Thomas Richard Bolin (August 1, 1951 – December 4, 1976) was an American guitarist and songwriter who played with Zephyr (from 1969 to 1971), The James Gang (from 1973 to 1974), and Deep Purple (from 1975 to 1976), in addition to maintaining a notable career as a solo artist and session musician.
Tommy Bolin was born in Sioux City, Iowa, United States, and began playing with a band called The Miserlous before he was asked to join another band called Denny and The Triumphs, in 1964 at the young age of thirteen. The band included Dave Stokes on lead vocals, Brad Miller on guitar and vocals, Bolin on lead guitar, Steve Bridenbaugh on organ and vocals and finally Denny Foote on bass & Brad Larvick on drums. They played a blend of rock and roll, R&B and the pop hits of the moment, and when bassist Denny Foote left the band to be replaced by the drummer’s brother George Larvick Jr, they changed their name and became A Patch of Blue. An album was released in 1999, Patch of Blue Live! from two 1967 concerts in Correctionville, Iowa and in Sioux City. In 1999, the band was inducted in the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Bolin moved to Boulder, Colorado, in his late teens and then played in a band called American Standard (with future songwriting collaborator Jeff Cook) before joining Ethereal Zephyr, a band named after a train that ran between Denver and Chicago. When record companies became interested, the name was shortened to Zephyr. This band included Bolin on lead guitar, David Givens on bass, and Givens’ wife Candy Givens on vocals. The band had begun to do larger venues, opening for more established acts such as Led Zeppelin. Their second album, entitled Going Back to Colorado, featured a new drummer, Bobby Berge, who would pop up from time to time in musician credits in album liner notes from Bolin’s later projects.
In 1972, the 20-year old Bolin formed the fusion jazz-rock-blues band Energy. Unable to secure a record contract, the band never released an album during Bolin’s lifetime. However, several recordings have been released posthumously. Bolin briefly reunited with David and Candy Givens in a band called the 4-Nikators, after which he took nearly a year off from music. During this time, he wrote close to a hundred songs.