THE BAND:

Tommy Bolin: guitar, vocals (all)
Stanley Sheldon: bass (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7)
Paul Stallworth: bass (4, 8, 9)
Dave Foster: piano/synth (1, 2, 3)
Jan Hammer: synth (6, 7), drums (6)
Ron Fransen: piano (9)
Dave Sanborn: sax (6, 7)
Jeff Porcaro: drums (1, 2, 3, 5)
Prairie Prince: drums (4, 8)
Michael Walden: drums (7)
Bobbie Berge: drums (9)
Phil Collins: percussion (4)
Sammy Figueroa: percussion (6, 7)
Rafael Cruz: percussion (6, 7)
Dave Brown: background vocals (1)
Lee Kiefer: background vocals (1)

TRACK LIST:

1. The Grind (Bolin/Sheldon/Tesar/Cook)

2. Homeward Strut (Bolin)

3. Dreamer (Cook)

4. Savannah Woman (Bolin/Cook)

5. Teaser (Bolin/Cook)

6. People, People (Bolin)

7. Marching Powder (Bolin)

8. Wild Dogs (Tesar/Bolin)

9. Lotus (Tesar/Bolin)

THE STORY:

After leaving the James Gang at the end of August, 1974 Tommy returned to Colorado to attempt forming a band which included Mike Finnigan on vocals and keyboards and Stanley Sheldon on bass. The project folded after three weeks. Tommy and Stanley then began to commute back and forth from Colorado to Los Angeles in search of opportunities. By the end of December they had both moved permanently to LA, played sessions with Dr. John (the Night Tripper), and Tommy had completed performances on the outstanding Mind Transplant album by famous jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon

During the first months of 1975 Tommy would jam and record demos at Phillip Polimeni’s Glen Holly studio in LA (site of the October 6 rehearsal for Mind Transplant), with Stanley Sheldon on bass and Bobby Berge on drums, both of whom had played with Tommy in Energy. Among the other musicians who have been reported to play there with Tommy are Ricky Fataar (drums), Joey Carbone (keys) and Ronnie Barron (keys). Bobby Berge has also stated that the drum set at Glen Holly belonged to an English drummer named Pete, who would also sometimes play with Tommy. In 2002 the Tommy Bolin Archives released two CDs, Tommy Bolin: After Hours - The Glen Holly Jams Vol. I and Tommy Bolin: Naked II, which compiled remastered versions of some of that material, including demos for “The Grind” and “Lotus.”

Besides the work at Glen Holly, Tommy was also playing and recording at Brothers Studio in Santa Monica with Stanley Sheldon and Ricky Fataar. He also had become acquainted with the Beach Boys, who legend has it advised him to do the vocals himself and helped him with some vocal coaching. Stanley Sheldon has stated that Carl Wilson was there, but only as an observer.

Atlantic offered him a solo album deal, which Tommy planned as having one side of vocal songs and one side instrumentals. The project was shelved when Atlantic demanded that they would choose the producer. Tommy then signed for personal management by M.F. Bullet, a Chuck Morris/Barry Fey collaboration. Morris and Fey had both known Tommy well during his time in Colorado as far back as American Standard.

The 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 and Hammer for much of the album, and had an extensive lineup of friends join him on different tracks.

Teaser was recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA in July, 1975 with additional recording at Electric Lady Studios in New York (September), and Trident Studios in London (October). It was engineered by Lee Kiefer with Davey Moore and Michael Bronstein, and was mixed at Trident Studios in London by Dennis MacKay. Production credits went to Tommy Bolin and Lee Kiefer except for “People People” and “Marching Powder,” which were produced Dennis MacKay. Those two tracks were done late to fill out the album out better, and required Tommy and Dennis to travel back to Electric Lady to record the material. MacKay would go on to co-produce Private Eyes with Tommy in 1976.

