This page is a ‘WORK-IN-PROGRESS’ and we welcome any serious input from people who may have and want to share their knowledge on Tommy's gear. We are kicking off with a detailed guitar breakdown c/o Stefan Olesinski – we can't thank Stefan enough for his time and effort to get to this stage. Please appreciate that Stefan is working on other guitars and gear also... we will keep you posted on our Facebook page re Stefan's updates/additions &/or watch this space here!

As Stefan readily admits, this may not be 100% correct and he (and we) welcome any suggestions/corrections, it's about trying to get it right.

Also a shout out to Scott McIntosh for allowing us to share details from his www.angelfire.com site, at time of going live we haven't totally utilised it yet, so we suggest having a look at his gear page...

This page will include Tommy's amplification, picks, strings... ANYTHING gear related, we just didn't have time to even consider these items at time of going live – so again, if anyone wants to contribute, please contact us, we appreciate your help and kindness...

... or actually the ‘Stratocaster AND Strat-like guitars of Tommy Bolin’
© STEFAN OLESINSKI (July 23)

Shots of Tommy's ‘Whitey’ are rare. (Left) a screen grab from Zephyr performing at Santa Monica, 1971. (Right) Energy, date & location unknown, probably 1972.

Poor quality screen grab from low-fi Zephyr video, but the enlarged images captures Tommy playing a black pickguard maple neck Telecaster (JUST visible). A ‘POSSIBLE’ origin for the neck on ‘Whitey’ or ‘Shoe Polish’. Unsure of exact date and location, but possibly Texas 1970.


FENDER STRATOCASTER with TELECASTER style neck AKA ‘WHITEY’

SPEC:

Body:
Alder

Finish: White

Neck: Telecaster/ Esquire Maple one piece with Walnut ‘skunk strip’

Tremolo: Vintage Stratocaster with bent saddles

Pickguard: One piece white plastic

Pickups: 3 Stratocaster single coils

Controls: Volume/ 2x Tone/ selector switch

Scale length: 25.5 inches


GENERAL INFORMATION:

According to Dave Brown, Tommy’s longtime friend and tech, he and Tommy liked the feel of the Telecaster necks – (DavidEarl Brown message to Tommy Bolin Memorial Fund, 9th October 2019, “Well we both loved the feeling and the shape of a Telecaster neck...”) leading Dave to carry out some modifications for compatibility. 

In order to fit a Telecaster neck to the Stratocaster body, either the neck pocket needs wood removed to make a square pocket or the square neck needs rounding at the butt end. From Dave Brown mentioning details of the construction of his own guitar of this type and looking at pictures of Tommy's two, it seems that the neck butt was modified. (David Earl Brown, January 14th 2019  "Here's my Blackie, with the Fender custom shop strat butt tele neck...")

Apart from the same Tele style neck / Strat body coupling as the ‘Shoe Polish’ guitar, the pickups and pickguard were from elsewhere too! Basically a 1950s Esquire neck/ 1960s Strat body (due to the extra pickguard holes) and 50s pickups and pickguard. (See above Zephyr video capture which may explain where the neck came from for either this guitar or ‘Shoe Polish’).

As a fan of the works of the present owner I reached out to him via Facebook. I basically spent hours scouring the internet and sending over any found images/ videos of this guitar, even submitting shots of it in the background on a stand, in it's job as (sometime) backup. I introduced the owner to Dave Brown on Facebook, who was delighted to see ‘Whitey’ (as he named the guitar) again. Further details to come.

Was sold prior to ‘Spectrum’ due to lack of funds. I would add my own 2 cents here and hypothesise that this guitar, as opposed to ‘Shoe Polish’, was sold due to it cosmetically appearing tidier and hence able to raise more money in a sale situation. 


TIMELINE / APPEARS ON:

Appears in Zephyr video, also audible on some ‘Going Back To Colorado’ tracks and live CDs from that period, also appearing in Energy live pics and on one of the Energy Broadcasts CDs when Tommy breaks a string during the guitar solo of ‘Dreamer’. When the ‘Shoe Polish’ Tele-Strat came along it seems to have been relegated to back-up from photographic evidence.


