BOBBY BERGE INTERVIEW
By Trace Keane
Trace: Bobby Berge tell me about the first time you met Tommy Bolin.
Bobby: 1966. When I was with The Velaires in Sioux City, I just remember the first time I heard him play with Patch Of Blue, they were doing Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” and his solo was really cool, I had never heard anyone play that way before (or since) and I thought he was really good, he must have been 14 years old or so. Even then I remember he had a stage presence at a young age that set him apart from other players in our age group.
Trace: How did you end up joining Zephyr?
Bobby: Tommy had called me at home, I was living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and told me that Zephyr was looking for a new drummer, I flew out to Colorado for an audition and at first we tried to do a two drummer rehearsal with the original drummer Robbie Chamberlin. That didn’t work out and I ended up getting the gig. I came back home and packed up my gear into my car and drove out, it was the start of a great journey.
Trace: Tell me about some of the recordings and live performances you two played on together.
Bobby: I played on the second Zephyr album Going Back To Colorado. We played places like Central Park (New York City) opening for Fleetwood Mac. It was a huge step up for me. That was the thing about Zephyr, we were a really tight band and we played with some of the great rock bands of the era. I also played on Teaser and Private Eyes. Years later The Tommy Bolin Archives released Zephyr Live At Art’s Bar & Grill, they also released some of the recordings from a group we had called Energy, a studio demo, and a live CD recorded at Tulagi in Boulder, Colorado and The Roof Top Ballroom in Sioux City, and a couple of live performances called The Energy Radio Broadcasts, Tommy Bolin & Friends Live at Ebbets Field 1974, and any number of other Archive releases. We toured with Energy before I left to play with Buddy Miles and Tommy would go onto play with The James Gang. I also played a number of shows with The Tommy Bolin Band.
Trace: What were you thoughts when he joined Deep Purple?
Bobby: I was really happy for him, I went to one of the early rehearsals on Beachwood Drive, Pirate Studios I think. It was awesome, a huge huge wall of sound, they were great! They had a different sound and feel from any of the other bands I’d heard him play with, you just knew that there wasn’t anyone else out there doing what they were. They all seemed to just gel naturally.
Trace: What Tommy songs do you rate as your favorites?
Bobby: His solos on “Golden Rainbows” and his solo on a Michael Walden tune called “Delightful” always jumps out to me as one of my favorites. His work on Spectrum with Billy Cobham I can still listen to again and again. Even after all these years that still has such a fresh sound to me, and of course Alphonse Mouzon. There are just so many of Tommy’s songs that I love. Post Toastee of course is still a favorite of the material I worked on.“Lotus” off of Teaser is another song that I’m very proud of.
Trace: Other than Tommy, who was your favorite musician in Deep Purple?
Bobby: Glenn Hughes, I really love his bass work, singing and songwriting. He can really do it all. The first time I heard “This Time Around” I was really blown away. It’s still a beautiful song.
Trace: Do you think Tommy’s work is recognized today?
Bobby: It seems like in the last several years so many people are being reawakened to Tommy’s legacy, the “Teaser” tribute guitar by Dean, the following the Archives releases has brought a ton of attention. The radio documentaries you (Trace Keane) put together, magazine articles like this one reach so many new fans and have old fans listening to recordings that they had maybe forgotten about. It all seems to be coming around again. Every year at The Tommy Bolin Music Festival I see people from around the country, and it’s really great to be apart of it.
Trace: You’ve got a great new band called Bobby Berge and The Blues Bashers, what are you guys working on now?
Bobby: We just played The Sioux Falls Jazz Festival July 17th and the performance will be released later this year on DVD for PBS TV in the US as part of the whole Jazz Fest Show.
Bobby Berge was a founding member of Energy with Tommy Bolin on guitar, and played with Tommy as the second drummer in Zephyr, on many demos and jams, and on Tommy’s albums Teaser and Private Eyes. He went on to play with Buddy Miles, Billy Ryan and Black Irish and more.