JOHNNIE BOLIN INTERVIEW
By Carlos Fernandez and Trace Keane
Hush: Everybody agrees that Tommy had a big talent, what do you think that he would had achieve in music?
Johnnie: I think Tommy would have continued in the vein of jazz, reggae. The Private Eyes songs were written in a period of 2-3 months. I believe he would have written more ballads in the style heard on the Tommy Bolin Archives releases of Naked I and II. I can also envision him doing more acoustic. Teaser was originally written acoustically, and I can see where he would have done more songs that way and released them in that mode. I think he would have always done a certain amount of hard rock, but jazz fusion became more popular years later and he would have for sure done much more with that. Jazz just seemed to come so natural to him that he would have always been involved in it.
Hush: What side of Tommy do you think that stands out the most: writer or player?
Johnnie: Lyrics didn’t come as fast as the playing, he collaborated with numerous other writers, Jeff Cook, John Tesar, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. He had so many songs when he came to the James Gang (from Energy) that he didn’t really write as much with them. He was always a player first and foremost, the writer came as he matured and would have no doubt grown in that area as he aged.
Hush: What do you believe is his best work?
Johnnie: To me Teaser showed his playing ability as well as his singing, the many different styles he grooved with, from “The Grind” to “Wild Dogs” to “Lotus,” every song was different. When he played with Energy, they never released an album so unless you saw them play live you didn’t get a feel for how powerful that band was. They lacked a lead vocalist, but his playing was really at it’s peak. He considered Stevie Winwood and Terry Reid, he wanted to do it but circumstances didn’t work out.
Hush: Besides Glenn Hughes, there is another Deep Purple member whom you have any kind of relationship?
Johnnie: Other than Glenn, he liked all of the members of Purple for different reasons. Jon Lord knew every song ever written. Ian Paice was the best drummer he knew. Glenn is really the only one I have heard from on a regular basis. I think as time goes on people just move on in different directions, no animosity or anything like that.
Hush: Did you know that Tommy is a musician highly respected and loved in Spain?
Johnnie: I see from the ASCAP checks the royalties and air play have always been good. Since Trace Keane has been working with Hush Magazine I’ve really been impressed with their website and the interest the fans have to this day really gives me a great feeling. We’ve been looking at previous issues of the publication and I am so pleased with the interest the fans still have after so many years. It makes the world seem like such a small place. I can’t thank the people at Hush enough, and consider them part of the Bolin Family. Would love to have you all come to Sioux City for Bolin Fest someday. We would love to have you as my guests.
Hush: Thanks to you and your family for keeping and projecting Tommy Bolin’s figure and music, the fans appreciate it very much.
Johnnie: Kind regards.
Hush: What can you tell us about all the jams that Tommy made in his life? I believe he played with Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Johnny Winter and Albert King… Can you confirm us this, and some detail about each one?
Johnnie: I know that Tommy played on the undercard of Jimi’s concerts. There are some tapes out there but I don’t know if they ever actually played. He did meet him at The Denver Pop Festival, that how I’ve heard that Barry Fey got them to open for Led Zeppelin.
Hush: Carlos was playing a show and in the final number Bobby Berge got up and played the snare drum, Tommy played guitar. Rolling Stone had quoted him as saying of one of his future albums he’d like to record a song of Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, or Tommy Bolin. Pretty good company. That was back around 1993. Energy was his back up band, so they played together at least 6-10 shows or more. My brother Pudge got a signed The Ultimate box set cover by Albert King when he went and saw him play.
Hush: What did Tommy think about the flattering comments that Blackmore did in the press?
Johnnie: The fact that Ritchie even comments about anybody, he doesn’t say much about anybody, good or bad. I’m sure he is the kind of person who means what he says. I’ve read a couple of compliments he has paid to Tommy over the years and greatly appreciate his thoughts.
Johnnie Bolin is the brother of Tommy Bolin and was drummer for the Tommy Bolin Band, DVC, Chill Factor and currently Black Oak Arkansas.