LETTER & PHOTOS

The ‘Shoe Polish’ guitar was used extensively during Tommy's James Gang era.



FENDER STRATOCASTER with TELECASTER style neck AKA ‘SHOE POLISH’


SPEC:

Body:
Alder

Finish: Stripped to natural wood, refinished in clear over a stain/ refinished with a darker coloured translucent finish

Neck: Telecaster/ Esquire Maple one piece with Walnut ‘skunk strip’

Tremolo: Vintage Stratocaster with bent saddles

Pickguard: One piece white plastic

Pickups: 3 Stratocaster singlecoils

Controls: Volume/ 2x Tone/ selector switch

Scale length: 25.5 inches


GENERAL INFORMATION:

The wood stained and varnished Strat-Tele hybrid was known as ‘Shoe Polish’ by Dave Brown.

According to Dave Brown, Tommy’s longtime friend and tech, he and Tommy liked the feel of the Telecaster necks – (DavidEarl Brown message to Tommy Bolin Memorial Fund, 9th October 2019, “Well we both loved the feeling and the shape of a Telecaster neck...”) leading Dave to carry out some modifications for compatibility. 

In order to fit a Telecaster neck to the Stratocaster body, either the neck pocket needs wood removed to make a square pocket or the square neck needs rounding at the butt end. From Dave Brown mentioning details of the construction of his own guitar of this type and looking at pictures of Tommy's two, it seems that the neck butt was modified. (David Earl Brown, January 14th 2019  "Here's my Blackie, with the Fender custom shop strat butt tele neck...")

An anomaly was the upside down jack socket with the dished part standing proud of the front of the guitar. Van Halen also did this on a couple of his guitars, including the ‘Circles’ guitar, as in his case it stopped the tremolo arm getting jammed on and lifting up over the inserted jack plug.


TIMELINE / APPEARS ON:

This guitar was primarily used in the Energy and James Gang days (including the Don Kirshner Rock Concert) and I would guess (but unsubstatiated) for the ‘Spectrum’ sessions. In the Tommy Bolin ‘Guitar Player’ March 1977 interview it's mentioned as still being in his possession: "Ed. Note: Bolin also had two other Strats, one with a Telecaster neck".

It was not used after the aforementioned time period onstage, although it is in the background of some of the Pirate Studios Deep Purple rehearsal pictures, laid flat on the drum riser, in the role of backup. Looking at the heavy wear to the fingerboard lacquer, I would put forward that it was possibly in need of some work due to fret wear, thereby taking it out of everyday use by the later periods.




THIS USED WITH KIND PERMISSION FROM SCOTT McINTOSH – www.angelfire.com
Summer 2003
: For the first time since 1976, the Bolin family has reunited Tommy's Hiwatt sound system with his original 1974 Stratocaster! Both were last played together on Dec. 3rd, 1976 on stage at the Miami Jai Lai!

The guitar is a black 1974 (since corrected to 1972) Stratocaster that David Brown remembers was purchased from Manny's Music in NYC using advance money from Columbia Records. Tommy sanded and oiled the 3 bolt maple neck. It has the famous fat headstock, bullet trussrod, chrome pickguard, and tremlo arm.

(Left) Although there is no evident proof that Tommy played the ‘Black Strat’ on stage with Deep Purple, here it can be seen backstage at Purple's Lakeland gig. (Right) Jai Alai, 3rd December, '76, Tommy's last concert.


FENDER STRATOCASTER Black, large headstock model 1972 (also sometimes referenced as 1974) 

SPEC:

Body: Alder

Finish: Black

Neck: Maple (one piece with Walnut ‘skunk strip’ or with separate applied fingerboard?), large headstock, bullet truss rod

Pickguard: White 3 ply, later mirror (white single ply in recent years)

Tremolo: Vintage Stratocaster with cast saddles

Pickups: 3 Stratocaster singlecoils

Controls: Volume/ 2x Tone/ selector switch

Scale length: 25.5 inches



GENERAL INFORMATION:

The following is from https://www.angelfire.com/ny/bolinfan/gear.html...

