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Don’t blow your cookies

Guitar Player reprints online excerpts from an interview conducted with Tommy Bolin on October 7, 1976. It originally appeared in the March 1977 issue of the magazine.

What did you learn from playing behind Albert King?

I learned a lot about lead; learned that you don’t have to blow your cookies in the first bar.

At that time, I was playing everything I knew when I took a lead. And he said, “Man, just say it all with one note.”

He taught me that it was much harder to be simple than to be complicated during solos. If you blow your cookies in the first bar, you have nowhere to go.

Blues is really good that way. It teaches you to develop coherent solos, because the form you’re playing over is so basic. You have to develop leads that go someplace.

The neatest compliment I ever got was when I was playing with Albert King at an indoor concert in Boulder, Colorado. He used to let me take solos, and I was very into playing that day.

After the concert he came up to me and said, ” You got me today, but I’ll get you tomorrow.”

I really respect him. He’s a beautiful player.

Why all the interest in so many styles, and how did you handle them all?

They were just gigs that came up. I’d rather work than not. I was very lucky to be able to play in all those extremes.

It was difficult following a guy like Ritchie Blackmore. When someone is the focal point of a group like he was, it’s very hard to replace them. After a while, it just got to be pointless.

The way I got involved in jazz-rock was through a flute player named Jeremy Steig. He played on the second Zephyr album.

He showed me various jazz relationships and put them into a rock perspective, and then through him I met a lot of New York people like Cobham and [keyboardist] Jan Hammer.

Cobham called me for the Spectrum session, and I said, “I don’t know how to read, man.” He said it was okay.

So I went to the studio, and he handed me a chart. I told him again I didn’t again I didn’t know how to read, so we had a day of rehearsal, then cut the album in two days.

In rehearsal I’d just find out the changes – for example, Am to D9 to G6 to E13 – and play around those chords and changes.

I learned quite a bit through those people. You can’t help but learn. All the different styles I’ve played have really helped me as a guitarist and helped me develop my own way of playing.

I have my own style, but it’s different for each kind of music. There are certain little characteristic things every player has.

5 Comments to “Don’t blow your cookies”:

  1. 1
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Tommy was a very natural musician – not obsessed with styles or even technique at all. He just played.

    In a way he was the best and the worst choice to replace Ritchie. The best because he had his own signature sound and style plus was fearless (he also looked good on stage, albeit a total contrast to Ritchie), the worst because his approach to music and especially soloing was anathema to Blackmore’s. Tommy never grasped what Blackmore was about, I’m not even sure he got what Purple was about. I don’t think that was youthful arrogance, it was just too remote for him. Playing the Highway Star and Burn solos like Ritchie had done – that just wasn’t him or his approach to the guitar. Blackers is very European in how he constructs his melodies, Tommy was arch-American. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been such a bad fit for David Bowie – and in an alternative universe, via the Glenn Hughes connection, he might have ended up on Station to Station, I could have very well imagined him there.


    In essence, he left us only 10 studio albums of vastly different genres to judge him by 2x Zephyr, 2x jazz rock (Cobham & Mouzon), 2x James Gang, 2 solo albums, CTTB and the Moxy debut (recommended!) where his lead guitar is all over and a real highlight. Among those 10 albums, there is not a single bad or lackluster one.

    I wonder what he would be doing today. His tenure with Purple would be a pure footnote in his discography, I doubt whether the RRHoF would have invited him without being seriously pushed (not something the Purple organisation seems to be good at —-> Nick Simper, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Morse & Don Airey), they certainly didn’t seem to give a damn posthumously, but it would have been interesting to see what a now 71 year old Tommy would still be contributing to music.

    My favorite song of his:


    His intimate vocals, his sparse yet gentle-sweet soloing and that harmony sax towards the middle and end (02:24), courtesy of Norma Jean Bell, are simply 2die4:


  2. 2
    MacGregor says:

    I don’t think anyone ever doubted Tommy Bolin’s virtuosity on guitar & he was also a fine vocalist & composer. As you said he didn’t get DP, a bit like Trevor Rabin didn’t get Yes.
    It happens at times & I don’t mind that in a certain way, as long as it doesn’t ruin a legacy as such or tamper too much with the core value within a bands chemistry. Regarding Bolin he did come in at the wrong time & as we know Purple were wasted by that time, absolutely drained in more ways than one. The magic ingredient (chemistry) for want of a better description was gone (or what was left of it) after the Burn album & tour. CTTB is a good record as we know, however in hindsight I feel if it had come out branded as something else it may have been received even better. That was the era of bands splintering into other projects so I think it could have been ok for a new lineup, although it didn’t suit Jon Lord’s style at all. Alcohol & drugs eh, what a mess it became & Tommy Bolin himself wasted an opportunity & was a great loss as such. There were plenty of those especially back in that era. Cheers.

  3. 3
    Ivica says:

    CTTB, like Slaves & Masters (AOR DP :)), was the least classic DP, but it is far from a bad album.. many beautiful moments (Comin’ Home, Gettin Tighter “, This time around / Owed to ” G”,”You Keep On Moving”). And Strobrniger album which doesn’t sound like a Deep Purple album. Much of the material was infused with funk, soul and groove, it was not to Ritchie music taste, but .. one of his best ( my opinion) guitar solos in the funky song “Hold on” ( solo Ritchie as like Mark Knopfler before Mark Knopfler:))
    There were many concentrations of talent in all formations DP, many influences, many bands within one band.
    Tommy Bolin was such a talented, layered guitarist, it’s a bad that he left early,he still had so much to give.

  4. 4
    Rock Voorne says:

    @ 1 ”

    I doubt whether the RRHoF would have invited him without being seriously pushed (not something the Purple organisation seems to be good at —-> Nick Simper, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Morse & Don Airey), they certainly didn’t seem to give a damn posthumously, …”


    1. They could have been inducted during the TBRO year . Because DP by then, ok they had a 8 year break , because the rule is , I recall,having been around for a minimum of 25 years to be eglible.
    IMHO a weird rule but who am I?
    I also, like many others, dont appreciate/respect inducting rappers and other evidently non Rock and Rollers.

    We have this topic for a long time but it wont die because artists validate the credibility by accepting the invitation.

    I m not sure how that translated how they inducted all those other artists but I do have the feeling some are more equal than others here?

    Airey wasnt in the band before 2002, so not eglible IMHO at the time they were FINALLY inducted.
    Morse had been in DP since 94 which also makes him not eglible at the time of induction.

    I m not sure why one should induct members that played on just 1 album.

    But IMHO MK 1 and MK 3 both were worthy.

    I think I m not far from reality saying the band has its place in history because of the heydays not the reunionyears.

    That being said, although its not my real cup of tea I respect a lot what they tried to do after Blackmore and Lord left.

    Ok, thats after drinking two beers.


  5. 5
    robert says:

    Sadly, Tommy would be dead less than two months later. Incredibly talented but also incredibly self destructive. I saw him with DP at Long Beach arena. RIP TB

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