Iowa native Tommy Bolin died on this day. If you’re not familiar with his work, don’t sweat it. I was late to him myself.
About a week after starting classes at the University of Northern Iowa, I read in the campus newspaper that they were accepting applications for the campus radio station. I wore a Smiths’ Meat Is Murder t-shirt that caught the attention of the program director. I got a shift on Sunday nights and went to the station for the inaugural introduction to all the blinking lights and how to properly cue up a record a few days before my first show.
I was thoroughly unimpressed with the station’s record collection and often brought selections from my own to assist with my shift. They had a rotating carousel of carts that contained mostly the latest college hits. There was one cart that clocked in at over nine minutes, featuring a song I had never heard before by an artist that I was equally unfamiliar with.
The song was “Post Toastee” by Tommy Bolin.
I asked one of the big shots at the station…the station “engineer” as it turned out…who Tommy Bolin was. After nearly laughing me out the door, he advised me with a heavy dose of Iowa pride that Bolin was from the state and used to play with Deep Purple. The engineer dude was well versed in classic rock, even the more obscure stuff, and maintained a regular schedule of schooling me on some of the albums that were often overlooked by some stations. I specifically remember him spending nearly a half-hour drunkenly telling me that Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous was the greatest live album ever made. I stood behind The Who’s Live At Leeds.
It was a spirited dispute.
I later learned that Bolin also did some time with James Gang after Joe Walsh left. It dawned on me that my Uncle had one of those James Gang albums with Bolin at the helm, Miami, an album that he left at my Grandparents house one summer. I listened to it and immediately recognized that it was not the Walsh-led outfit. It didn’t set well with me then and I’m curious to hear it now.
“Post Toastee” is a cautionary tale of drug use, so the irony that Bolin died the same year the song was released is not lost on me. It’s a great song, and the fact that he managed to get gigs with two very established rock bands as well as releasing two well received solo albums is testimony to the talent that was lost thirty two years ago today.
Bolin was only 25 when he passed.