JOCK BARTLEY INTERVIEW
By Trace Keane
Trace: Tell me about the first time you remember meeting or seeing Tommy Bolin.
Jock: I lived in Boulder Colorado, was this hippie guitar player and heard about this hot shot kid who was this unbelievable guitar player from Iowa who was going to be sitting in on a show. I went to this club called The Buff Room and there was playing Ethereal Zephyr with Candy and David Givens. Tommy Bolin was sitting in with them, they hadn’t even had a practice yet, they had just met him the afternoon before. So I actually saw Tommy, Candy, and David in what would become Zephyr in his first gig. Everyone was blown away by him… myself included. You could just tell the chemistry between Candy and Tommy was really natural and really good. They played mostly blues songs, they didn’t have any songs worked out so it was more of a jam in “G”. It was really loose, no practices but it worked out really good.
Trace: Did you ever have a chance to play with Tommy?
Jock: Once or twice, I actually think I introduced myself to him that day. Back in Boulder in those days there was a place called Art’s Bar & Grill where they would have open jam sessions, I remember going out and taking my guitar and one night both Tommy and I ended up jamming together, it was great fun. He was a spectacular guitar player, very, very good and had a fairly distinctive style. Our styles were very different, but it was really great the time I got to jam with him. We knew each other all along, we respected each other, I certainly respected him as a player and a guy about town, and it was pretty cool heady days in Boulder, Colorado then.
Trace: When Tommy left Zephyr and you stepped in to replace him, was there any pressure as you assumed that role?
Jock: Yeah, there was because when Tommy joined into Zephyr, within a few months they were taken notice of a local promoter named Barry Fey, who put on a lot of shows like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. He kind of took Zephyr under his wing and helped secure a record deal with ABC Probe Records. They were one of the few bands from the Denver or Boulder area that had a deal and a record out there. When Tommy decided to leave the band, Candy and David started looking around. It was funny how it happened, my band which was called The Children opened the last gig that Zephyr did with Tommy. When The Children opened the show in Denver, Candy and David came to me and said “look, Tommy’s leaving the band, we’re looking to shake things up in Zephyr”. They ended up hiring everybody but one person. Myself, the keyboard player, the drummer, we just switched from The Children to Zephyr. But for myself there was a lot of pressure personally because Tommy had established himself, even if it was just in Colorado, as an outrageously good player. Quite a showman too. The one thing I will tell you is that from my standpoint, when I would see Zephyr play I always felt Candy and Tommy were almost competing for the spotlight. In that competition, a lot of what Zephyr was back in those days, that tension or competition came from that. Tommy was on the front of the stage and be fairly theatrical and dynamic in performance, and Candy would duel that. It was kind of a competition between them. Candy didn’t want to be outdone by Tommy so she amped up her stage presence. It was just really exciting to see them perform. When I joined the band at 21, I was a really good player, and I was really into trying to play tastefully, play the right thing at the right time to make the song better. I wasn’t much of a performer then, I hadn’t quite hit my stride. Part of performing is being confident in what you are playing. The truth is as a performer I was fairly content to stand in front of my amp where I could hear well and play with the band, and Candy was out in front doing her thing but didn’t have the lead guitar player kicking her in the ass all the time. I kind of wasn’t into that end of the show. There was pressure to perform and be more dynamic and look more dynamic. The third record of Zephyr with all the former members of The Children, we softened it up a lot, more acoustic playing. Where we actually played together and worked out parts. Before David Givens had told me it was the first time they had worked out parts, previously they just played balls to the wall. It was a different band and I did feel pressure to be a little more like Tommy. In the 5-10 years after that leading up to Firefall, I did become more dynamic and developed my own style. I learned to be more aggressive in my performance. To me the best performing in be aggressive, right brain don’t think about it and just be aggressive and perform. We were only together nine months or a year, made one record and broke up.
Trace: What do you remember about the recording of Sunset Ride?
Jock: We recorded in New York; it was my first time recording in New York. It was great fun, we had rehearsed in Boulder and I had co-written two songs that we recorded for that album. The style of music wasn’t as hard edged as the original Zephyr. It was really a great experience recording in the mornings and having the afternoons and evenings off for a 21 year old kid from Colorado, wow what great fun this is.
Trace: When I spoke with David Givens, he told me that originally you were re-naming the band The Bees, but that Warner Bros. made you keep the name Zephyr. Did they allow you to make your own decisions in the studio creatively?
Jock: Yeah they did, that was really Candy and David’s idea, they already had a record deal, and I being a painter actually painted a picture that was to be the album cover. And everybody really loved it, it had these bees and the mountains, we actually played a few shows as The Bees. When Warner Brothers got wind of the deal they said you either call yourself Zephyr or it’s no deal! We stayed Zephyr from that point on.
Trace: Were you still booking good gigs?
Jock: Gigs were far and few between when I was there, we went on one short tour, we had a Dodge Winnebago type vehicle and equipment truck. We went to Texas and Louisiana, we played a few gigs in Colorado. When Warner Bros. pulled the support it wasn’t long before Candy and David got tired of the scene and the band broke up soon afterward.
Trace: Tell me about how you came to play with Firefall.
Jock: After Zephyr, I was kind of a journeyman guitar player. I fell into Firefall by complete chance. Gramm Parsons had just quit The Flying Burrito Brothers and Chris Hillman formed the Burrito Brothers, Gramm had joined The Byrds in their Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album which was really country. When Gramm went out as a soloist he was joined by Emmy Lou Harris, I fell into it in Boulder their first gig on the way to the east coast. James Burton who had made the record with him wasn’t available as he was working with Elvis. They hired a friend of Emmy Lou’s sight unseen and flew him out to play with them, he lasted one night and he didn’t work out. Gramm, Emmy Lou and the Fallen Angels thought they might have to cancel the tour. The manager of the club was a friend of mine and told me to come to the club and I might get some playing time. The next night I sat in right next to the guy I was about to replace and they hired me. I went out the next day to Houston Texas where Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt sat in with us. For me three days ago I was in Boulder without a gig painting apartments to pay my rent and three days later I’m onstage with Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt, it was amazing! I was a good lead and rhythm player but had no experience playing country at all, so they took a vote on me the second night and I got the gig. At the end of the tour we played at Max’s Kansas City in New York, City. I met Rick Roberts who had replaced Gramm Parsons in The Burrito Brothers and had two solo records on A&M Records. We got to talking and he also lived in Boulder. After the tour ended I got a hold of Rick Roberts and he asked if I was interested in working on his next solo album on A&M, Rick was a really good songwriter and I hadn’t been writing just playing. We later met Mark Andes from Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne in Los Angeles. Rick knew Larry Burnett from Washington DC and with his voice and songwriting, we soon became a band. From the first day of practice we had thirty original songs to work with, it was like being kids in a candy store. Three weeks before our first gig, our drummer exited the band, so we got Michael Clark of the Burrito Brothers and Byrds. We had the songs, the players and knew exactly where we wanted to go. It was very magical in the early days of Firefall.
Jock replaced Tommy Bolin in Zephyr and later became lead guitarist with Firefall.