Bobby Berge, who played with Tommy in Zephyr as well as Energy, was on the sessions that produced “Lotus,” and states that he also played drums on “The Grind,” which was credited on the album cover to Jeff Porcaro. At the time Bobby was also playing on another project at The Record Plant, and relates, “I was doing sessions with Buddy Miles at the same time that I was recording with Tommy for Teaser. I’d play a track or two in Studio B with Buddy and literally run down to Studio A and get going on some drum tracks for ‘The Grind’ and ‘Lotus.’ It was exciting and quite a surprise to also get to do an unexpected late night jam with a couple Bad Company guys and Robert Plant!”

Stanley Sheldon had joined Peter Frampton’s band around three months after he and Tommy moved to LA, and like Berge was working on two albums at once. Work on Teaser had moved from LA to Electric Lady Studios in New York where Sheldon was working on Frampton Comes Alive, and he would dash back and forth between that and sessions on Teaser.

Keyboardist Jan Hammer played on the Teaser sessions in Electric Lady Studios, where he had previously played with Tommy in a Jeremy Steig session in 1971, and again on the sessions for Billy Cobham’s groundbreaking Spectrum in 1973. Hammer relates that he ended up playing drums on “People, People” because drummer Narada Michael Walden was stuck in traffic. Walden’s drums were set up with microphones and Jan wanted to play, so off they went with the tape rolling and got a great take.

Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, who played on “Savannah Woman” and “Wild Dogs,” had first met Tommy in Phoenix when his band Red, White and Blues opened a show for Zephyr and Jethro Tull. Prairie was very impressed with Zephyr and Tommy’s playing in particular, and invited Tommy to a generator-powered jam in the desert where they played with wild enthusiasm through the rest of the night until sunrise.

Genesis drummer Phil Collins played percussion on "Savannah Woman" after the sessions had moved to Trident Studios in London.

David Foster played keyboards on “The Grind,” “Homeward Strut” and the gorgeous “Dreamer.” Foster is a huge talent in the music industry, working as producer, arranger, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and eventually a vice-president at Atlantic.

Ace session drummer Jeff Porcaro, who would go on to form Toto in 1977, played on “Homeward Strut,” “Dreamer” and “Teaser.” He is also listed on the album cover as having played on “The Grind,” but Bobby Berge reports that he played drums on that track and the cover credits are incorrect.

Work on the album was interrupted in June when Tommy was invited to join Deep Purple after the departure of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Though intending to put all of his efforts into a solo career, Tommy could not refuse a chance at playing with one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Tommy’s contract with Deep Purple allowed him to complete Teaser, which ended up coming out at the same time as Deep Purple’s Come Taste the Band. Teaser was released with a sticker on the cover highlighting that Tommy was guitarist for Deep Purple.

Upon it’s release in October, 1975 Teaser was hailed by critics as a great album. A number of tracks were getting played on FM radio, and Tommy’s name was getting even better known, but Tommy’s touring efforts for the next year were on behalf of Deep Purple, and Teaser’s sales numbers were affected. Tommy would have to make up ground with his solo career after Deep Purple broke up in March, 1976.

Deep Purple bassist Glen Hughes became close with Tommy quickly, and helped out on the album by singing the last part of “Dreamer.” Due to contractual obligations Glen was never credited. It is also sometime reported that Purple keyboardist Jon Lord also played on the album somewhere.

To many Tommy fans Teaser represents his greatest recording achievement. It still sounds fresh 30 years on, a remarkable feat. The material spanned hard rock, jazz, reggae and latin music on one cohesive whole that provides an irresistible listen from end to end.

Copyright ©2005 John Herdt.

ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS AND WEBSITES

Jan Hammer by Art Connor
Stanley Sheldon Interview by Art Connor with Jim Wilson and Jim Wentz
Reviews of Come Taste the Band and Teaser Circus Magazine, March 26, 1976
Tommy Bolin 1975 Interview (on the Deep Purple Appreciation Society site)
Bobby Berge Interview (on the Tommy Bolin Fan Page site)
Bobby Berge on the Rampant Zone (Bobby’s web site)

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