"The Final Interview" with Tommy Bolin

The Final Interview
Pelo Magazine (Argentina), Winter 1977.
Translated from Spanish by "The" Jim Wilson, of The Bolin Foundation, 11/30/02

PELO INTRODUCTION: The vicious, deadly sparkle of drugs has already destroyed many. Tommy Bolin is the most recent victim. He died a few weeks ago of an overdose, at the age of 25 years.

If he wasn't the most inspired nor the best guitarist in the last few years, now- after his stint in Deep Purple and the success of his solo album 'Teaser'-a glimmer of a promising career was beginning.

What follows is the final interview that he gave, in which we clearly see some of the guidelines of a personality exaggerated and immature which, without a doubt, contributed and set him forth towards an unlucky and unexpected death.

Bolin was one of those persons who was not so much interested in the world, rather in the half that would affect him personally. His only preoccupation, his only subject, was music.

PELO: How was your childhood and adolescence?

BOLIN: Well, I was always in contact with music. I grew up within it. In my opinion, it gives you a more spacious point of view than if you lived on either of the coasts. My family were all musicians; and when I was five years old, my mother (sic*) took me to see Elvis Presley. She put me in a leather jacket and combed my hair back. Like I told you before, I was always in contact with music. That was the only thing that was important to me. School and all the other stuff passed right by me.

PELO: Do you remember your first guitar?

BOLIN: I started to play a Hawaiian guitar. Mr. Flood* taught me, but he didn't know any Elvis; he only knew Hawaiian music. I stood in front of the mirror and realized playing rock and roll. Later, I continued with Mrs. Sullivan, who had an incredible collection of guitars and was very Country & Western. She taught me to read a little bit of music. The first song that I learned was "On Top Of Old Smokey". After I learned that I went and browsed at the store where my heroes would buy musical instruments- but I didn't pick anything up. Finally, I decided to teach myself, listening to Rolling Stones' records.

PELO: What did your parents think of your hair?

BOLIN: The first time that I tinted my hair, my mother liked it. She wanted to do it as well, but I told her not to do it. She worked in a hospital and it wasn't likely that they would view her the same if she had pink and green hair. At fifteen years of age they threw me out of school. Only because of my hair. When they told me they no longer wanted me there, I asked them which of the teachers had complained. They told me that it was not a single teacher, rather my fellow students.
(Note: The 1970 Eddie Kramer copyright-protected original picture of the thumbnail on the right can be purchased from Aria Photographic Images, LLC at All rights reserved.)

PELO: What happened after they threw you out of school?

BOLIN: The only thing that interested me was playing the guitar. I went to Denver and I formed a band with whom I got a sort of contract to play at the Family Dog every weekend. One night a guy came in and asked me if I wanted to go to Cincinnati. As soon as I went there I played with Lonnie Mack. Later I went walking vagrant from one street to the other...playing here...playing there... until I entered the James Gang.

PELO: How did you feel about the success of the James Gang?

BOLIN: When I went to Los Angeles with this group, I had a lot of time to write, I had the opportunity to play in front of immense audiences and earn lots of money. But there arrived a moment that I felt that I had to leave, because to all of us something had happened. The singer wanted to do something else, the bassist wanted to be an accountant and the drummer was tired of that line of business. I united myself with other groups as well as tried to form one of my own. I felt bad, I felt without money. I earned it and spent it again and again...until I got my contract and then a little bit later the offer to work with Deep Purple came to me.

PELO: Did you know the music of Deep Purple before you joined them?

BOLIN: No, I only knew 'Smoke on The Water' and one other song. I did not like English groups, because they were very structured. But when they accepted me it gave me the attitude that when I played with them, I totally adapted to their style. When I wanted to do my own thing, I could do it without mixing the two.

PELO: What do you think of them now that they have separated?

BOLIN: There have been a lot of differences and a lot of management problems. They were always throwing blame from one to another. Actually, I'm not really friends with any of them; the only one with whom I am in contact a little is Glenn Hughes.

PELO: What did you do when you left Deep Purple?

BOLIN: I formed a group with Norma Bell, a woman who has played sax in the past with Stevie Wonder and Frank Zappa; Reggie McBride, Michael Walden and Art (sic*) Stein. The last album recorded is the best I have made in my life.

PELO: What is your second long-playing solo record?

BOLIN: It's called 'Private Eyes'. Although it did not cost me much to record it, I believe it is rather more elaborate than the first. At least it has new things. I hope that it has as much success as the previous, so I can rest a little.

PELO: How do you see the future?

BOLIN: With a lot of optimism. The only problem that I have now is finding a house. Aside from that, I can't complain; It's been going good for me all in all.


*Editors Notes: This interview appears to be a shorter re-write of the interview in CIRCUS Magazine, "Footloose and Lawless", written by Scott Cohen, which hit the stands in October, 1976. For a web-version of that article, go to the "Tommy Bolin: Shades of Purple" website at

There are a few errors evident in the original Spanish-language version (and one in the CIRCUS interview), which were retained only for the sake of accuracy to the published material. As we know, it was Tommy's father, not mother, who took him to see Elvis, and the Tommy Bolin Band included legendary keyboardist "Mark" Stein, not "Art" Stein. The "Mr. Flood", of whom Tommy speaks, is the owner of "Flood Music", which still exists in Sioux City, Iowa.

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