“The Strat was given to guitar tech David Brown by Tommy’s family following his funeral in December, 1976, and later sold to a collector in Colorado.

The guitar is a black 1974 (AUTHOR'S correction: was 1972) Stratocaster that David Brown remembers was purchased from Manny’s Music in NYC using advance money from Columbia Records. Tommy sanded and oiled the 3 bolt maple neck. It has the famous fat headstock, bullet trussrod, chrome pickguard, and tremlo arm.”


The following is from Ernie Santella on Facebook...

https://www.facebook.com/tommybolinarchives/photos/from-ernie-santella1972-fender-strat-but-not-your-average-72-strat-this-was-the-/2983536305070578/

"1972 Fender Strat. But, not your average ’72 Strat. This was the only ‘Celebrity Owned’ guitar in my collection. It was formally (sic) owned by the guitarist Tommy Bolin (RIP). It was one of his backup guitars. I bought it here in Denver in 1987. It’s not original, but, had a complete late 1950’s Fender single-layer pickguard and pickups. It also had a sanded-down, un-finished neck. 

I am a huge Tommy Bolin fan and got to see him about 3-4 times before he passed in 1976 at the way too early age of 25.

I listed the guitar for sale around 2001. I was contacted by Tommy’s brother Johnnie Bolin and he wanted to buy the guitar back. We chatted about it and he wanted to make sure it was the ‘real deal’ and was actually Tommy’s guitar. 

So, Johnnie contacted Tommy Bolin’s old guitar tech David Brown (RIP) who happened to live in CO at the time. David came over to my house and in less than 5 seconds, knew it was Tommy’s guitar. He remembered there was one very slightly bent tuner peg from years of working with Tommy and tuning it every night. Bingo, it was there. I had a great time with David talking for hours about Tommy."

From Johnnie Bolin...

Re: pickguard assembly (please note at later shows this guitar had a mirror pickguard, so at some point this replacement pickguard was swapped out): 

This pickup assembly was initially removed from another Fender Stratocaster owned by Tommy, and installed on the black 1974 Fender Stratocaster purchased by Tommy as a backup guitar in 1974-75.

After careful examination by a astute vintage guitar collector / dealer, the pick-guard assembly itself is consistent with Fender parts from 1957 with some early 1960’s replacements as detailed below:

1. The pick-guard itself is from the 1957 era.

2. The pickups have the original windings and are from the 1957 era.

3. The knobs, switch tip, and pickup covers are from the 1957 era.

4. ‘Phonebook’ capacitor from 1957 era.

5. The pickup selector switch is late 1950’s-possibly early 1960’s.

6. The potentiometers’ are date coded to 1962.


TIMELINE/ APPEARS ON:

This guitar was used in the James Gang, not onstage with Deep Purple (although there visual evidence of it being backstage at a Deep Purple show, as per backup use) and reappeared in his solo career, still in use at the end. At some point in time, between it's use in the James Gang and when it came back into use during the solo career (last lineup), it appears to have been fitted with a chrome mirror pickguard. In recent post 1980s pictures it appears to have had a white pickguard reinstated.


Tommy seen here with his iconic ‘Sunburst '63’ at  Mile High Stadium with the Tommy Bolin Band & Radio City Music Hall with Deep Purple.


SUNBURST ‘1963’ Strat

SPEC:

Body: Alder

Finish: Sunburst: black/red/yellow

Neck: Maple one piece with Walnut ‘skunk strip’

Pickguard: White single ply

Tremolo: Vintage Stratocaster with bent saddles

Pickups: 3 Stratocaster singlecoils

Controls: Volume/ 2x Tone/ selector switch

Scale length: 25.5 inches


GENERAL INFORMATION:

Tommy always referred to this guitar as a 1963. Below are a couple of quotes from magazine features:

Guitar World November 1988 magazine: His main axe was a stock 1963 Strat.

Guitar Player March 1977 magazine: Tommy Bolin "The Stratocaster I use is a stock 1963. It's very hot, and I really don't know why. I use Ernie Ball Extra Super Slinky for the Strat, because my hands aren't very strong." 

