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Tommy Bolin

Background information
Born August 1, 1951(1951-08-01)
Sioux City, Iowa, U.S.
Died December 4, 1976 (aged 25)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Genres Hard rock, blues-rock, funk rock, jazz fusion
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals, bass, drums, piano
Years active 1966 - 1976
Associated acts Zephyr, James Gang, Deep Purple
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul
Ibanez Destroyer

Thomas Richard "Tommy" Bolin (August 1, 1951, Sioux City, Iowa - December 4, 1976) was an American-born guitarist who played with Zephyr (from 1969 to 1971), The James Gang (from 1973 through 1974), Deep Purple (from 1975 to 1976), and his solo work. He died of a drug overdose in 1976.[1]


Musical career

Tommy Bolin began playing in bands around Sioux City as a youth before moving to Boulder, Colorado, in his late teens. He had played in a band called American Standard before joining Ethereal Zephyr, a band named after a train that ran between Denver and Chicago. When record companies became interested, the name was shortened to Zephyr. This band included Bolin on guitar, David Givens on bass, and Givens' wife Candie Givens on vocals. The band had begun to do larger venues, opening for more established acts such as Led Zeppelin. Their second album, entitled Going Back to Colorado, featured a new drummer, Bobby Berge, who would pop up from time to time in musician credits in album liner notes from Bolin's later projects.

In 1972 Bolin, at the age of 20, formed the fusion jazz-rock-blues band Energy. While the band never released an album during Bolin's lifetime, several recordings have been released posthumously. He also played on Billy Cobham's Spectrum album, which included Bolin on guitar, Billy Cobham of Mahavishnu Orchestra on drums, Leland Sklar on bass and Jan Hammer (also of Mahavishnu Orchestra) on keyboards and synthesizers.

1973 found him as Domenic Troiano's replacement, who had replaced Joe Walsh, in the James Gang. He had two records with this band: Bang! in 1973 and Miami in 1974.

After the Miami tour, Bolin wanted out of the James Gang. He went on to do session work for numerous rock bands and also with a number of jazz artists including Mouzon's album Mind Transplant. He also toured with Carmine Appice and The Good Rats.

Bolin signed with Nemperor records to record a solo album. Bolin decided to do his own vocals on this album as well. Session players on this record included David Foster, David Sanborn, Jan Hammer, Stanley Sheldon, Phil Collins and Glenn Hughes. During the recording of this album, he was contacted to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple.

In the start of 1975 Bolin contributed some studio guitar assistance to Canadian band Moxy during the recording of their debut album. Later in 1975 saw the release of Bolin's first solo record, Teaser, on the Nemperor label, and Deep Purple's Come Taste the Band on the Purple label. The Deep Purple world tour that followed in 1975 and 1976 allowed Bolin to showcase one song per night from Teaser.

In 2001, This Time Around: Live in Tokyo 1975 was released.

After Deep Purple disbanded in March, 1976, Bolin was back on the road with his solo band and planning a second solo record. The band had a rotating cast of players which included Norma Jean Bell on saxophone and eventually Bolin's younger brother Johnnie Bolin on drums.

CBS signed Bolin. In 1976 he began to record Private Eyes, his second solo record.


Bolin's tour for Private Eyes was his last. In his last concert dates, he opened for Peter Frampton and Jeff Beck. However, his final show, in which he opened for Jeff Beck on December 3, 1976, encored with a rendition of "Post Toastee." He also posed for a photo with Jeff Beck after the show.

Bolin died of a drug overdose on December 4, 1976.[2]

In 1999, Glenn Hughes (of Trapeze and formerly of Deep Purple), did a 4-5 city tribute tour in Texas. Bolin's brother Johnnie (of Black Oak Arkansas) played drums, Rocky Athas and Craig Erickson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) played guitar as they performed a host of Bolin's songs.

Discography (with others)


  • Zephyr (1969)
  • Going Back to Colorado (1971)
  • Live at Art's Bar and Grill (1996)


  • The Energy Radio Broadcasts 1972 (1998)
  • Energy (1972) (1999)
  • Tommy Bolin & Energy, Live in Boulder / Sioux City 1972 (2003)

James Gang:

Billy Cobham:

  • Spectrum (1973)
  • Rudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthology (2004)
  • Love Child. The Spectrum Sessions (2002)

Alphonse Mouzon:

  • Mind Transplant (1975)
  • Tommy Bolin & Alphonse Mouzon Fusion Jam (Rehearsals 1974) (1999)


Deep Purple:

  • Come Taste the Band (1975)
  • Last Concert in Japan (1977/1978)
  • King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: Deep Purple in Concert (1995)
  • On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat - Live in California '76 (1995)
  • Days May Come and Days May Go (The California Rehearsals Volume 1) (2000)
  • 1420 Beachwood Drive (The California Rehearsals Volume 2) (2000)
  • Deep Purple: Extended Versions (2000)
  • This Time Around: Live in Tokyo (2001)

Solo discography


  • Teaser (1975)
  • Private Eyes (1976)
  • From the Archives, Vol. 1 (1996)
  • The Bottom Shelf (1997)
  • From the Archives, Vol. 2 (1998)
  • Energy (1999)
  • Snapshot (1999)
  • Naked (2000)
  • Naked II (2002)
  • After Hours: The Glen Holly Jams - Volume 1 (2004)
  • Whips and Roses (2006)
  • Whips and Roses II (2006)


  • Live at Ebbets Field 1974 (1997)
  • Live at Ebbets Field 1976 (1997)
  • Live at Northern Lights Recording Studio (1997)
  • The Energy Radio Broadcasts (1998)
  • First Time Live (2000)
  • Live 9/19/76 (2001)
  • Live in Miami at Jai Alai: The Final Show (2002)
  • Alive on Long Island (2003)
  • Tommy Bolin and Energy Live (2003)
  • Albany 9/20/76 (2004)
  • Live at the Jet Bar (2004)


  • The Ultimate: The Best of Tommy Bolin (1989)
  • Come Taste the Man (1999)
  • The Ultimate Redux (2008)


  1. ^ The new Rolling Stone album guide By Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard. p. 420.
  2. ^ The great rock discography By Martin Charles Strong.

External links

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