount of time in jail. While in Cincinnati Tommy played in Lonnie Mack’s backing band. Mack was a roadhouse blues-rock legend who had scored a national hits in 1963 with an instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and it’s follow-up “Wham.” Tommy would soon return to Colorado, where in the fall of 1968 he would form Zephyr in Boulder. Noted Tommy historian Tim Martin relates that in 1988 he had the opportunity to talk with Mack and ask about Tommy playing with him. Mack said he didn’t remember Tommy, even when shown pictures of Tommy that Tim had brought along. It’s possible that Mack played with so many different sidemen over the years that they all blended together for him.


In 1970 Flash Cadillac (seen in the classic American Graffiti) drummer Harold “Marty” Fielden recruited Tommy Bolin, Candy and David Givens, John Faris and Dave Brown (Tommy’s friend and roadie) to play with him at Tulagi in Boulder for a one night special. They played a material such as Yardbirds, rockabilly and Elvis tunes. It’s been reported that Mick Manressa played that night, but David Givens indicates that was not the case, though they played later with Mick in the Art’s Bar & Grill days. After the Tulagi show they split up, with Harold attending and graduating from law school in Washington state and Tommy and Bobby Berge soon to phase out of Zephyr and form Energy. In 1973, as Energy was winding down, Harold returned to Boulder and recruited Tommy, Candy, David, John Faris, Otis Taylor, Mick Manressa and Dave Brown to play every Monday night during the summer of 1973. They played party music that got joints jumping and packed clubs. That led to Zephyr’s spectacular reunion show at Art’s Bar & Grill in Boulder on May 2, 1973 with Bobby Berge returning on drums, documented on a Tommy Bolin Archives release. Tommy left to join the James Gang in August 1973, taking Dave Brown with him.


Otis Taylor hooked up with Tommy Bolin in early 1971 to form the T&O Shortline. Tommy was on the rebound from the breakup of Zephyr, and was working with Taylor while also putting together Energy, which initially included bassist Kenny Passarelli, whom Taylor had known from their days together in Denver in 1967 and 1968. T&O Shortline didn’t last long, and according to Taylor, “We only played three times, but we got a great poster out of it.” Taylor and Passarelli would rejoin in 1997 to produce a series of acclaimed blues albums.

Copyright ©2005, 2012 John Herdt.