There are anomalies with this re: standard Fender vintage specs on this particular instrument. This instrument has a 3 tone sunburst body which was introduced in 1958, so that could check out. The problem with the 1963 dating are twofold. The first being the one piece, as opposed to 3 ply pickguard, to which it was changed in 1959. The second being that the maple neck had a ‘skunk strip’ (a darker walnut fillet) up the back of the neck as per the original one piece maple necks, these necks were replaced with the rosewood fingerboard necks in 1959. If you ordered a custom maple neck from Fender in the 1960s the fingerboard was glued on, ie: no longer a one piece neck (and hence no ‘skunk strip’), this was to follow the same manufacturing processes for the rosewood necks. Hendrix had at least one of this type. 

The crux of this above paragraph is that I consider it to maybe be approximately a 1958 model (subject to a few months either side), but I could be wrong! Tommy was a player, not a vintage collector, so the possible confusion re: date is really not an issue.

As per the Tommy quote above I consider his ‘stock’ statement true. It appears to me that he preferred the maple one piece necks as per ‘Whitey’, ‘Shoe Polish’ and the ‘1972/1974’ Strats.

TIMELINE/ APPEARS ON:

This guitar was Tommy's main guitar from when he got it, his predominant live guitar, the iconic one! It first appeared in the James Gang days, was used throughout Deep Purple and for his solo career until the end.

Tommy playing the (possibly borrowed for the night) Univox Ripper alongside John Bartel at The Jet Bar.

Live at the Jet Bar 1976 Review by Greg Prato

Up to the very end of his life, guitarist Tommy Bolin continued to play at every given opportunity, as evidenced by the release of 2004's Live at the Jet Bar. Back home to visit his family for Thanksgiving in 1976, Bolin's younger brother, drummer Johnnie, was performing at a nearby bar in their hometown of Sioux City, IA, and Bolin was invited to sit in. The result was a set list of songs that have never appeared on any of Bolin's albums, including a standout track that was going to be on Bolin's next proposed studio album, the funky ‘Down in the Dungeon.’ Also included is another funk jam, ‘Mamba,’ as well as a jazzy reading of the oft-covered ‘Parchman Farm.’ Although he is joined by other guitarists throughout the set, Bolin's playing is both unmistakable and inspired... Sadly, this performance would turn out to be one of Bolin's last; he would be dead less than two weeks later.


UNIVOX RIPPER STRAT COPY

SPEC:

Body: Alder?

Finish: Natural wood

Neck: Maple with Walnut ‘skunk stripe’ (Due to lack of quality of images don’t know whether one piece neck or glued on fingerboard. Some copies have a non functional ‘skunk stripe’!) bullet truss rod

Tremolo: Vintage Stratocaster (STC type, a common 1970s offshore model) with cast saddles

Pickguard: 4 ply pickguard: white/ black/ white/ black

Pickups: 3 partially covered humbuckers

Controls: Volume/ 2x Tone/ selector switch

Scale length: 25.5 inches



TIMELINE/ APPEARS ON:

Played at the Jet Bar. Probably borrowed?

Links below to other samples of this type of guitar:

https://guitars.com/inventory/ez5696-1976-univox-ripper-stratocaster-copy 

https://reverb.com/ca/p/univox-ripper-natural 


Only known shot (that we know of so far) of Tommy with the Charvel.


CHARVEL STRAT

SPEC:

Body: Unknown ‘stripey’ exotic wood

Finish: Natural

Neck: Maple (unknown whether one piece with ‘Skunk strip’ or with applied fingerboard?), large headstock with curved Charvel logo

Pickguard: Mirror

Tremolo: Vintage Stratocaster style (can’t see whether bent or cast saddles due to image quality)

Pickups: 3 black Stratocaster style singlecoils

Controls: Volume/ 2x Tone/ selector switch

Scale length: 25.5 inches



TIMELINE/ APPEARS ON:

There is a picture of Tommy and Wayne Charvel, backstage somewhere (unknown date/ unknown location), on Wayne Charvel's Wayne Guitars site. Tommy is holding up an exotic wood Strat type with Wayne's name on the headstock.

