Tommy Bolin Gear Page


This page will help to define Tommy Bolin history by identifying the gear he used regularly and not so regularly. Please help by sending the webmaster any comments, corrections, additions, etc. You may use the BOLIN FAN GUEST BOOK on the first page.


Summer 2003: For the first time since 1976, the Bolin family has reunited Tommy's Hiwatt sound system with his original 1974 Stratocaster! Both were last played together on Dec. 3rd, 1976 on stage at the Miami Jai Lai!

The guitar and amplifier have been in the hands of private collectors for many years. The Hiwatt rig was purchased from Tommy's parents in 1977 by Willie Dixon. The Strat was given to guitar tech David Brown by Tommy's family following his funeral in December, 1976, and later sold to a collector in Colorado.

The guitar is a black 1974 Stratocaster that David Brown remembers was purchased from Manny's Music in NYC using advance money from Columbia Records. Tommy sanded and oiled the 3 bolt maple neck. It has the famous fat headstock, bullet trussrod, chrome pickguard, and tremlo arm.

The 100 watt Hiwatt amp is a DR-103, made in England in 1972. It has ENERGY stenciled in gold on top of the head. The two 4 x 12 cabinets are made by Sound City, and are equipped with 12 inch Dallas-Arbiter speakers.

We are looking for more pictures of Tommy playing this guitar! Leave a message at the Bolin Fan Guestbook.

Jon Barry started us off with the following post in October, 1998:

Everyone knows about the two Fender Strats - the Sunburst and the wood finish one with a Telecaster neck. There's the Les Paul with Bigsby, and I've seen a live photo of the man with an Explorer, thought to be an Ibanez. A Gibson SG was used earlier on as well as a two Fender amp set up -probably Twins.

He used the Sunburst Strat and the Les Paul when I saw him. Amps with at least Deep Purple were 3 X Hiwatt 100's and six SoundCity cabs.(i suppose they were cheap! I used to have one, so I should know). An Echoplex-of course phaser/flanger (Not sure but i dont think it was MXR or Electroharmonix) used in the James gang as well.

Ernie ball super slinky strings (9's), Ernie ball pinky sliders (bottleneck).

Not sure about the Distortion pedal - I've seen reference to a 'Sam Ash' fuzz pedal-but I don't know which period he used that in. I did read an article once which went into how he used his distortion pedal wah-wah (Crybaby I presume). He also used a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet in the studio on Stratus and on the Miami album (Spanish Lover). The article I read went into the fact that he set the tone on the pedal opposite to the way he had the tone on his amp but I'm not sure whether it was the amp which was brighter or the pedal - someone probably knows the article in question - it was in guitar world or guitar player several years ago. Needless to say I decided at the time that any magazine was a luxery, so I didn't buy it!

As regards "The Barn Story" (see below) - it seems reasonable. I had an old Fuzz Face in ' 78 and got pretty close to a Bolin type sound, but I didn't realise he might of actually used one himself. Mind you there wasn't a lot of choice around any way.

The Barn Story

The following was posted by Jim Sheridan on the Bolin Board ( in September/October, 1998:

I knew it!! Ok I'll type it: this is from the alt.guitar newsgroup in 1997: "Believe it or not, Tommy Bolin used to rehearse his fusion band Energy in my dairy barn in Boulder Colorado in about 1971 or 1972. He used a Strat into a Fuzzface into an Echoplex into a Marshall 100 watt. There was also a wah pedal in there somewhere. He got a great tone. Very snappy and clean on the clean tone and ballsy as hell on the lead tone.

He made great use of the Echoplex, almost playing it like an instrument. I have a few good stoires about him, one of them involving me getting the band Energy to play at my high school prom. I think this may have been a blunder on par with the Cuban Missile debacle. They didn't play one song that anybody recognized of course and many of the songs changed tempo or were in odd time signatures. I'm surprised I wasn't expelled for that one.

Tommy is also responsible for me changing from drums to guitar and he gave me frequent short lessons after their rehearsals in the barn. Before he got into Strats, he had played a red SG into two Twin Reverbs. That was in the band Zephyr which was the cool Boulder underground rock band. Nothing on any record I've heard has done Tommy justice. The best recorded work he did for my money was the Billy CObham album "Spectrum." The Deep Purple stuff and the James Gang stuff was after he had really gone downhill from constant drug use and some of it almost sounds like someone imitating the former Tommy Bolin." The e-mail signature was "" - wonder if he's heard the Archives stuff? Jim S


INFO FROM JON (thanks Jon!):

Gibson SG, Gibson Les Paul, Strat possibly. Fender Twin amps. Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Cry Baby wah wah, Maestro Echoplex.

The Echoplex, Bolin's trademark. The metal lever on top changes the speed of the delay and when combined with increased feedback produces the repeating and oscilated effects on tracks such as 'Quadrant 4' and 'Standing in the rain'. 

Energy/James Gang:
Fender Strat, Marshall stack, Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Cry Baby wah wah, Maestro Echoplex plus a Phase pedal make unknow.

Deep Purple/Tommy Bolin Band:
Fender Strat,Gibson Les Paul with bigsby trem (apparantley Dave Brown's) Hiwatt amps, Sound City cabs, Sam Ash fuzz Box, Maestro Echoplex plus a Phase pedal make unknow.

Scott.......great page. Thanks for the "echo" on Mike D page also. Here is a bit of info that I can share for you that would go into "Tommy's Gear" category...I bought one of Tommy's Hiwatt 100 amps and two of the Sound City Cabinets in 1976 from Tommy's parents and John and Pudge in Sioux City, a long story but will tell you that later......the Hiwatt is a Custom 100 Hiwatt with Energy stenciled on the top in gold......the amp was rebuilt by a shop in New Jersey that I will also get the name of for you.......on the inside of the amp it is labeled......Property of Robert Fripp from King at one time this particular amplifier did belong to Robert Fripp as I have spoke with the gentelman that built or rebuilt this amp for Robert is basically a Hiwatt shell with different transformers, all gold solder and Hotrodded......the amp is very very very Clean.....i mean crystal clean even wide open....with not distortion at all and very very also goes thru tubes like you would not believe........they don't last long and it has a very enhanced low end........anyway I can i will send you pics and more specs etc.......I still have the amplifier and cabinets and am very proud to be the owner of them....they are in lots of pics with Tommy playing and on lots of recordings.....well great page and keep up the great work....send a line as you have time.
Willy Dixon

4/19/00: Hey, I have the Guitar Player magazine that Tommy was in. It was from 1977, and featured Charlie Daniels on the cover. The article states that his first guitar was a used silvertone with the amplifier built into the case. At the time of the interview his equipment was as follows: a stock 1963 stratocaster, 2 hiwatt tops, and 4 sound city bottoms. Ernie Ball extra super slinky strings, and Herco gold picks. A sam ash fuzztone (left on all the time with the attack/volume/tone all the way up, bass turned up on the amp).

Side bars in the article state that he also had "2 other strat's,one with a telecaster neck, an ibanez explorer for slide playing, and a $160.00 yamaha acoustic. His phase shifter was built by a roadie, and his echoplex was mounted waist high for stage access". -- jimmy s. THANKS, JIMMY!

Do YOU have any information or stories on Tommy and his gear? Leave a message on the Bolin Fan Guestbook so we can post it here. HeAr 'Em HoWL!

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