Hi Scott,

Happy New Year! I'm sorry it's taken me an inchworm's lifetime to get back to you with these articles. Holiday madness kept me busy, then I had to go back and make edits to my original copy so they would read as they appeared in Guit ar mag. Anyhow, feel free to add them to your site.

Hope all is going well with you. Your Web site is great; you obviously put a lot of time into it, and I know a lot of people appreciate the frequent updates. Keep up the good work!

Take care,
Laura (1/14/00)

Guitar magazine, September 1999

Tommy Bolin and Friends
Live at Ebbets Field, June 3 &4, 1974

The remastered CD of Bolin's performance at a Denver club is the best live documentation of this oft-overlooked guitarist. Recorded after he took over for Joe Walsh in the James Gang and before he replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple, the disc features Bolin backed by members of his former group, Energy, a band that played everything from hard rock and blues to jazz rock fusion.

With shades of Santana, Bolin sizzles with his emotive, fluid fretwork on the opener, John McLaughlin's "You Know, You Know." He makes his guitar sing, then scorch using his phase shifter on "San Francisco River." The fusion instrumentals typify Bolin's reckless abandon; blues standards "Born Under a Bad Sign," and bonus track "Whiskey Headed Woman" swing with vitality. Live at Ebbets Field is a shining example of Bolin captured on tape at the white-hot peak of his playing, just two years before his untimely death.

Guitar magazine, June 1999 (Excerpt of the piece written for Guitar World)

"As a guitar player, he was fast, yet brilliantly clean," says Chuck Morris, now an artist manager and a promoter who booked Bolin's early band, Zephyr, into Boulder, CO clubs. "Usually some of these fast guys are sloppy, but his hands could move brilliantly, and each note was pure. And he showed tremendous emotion. He could cry on that guitar."

Bolin left Zephyr amidst power struggles, and soon joined a group called Energy, with Jeff Cook on vocals and Bobby Berge from Zephyr on drums. Although they never scored a record deal, Energy was by all accounts Bolin's ideal band.

Energy's audience consisted mostly of guitar aficionados who gaped at Bolin's incredible blues virtuosity. Even though the band earned the respect of fellow musicians, it never gained mass appeal. Energy's unorthodox music, and the bandmembers' multicolored hair, made Energy bizarre even by Boulder's progressive standards.

And Bolin was loud. Armed with a '60 Les Paul or a Gibson SG Standard, he played through a 200-watt Marshall Major and Electro-Voice SROs with Marshall cabinets. Bolin's longtime guitar technician, David Earl Brown, remembers, "We played in Sioux City once, upstairs in a place and we actually had a half dozen people come out and complain that they were too close to Tommy and they were getting stomach aches. They were getting nauseous and couldn't take it anymore. He wanted to put notches on the amp like you'd put notches on a gun handle for killing people in the Old West."

Bolin was afforded a most serendipitous opportunity from his brief stint in Energy. Included in the band's lineup was flautist Jeremy Steig, who encouraged Bolin to check out the New York jazz fusion scene. Through Steig, Bolin met drummer Billy Cobham, a veteran of Miles Davis' band and Mahavishnu Orchestra, who tapped Bolin to play on his first solo outing.

The result, Spectrum, was phenomenal. Bolin's guitar took on Jan Hammer's synth; the two traded daredevil licks and pushed one another to frenzied heights. Although Bolin could not read music, he worked well with the seasoned musicians in Electric Lady Studios and was confident enough to push the fusion envelope into experimental domains. Mercurial and melodious hard rock guitar gymnastics blended with loosely structured jazz passages. And other musicians took note.

Jeff Beck was an early admirer of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and at the time of Spectrum's release, he was already planning a shift towards jazz fusion. While shuffling throughout Britain on tour with Beck, Bogert, and Appice in January of 1974, Beck kept Spectrum on the car stereo.

Narada Michael Walden relates Spectrum's impact on the fusion world. "It was the birth of Billy Cobham laying down the fuckin' backbeat, with what he knows to be the black funk and letting a cat like Bolin go crazy on top of it. It changed everybody."

The interaction between drums and blistering guitar on Spectrum set the stage for a generation of guitar heroes, from Eddie Van Halen to Joe Satriani. It also paved the way for Bolin's superb playing on jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon's Mind Transplant album the following year.

By this time, Bolin had switched to a Strat. He did so, says Brown, "because Jimi Hendrix was playing a Strat." His axe of choice was a '63 sunburst, but he also owned three others, switching a Telecaster neck between them. He played through Hiwatt tops and Sound City bottoms, using four or six onstage.

From relative obscurity in Energy, Bolin accepted a high-profile offer to join the James Gang. At pal Joe Walsh's recommendation, he took over for Domenic Troiano, who had replaced Walsh in the mainstream rock band known for the hits "Walk Away" and "Funk #49."

On Bang, and its successor, Miami, Bolin exhibited his songwriting skills and ability to play straight-ahead rock. He also showed how, like Hendrix, he could create a range of unearthly effects, using his Echoplex, Sam Ash "Fuzz Boxx," and MXR phase shifter. "He played the Echoplex like an instrument, and that was really the only effect he needed," Energy bassist Stanley Sheldon says. "All his other fantastic tone was from the huge amount of power he had, as Stevie Ray Vaughn and Hendrix did. They had this massive power and they controlled it exquisitely."