On Wayne's site it mentions Tommy as a customer of his. Was this a guitar that ended up in Tommy's possession or was it just a tryout? Or did Wayne provide Tommy/ Dave Brown with parts or carry out any repairs?

NOTE: Stefan is still finalising this section, we will advise re changes/additions...


(Left) Zephyr, April 1970. (right) Zephyr, Denver Pop Festival, June 27–29, 1969, Mile High Stadium.


A PIECE OF HISTORY... DAVID GIVENS:

“On stage at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This was the last gig that I had my Telecaster bass and Tommy had his red Les Paul. Eddie Shepard, our road manager, lost them at the airport the next day. Both guitars were one of a kind and our sound was never quite the same. Karma, eh?”


GIBSON LES PAUL METALLIC RED REFINISH GOLD TOP 1956

SPECS:

Body: Mahogany with Maple cap. Body dated as 1956.

Neck: Mahagany with Rosewood fretboard/ 22 frets/ 24.75” scale. Renecked by Gibson in the 1960s.

Pickups: 2 x P90 

Electronics: 2 Volume controls/ 2 Tone controls/ 3 way pickup selector switch

Hardware: Tune-o-matic Bridge with Tailpiece (non original spec)

Finish: Metallic Red refinish

GENERAL INFORMATION: 

The guitar would have originally been a Gold Top, later it was refinished in a Metallic Red. I have previously read that it was a factory respray, however having seen some fairly recent pictures of the guitar in a guitar store, judging by the fact that you can see a previous wear through in the original finish that had been painted over, to me it looks like a non professional respray. (Alternatively it could have been a later touch up to an existing factory respray).

The guitar was factory renecked in the late 1960s. The replacement neck featured a Crown inlay on the headstock as per SGs and various other 1960s Gibsons, as opposed to the usual “Les Paul MODEL” script.
Les Paul Gold Top “Regulars” (pre-Standard nomenclature) were fitted with Wrapover (alternately called Stopbar) combination bridge/tailpieces between 1953-1956.

This guitar has a non stock Tune-o-matic bridge fitted with a tailpiece that is positioned closer to the bridge than the later stock Gibson Les Paul Standard’s position. I have previously seen original Wrapover style Gibson bridge/ tailpieces repurposed in the function of being used solely as a tailpiece. So as to whether this tailpiece was a new part or was the repurposed original is unknown. 

In recent pictures the tailpiece was removed, the new holes for the tailpiece were covered with metal inserts and a Wrapover bridge/tailpiece (the original Wrapover?) reinstated.

I would like to extend a thank you to Jeff McGrory, who saw this guitar on February 26th, 2022 in Killer Vintage Guitars in Dallas, and has furnished some of the spec information above and also given me permission to use his photographs of the guitar, as it is at the present, on this page.

TIMELINE/ APPEARS ON:

Was used during the Zephyr period, appearing in many images and multiple video footage.


All three shots are Tommy Bolin Band era.
‍‍

After years of tracking down Tommy's/dEB's Les Paul, Joe Bonamassa finally persuaded Dave Brown to sell it 2019/2020 (exact date not known).

(MEMORIAL FUND) AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Dave Brown spoke to me on the phone early 2019 and was deliberating re selling the guitar, but agreed that it would be in great hands and well looked after. I suggested that it would also possibly introduce Tommy's music to new fans. After a lengthy message, Dave ended with... “but it deserves to be played again, Peace out dEb”


GIBSON LES PAUL “dEb BURST”

With American flag painted on pickguard by Dave (Brown) himself.

Black tape covering over a “FUCK” sticker pre live TV appearance!

With Bigsby tremolo added by Dave.

String grounding wire from Bigsby attached to tone pot nut!

Appears on; Zephyr, Deep Purple and Tommy Bolin Band era.

Now owned by Joe Bonamssa.


Zephyr, Date & location unknown


GIBSON LES PAUL/SG STANDARD 1961

Cherry red

With infamous “sideways” vibrato, with cover removed.

2 x Gibson humbuckers.

Tommy at this time was using a Gibson SG to quote, “Get that sound”. 
https://www.mrzeros.com/blog/tommy-bolin-complete-catalog/

Appears in live Zephyr pics with Bobby Berge on drums.

