by Ken Bowe and Mark Bateman


I first heard of Tommy Bolin on a local Long Island Radio station, WLIR 94.3. They played the James Gang Bang songs “Got No Time for Trouble” and “Ride the Wind,” and I was hooked on him and his music for good. Like many stations WLIR no longer plays rock, which is in my opinion why iPods are popular!!! I was lucky enough to catch him with that band at a Central Park concert probably in the summer of 1973, but had no camera with me! I also caught him with Deep Purple, but can’t remember when or where — I’ve been to many, many concerts over the past 30-35 years.

A few years later Paul and Mark Bateman were good friends of mine (and years later became my brother-in-laws) who came with me to see the Tommy Bolin Band at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, Long Island, NY. It was a great little place to see bands up close and personal — a place where they served food and drinks and had a pretty decent sound system. As far as we can remember (over 30 years ago!!!). it was just the three of us to see him with a full house of other fans. I was into taking quality photos at the time with my Minolta SLR camera, and unlike today neither the band nor the club had any problems with fans taking photos. You will notice in the photos that Tommy and Narada Michael Walden had different clothing on in different shots — we are pretty certain that we only attended one show that night — so they probably took a break and changed clothes. We also think there was no other act playing that night, so it is possible they did break. The show was fantastic, which is evident when you hear the recorded show released on the Tommy Bolin Archives CD release in 2003 (and boy were we happy to see that become available!). Teaser happens to be one of my favorite Bolin albums so, having him do much of the material live was a great experience for me personally.

A few months (September 1976) later the Tommy Bolin Band returned to My Father’s Place, but this time with a different line up which included Tommy’s brother Johnnie on drums. We also came with a different line up — bringing with us this time Paul and Mark’s brother Jamie, my brother Tommy and another 4-5 friends. I am guessing I took fewer photos this time around because we probably didn’t have as good a seat as we did back in May, and it was more a party atmosphere with more of our friends with us (and I probably had a few more drinks this time around!!??!!). We were lucky that night — the management invited us to stay for the second show that night — it wasn’t quite sold out (maybe because of the different line up) and because we were clearly huge fans cheering Tommy and the band on.


I remember the first show (May 22, 1976) we saw had Michael Walden on drums and Norma Jean Bell on Sax and Mark Stein on keyboards. I remember being absolutely blown away by Tommy’s virtuosity on the guitar. I was especially impressed with how fast he could play and that he was able to pick every note with his right hand during lightning fast riffs. His use of the Echoplex also blew me away. As he had done on recordings, he was able to use the Echoplex on stage and manipulate it in such a way that, in my opinion, he practically created a separate instrument. Combine his playing ability with his singing, songwriting and stage presence and you had one hell of a show. I was so impressed with his playing (and the Echoplex) that, from my $70/week movie usher job, I saved up enough to buy my own Echoplex for about $300. I spent hours trying to imitate TB’s techniques — of course I never really came close to what the master had done.

One little thing that stuck with me was when Tommy was playing “The Grind” and he was really working hard, running up and down the neck of the guitar, picking every note, he was yelling to the audience (in an effort to get more reaction from them), “I’m playing for you, play for me?”

Of the second show we went to in September, I remember that it was a different line up in the band. I only recall that Tommy’s brother was on drums. I don’t remember the other players. This show was excellent too. If I remember correctly, Tommy had added another guitar to his arsenal at that time, an Ibanez Destroyer. I was thrilled by this because my brother, Jamie, had the same exact guitar. It gave me another opportunity to try and capture Tommy’s sound myself… if only!

As many know, one of the shows was recorded and later played on the radio on WLIR, a great station that gave Tommy a good deal of airplay. I remember my brother Paul shouting out a request and then hearing him on the radio a week later when WLIR played the show.