Patch of Blue were formed in Sioux City, Iowa in 1966. The members were:
Dave Stokes: lead vocals
Michael Schwarte: lead vocals
Tommy Bolin: lead guitar, vocals
Brad Miller: guitar, vocals
Steve Bridenbaugh: organ, vocals
George Larvick: bass, vocals
Brad Larvick: drums
The band formed in 1966 by the remaining members of Denny and The Triumphs after George Larvick, Jr. replaced bassist Denny Foote. The band were managed by George Larvick, Sr., father of band members Brad and George, Jr. George, Sr. did the bookings and drove the bands to gigs in a van with “Patch of Blue” painted on the side.
George, Sr. was impressed with the 13-year-old Tommy’s playing. Whenever he went to pick Tommy up at the Bolin’s home to take him to rehearsal or a show he almost always found him by his phonograph with a guitar, working on learning a new tune. The whole band was very good in spite of their young ages it was a tightly run ship and show, which also help contribute to Tommy’s rapid development in terms of both playing and ease on stage.
They band played a mix of rock & roll, R&B and pop hits such as “In the Midnight Hour,” “Heat Wave” and “Got My Mojo Working.” While George, Sr. enjoyed Tommy’s playing, he has related that he would have to tell Tommy to turn down sometimes. He didn’t feel that Tommy was trying to drown everybody out, but that Tommy felt that what he was playing was good and he wanted the details to be heard.
The band is well-represented on tapes George, Sr. made in 1967 with a 2-track recorder at shows in Correctionville, Iowa and in Sioux City. In 1998 a compilation of material from the tapes were mastered by Ron Larvick and released as a 2-CD set in conjunction with the 1999 induction of Patch of Blue into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The CD’s cover photo shows the band with singer Dave Stokes and second guitarist Brad Miller, but by the time the material was recorded Stokes had been replaced by Michael Schwarte, whose name and photo are in the credits on the back cover. In addition the CD’s cover does not list Brad Miller as having played on the material, so it is possible that he had left the band before the recordings were made. Miller had left for Denver, and was later partly to credit for Tommy moving there in 1968. The cover photo discrepancies in relation to the material are appropriate given that the CD reflects all the main members of the band as inducted into the Hall of Fame, rather than specifically for the material.
The CDs show Tommy mostly as a team player laying down solid rhythm guitar with some occasional dashes of standout soloing. His tone and phrasing are not as recognizable to his later famous years as his work in Zephyr is, but it is exciting to hear him play so well at a young age. The whole band is tight and confident throughout the material. George Larvick, Jr. takes over on lead vocals for “Born in Chicago” and “Got My Mojo Working.”
In 2002 George Larvick, Jr. related that Tommy was learning very quickly during the time they were together. The first thing that Tommy mastered that went beyond standard club rock were octave chord runs as made famous by Wes Montgomery. Octave chord runs were employed later by Tommy to heat up solos in songs such as “Savannah Woman” and “Gypsy Soul.”
Bobby Berge, who later played drums with Tommy in Zephyr and Energy, as well as on Teaser and Private Eyes, said “The Rooftop Ballroom in Sioux City is where I first saw Tommy play. He was appearing with Patch Of Blue around 1966 or 1967. His solo on Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual’ really struck me. I remember thinking, ‘Hey, this kid is really good!’”
Patch of Blue continued until mid-1967 and then broke up. Tommy then played gigs with bands in Iowa and South Dakota for a short time before dropping out of high school and moving to Denver, Colorado.
Copyright ©2005 John Herdt.
Patch of Blue Live! (2-CDs released 1999 by the Larvick family for private sale)