Possibly a replacement for the stolen red 1950s Les Paul with P90s?


(left) Date & location unknown. (right) James Gang era


GIBSON EDS-1275 “DOUBLE TWELVE” Doubleneck 1962
(Model nomenclature breakdown: Electric Double Spanish/ 1275)

SPEC:

Body:
Hollow with a Spruce top on a Maple back and sides. 

Necks: Mahogany with Rosewood fretboards/ 24.75” scale length/ 20 frets/ Split Parallelogram inlays

Pickups: 4 x Gibson humbuckersControls: (Volume control, Tone control, pickup selector) X 2 for each neck/ master neck selection switch

Finish: (appears from photos to be) 3 Colour Sunburst: Black/ Red/ Yellow

Model history: Earlier hollowbody version (1958-1962) of the double SG style model popularised by Jimmy Page. 

GENERAL INFORMATION:

DavidEarl Brown:
“All the 335s and others were borrowed from stores and friends, and semis don’t let you get the volume of the les Paul and we had screeching and background feedback that was just unacceptable.”

TIMESCALE/ USED ON: Appearing with Tommy during the James Gang in a couple of live pics. 

According to MR Zeros’ quote below it was also used with Energy, and was owned by Joe Walsh (although I have not found any images of him playing it).

Mr Zeros: (from Energy section of page) “At this time Tommy was using a 1962 Gibson EMS-1235 Les Paul Double Neck, owned by Joe Walsh, with Hi Watt Amp Heads & Sound City Bottoms.”

Mr Zeros

MORE REFERENCE INFORMATION ON INSTRUMENT

Energy, 1972


GIBSON ES-335-12TDC 12 string

(Model nomenclature breakdown: Electric Spanish/ 335/ 12 string/ Thinline/ Dual Pickup/ Cherry)

SPEC:

Body:
Maple hollowbody with centre block

Neck: Mahogany with Rosewood fretboard/ 24.75” scale length/ 22 frets/ Mother of Pearl rectangular inlays

Pickups: 2 Gibson humbuckers.

Controls: 2 Volume controls/ 2 Tone controls/ Pickup selector switch

Finish: Cherry Red


GENERAL INFORMATION:
Was it strung as 12 string, or strung and used a 6 string? This cannot be seen from available image quality. 

DavidEarl Brown: “All the 335s and others were borrowed from stores and friends, and semis don’t let you get the volume of the les Paul and we had screeching and background feedback that was just unacceptable.”

TIMESCALE/ USED ON: Played onstage with Energy.



GIBSON LES PAUL SPECIAL
TV YELLOW 1955 – 1958


Body: Mahogany 

Neck: Mahogany with Rosewood fretboard/ 22 frets/ 24.75 “ scale

Pickups: 2 x P90 

Electronics: 2 Volume controls/ 2 Tone controls/ 3 way pickup selector switch

Hardware: Wrapover bridge/ tailpiece

Finish: TV Yellow

GENERAL COMMENTS:

Appears in the 1968 practise photos with Tommy on guitar, Johnnie on guitar and an unknown drummer (Possibly ‘Pudge’?). It looks like the photos were taken in the Bolin family’s lounge. Tommy is also pictured behind the drumkit and Johnnie is holding the Les Paul Special in another photograph.

The instrument appears to be stock apart from the removal of the black pickguard and the ‘Poker Chip’ surround of the pickup selector switch.

The TV Yellow colour reference was reputedly to do with the guitar standing out on the screen of a 1950s black and white TV set.

These were one of, along with the single pickup Junior/ TV models, Gibson’s student models of the 1950s.

Eschewing fancy carved tops, adjustable bridges etc, they were positioned at a relatively lower price point. 

In my own opinion, still outstanding quality instruments re: playability and tone. 

The version played by Tommy was the original single cutaway version. In 1958 a double cutaway version was introduced with improved upper fret access.


TIMESCALE/ USED ON:

The photos showing it’s use were dated 1968.


BONUS INFO: Due to myself not knowing the other brand/model of guitar as played by Johnnie, I went on a bit of an Internet image hunting expedition searching for budget 1950s/ 1960s guitars. Basically I was trying to find out if this other instrument was a Silvertone, as per Tommy’s 1st instrument. It was not. 

On Brad Gillis’ website (http://www.bradgillis.com/mobile1.html) I stumbled across a picture of Brad playing his 1st ever guitar: a 2 pickup Kay Vanguard II, as in a two pickup guitar. The instrument in the picture with Tommy was the single pickup version, simply known as the Kay Vanguard.



YAMAHA SX-125 CUSTOM

© Stefan Olesinski December 2023


Tommy is pictured with TWO different iterations of this guitar!

One with a Les Paul style Tune-A-Matic bridge and separate tailpiece, and one with a Strat style tremolo (this appears to be the one now in the possession of Kyoji Yamamoto, ex-Vow Wow). To all intents and purposes, according to the available images, they appear identical apart from the aforementioned bridge differences.

SPEC:

Body:
7 way laminate, woods unknown. It’s actually a through neck construction with the 2 body “wings” connected to a central integral neck part.

Finish: Natural.Neck: 5 way laminate, woods unknown. Bound neck. Ebony fingerboard. 22 frets. Unknown scale length, in combination with the 3 Stratocaster-style singlecoil pickups, possibly 25 inches.

Bridge/Tremolo: Tommy is pictured with 2 of these guitars: one with a Les Paul style Tune-A-Matic bridge and separate tailpiece, and one with a Strat style tremolo

Pickups: 3 Stratocaster-style singlecoils mounted to body in individual pickup rings. Described as being Alnico by Yamaha in catalogues. 

Controls: Volume/ Tone/ 3 way selector switch/ mini toggle (unsure of how 2 off 2 way/ 3 position toggle switches were used to select 3 pickups)

Scale length: 25.5 inches


GENERAL INFO: 
Custom built for Tommy. The spec/ combination of woods used is unlike any other Yamaha SX series guitars.

SOME BACKGROUND INFO ON JAPANESE TOUR SPONSORSHIP: 
These Yamaha instruments were played on the Deep Purple Japanese tour, probably as part of a sponsorship deal underwriting the tour. A very common scenario amongst bands in the 1970s touring Japan. Witness the likes of Kiss’ Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley having Japan only endorsements on the 1977 and 1978 Japanese Kiss tours with Greco. The guitars were maybe only played for few/ possibly only a single number during the set, in order to be able to have onstage photographs for the tour programme/ manufacturer’s catalogue. They were never pictured onstage outside of Japan.

“As mentioned in the Paul section there is no real information regarding what kind of relationship the band and its management had with Greco that ended up with Ace and Paul playing Greco guitars for some songs during the 1977 and ‘78 visits to Japan. Chances are that the entire deal was in fact something that the promotor Mr. Udo had wrangled in order to make the tour a reality. Far less likely is the story in the 1977 Music Life Special that the band had heard about Greco and actively sought out the guitars.” quoted from http://axeology.com/ACEindex.html 

Glenn Hughes also had a black and probably yellow (difficult to tell from black and white pics) sunburst Yamaha bass, that like Tommy's Yamaha guitars appears in a few Japanese live shots. However it seems that for the majority of live shots, Glenn stuck with his main Fender Precision bass. This instrument was probably linked to the same sponsorship deal as per Tommy's.

TIMELINE/ APPEARS ON:
Deep Purple Japanese Tour 1975, including the Budokan performance DVD “Phoenix Rising”, which features the one with the Les Paul style Tune-A-Matic bridge and separate tailpiece. However, various photographs show both being used onstage by Tommy at different gigs.

There is a photograph of Tommy at an interview in Los Angeles, CA 1976, with the Les Paul style Tune-A-Matic bridge and separate tailpiece model. This one made it back to the USA.

I recall reading somewhere (source not to hand) that an (unspecified) Yamaha SX-125 was left behind at a Japanese airport due to customs issues not being sorted. This ties in with it being the Strat style tremolo model. (See below for present whereabouts).

POST TOMMY OWNERSHIP/ PRESENT WHEREABOUTS:
The one with the Strat style tremolo is owned by Japanese guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto, ex-Vow Wow.


Below Photos: Yamaha SX-125 Custom with Les Paul style Tune-A-Matic bridge and separate tailpiece


Below Photos: Yamaha SX-125 Custom with Strat style tremolo.
Present owner Japanese guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto, ex-Vow Wow


Below Photos: (left) Yamaha SX-125 Custom with Strat style tremolo, present owner Japanese guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto, ex-Vow Wow. (right) Glenn Hughes backstage Japan '75 with Yamaha bass

FROM SCOTT McINTOSH | 2003


SUMMER 2003: For the first time since 1976, the Bolin family has reunited Tommy’s Hiwatt sound system with his original 1974 Stratocaster! Both were last played together on Dec 3rd, 1976 on stage at the Miami Jai Lai!

The guitar and amplifier have been in the hands of private collectors for many years. The Hiwatt rig was purchased from Tommy’s parents in 1977 by Willie Dixon. The Strat was given to guitar tech David Brown by Tommy’s family following his funeral in December, 1976, and later sold to a collector in Colorado.

The guitar is a black 1974 Stratocaster that David Brown remembers was purchased from Manny’s Music in NYC using advance money from Columbia Records. Tommy sanded and oiled the 3 bolt maple neck. It has the famous fat headstock, bullet trussrod, chrome pickguard, and tremlo arm.

The 100 watt Hiwatt amp is a DR-103, made in England in 1972. It has ENERGY stenciled in gold on top of the head. The two 4 x 12 cabinets are made by Sound City, and are equipped with 12 inch Dallas-Arbiter speakers.

DEAN GUITARS TRIBUTE TO TOMMY


Dean Guitars released two tribute Tommy guitars in 2012, the ‘TEASER’ & ‘TOMIKAZI’ models. We will be doing a breakdown of these in the next couple of months. If you are the fortunate owner of either of these, feel free to let us know your thoughts and experiences...

We wanted to have this section complete for the launch of the website, but we simply ran out of time lol, so thank you for your patience and WATCH THIS SPACE!



JOHN HERDT
Dean USA Tommy Bolin Tribute "Teaser" Guitar


The Dean USA Tommy Bolin Tribute "Teaser" guitar had a limited run of 100 and were hand made in Dean's USA shop. The guitar debuted at 2008 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim on January 17-29, 2008. I was helping with promo for the guitar on the Tommy Bolin Archives web site, and I was in contact with the guitar's designer, Nick Simmons, during its development. I attended the NAMM show and got to play the prototype. He wanted my opinion on whether to have black or white pickup covers and I thought the black looked good. I played five or six production models later and found that the neck build had changed from the prototype. The prototype's neck felt a little beefier, my hands are pretty big and the prototype fit me better. I have a rough idea of where the prototype went after the show, but I don't know if who has it knows what they have.

I'd like to take the opportunity to bring up the two people most responsible for the creation of this guitar. Nicholas Simmons designed the guitar's art and build. Nick was a fine art painter who had gallery showings and endorsed art products like brushes. He was also a trained classical guitar player but crossed over into electric and appeared on TV. He was a huge Tommy Bolin fan, for all Nick's accomplishments he was still charmed by Tommy. I included a photo of Nick that he sent me of him preparing exhibits for the NAMM show, he built the displays himself. He also had to get that famous t-shirt with Tommy's face drawn on it UNGLUED from a backboard. Somebody had glued it down and Nick artfully broke it loose and built a great frame for it. Talented AND hard working, our Nick. So he worked it out with Dean Guitars CEO Elliott Rubinson to do the tribute guitar, something really special. Elliott may have been a CEO, but he was a Tommy fan too, and a rocking bass player who toured with Michael Schenker while he was CEO. What energy he had. Both are gone now, died so young and sorely missed by many for the people they were and for how much excitement they brought to our scene.

John Herdt
September 27, 2023

Tommy Bolin Memorial Fund

The Tommy Bolin Memorial Fund was originally established by Johnnie Bolin in memory of his brother, in association with the Siouxland Community Foundation. The Ultimate mission is simple... To preserve the music, the memory and the legacy of Tommy Bolin.