The ‘Teaser’ recordings had their beginnings on the initial forays that Tommy (Bolin) and I had made out to LA in 1973/74. Drummer Ricky Fataar had befriended Tommy through a Joe Walsh connection – Ricky had just finished a short tour playing drums with Walsh. Great! He appointed himself our personal LA musical ambassador and was, methodically, introducing Tommy and I to LA music society. He picked us up at the LA airport in his Mercedes and we were off to the races. At the time, he and Blondie Chaplin were touring and recording with the Beach Boys, but they had a break with a little time off. Interestingly enough, our Colorado connections also included one Jim Guercio, Guercio had come out to Boulder from Chicago, representing the band Chicago, as their manager/producer. He had made a lot of dough off the band and their long string of hit records, and he had recently founded Caribou Recording Studio in the mountains outside Boulder. He was also handling the Beach Boys. I was envious, Guercio was doing double-duty as the Beach Boys manager/bass player, because Chicago’s star singer/bassman, Pete Cetera, had just quit the band and gone solo. Big shoes to fill. I was starting to see the many opportunities that might arise out here in LaLa Land.

After checking into the Sunset Hyatt House, (“Riot house” as it was known then) Ricky took us over to The Beach Boys ‘Brother Studios in Santa Monica and we immediately started working on demos for a record Tommy was hoping to do sometime soon. ‘Wild Dogs’, which would later be re-recorded and included on Tommy’s first solo album ‘Teaser,’ was the first song we started running down. I remember cutting it as a three-piece, just me, Tommy, and Ricky. Carl Wilson was at the studio that day and I recall him being really laid back and unassuming. But every now and then he would stroll through the room and give us a few words of encouragement, but very shyly, and politely. I have heard various other stories and conjecture regarding who might have played or overdubbed on these early recordings of ‘Wild Dogs’ – there's mention of possibly Al Kooper adding keys, and maybe some other musicians as well adding parts. I’m sure none of this happened at Brothers’ Studio – on those first sessions it was just the three of us. Later on there may have been contributions from others.

When it came time to record ‘Teaser’ in earnest, that was later on, in 1975, after Tommy and I had both moved to LA and had both miraculously secured our new-found positions, respectively, with Deep Purple and Peter Frampton. Things had happened so fast that year that it is hard to remember it all. It went something like this: I spent the summer of '75 touring the USA and Canada with Peter, and Tommy was well established in the Deep Purple camp. I remember arriving back in LA and we started recording the first tracks at the Record Plant. This is where ‘Wild Dogs’, ‘Homeward Strut’, and the title track ‘Teaser’ were first laid down. It was a dream come true for me because Tommy had hired the great Jeff Porcaro to play drums. I was in heaven! Bobby Berge would also add drums to a track or two later on. Jeff and I ‘clicked’ – we immediately bonded. He seemed like my brother, and people were even saying that we shared a resemblance. I remember Carmine Appice was hanging around that day wanting in on the action, and Jeff and I joked about that a little bit. The rhythm section was already locked!

I’m pretty sure we nailed all 3 tracks that day. If you listen closely at the end of the take that we ended up using for ‘Teaser’ on the final cut: on the room mike you can hear Jeff clicking his sticks a little and saying: “Lets go dig it”.  The second block of sessions would move to the East Coast (‘Electric Ladyland’) sometime shortly thereafter, but we already had some great tracks in the can!

Tommy had never been shy about saying that Hendrix was one of his greatest influences. So it was only fitting that he wanted to record in Jimi’s studio in the west Village. It was a legendary room, and it’s where our hero and friend from Kansas, Mike Finnigan, a few years previously, had so impressed Hendrix that he was asked to contribute on Jimi’s recording of ‘Rainy Day, Dream Away’, and ‘Rainy Day (revisited)’, both on the ‘Electric Ladyland’ album.

The most amazing thing looking back on these dates in the late fall of 1975 is that I was already working at Electric Lady with Peter Frampton! We (the Frampton band) had just finished our first whirlwind summer/fall tour, and we had in our possession the master recordings that we had captured live at Winterland, Bill Grahams’ legendary San Francisco venue. Peter had a hired (unbeknownst to me) a remote recording truck from Wally Heider’s SF Studio and had recorded our show in its entirety. And I did not even know we were recording! When we went out to the remote truck after the show and started listening to what we had, and the first strains of ‘Somethings Happening’ literally jumped out of the speakers. Well, that recording and a few other supplemental nights of recording in other places on the tour, were, what was about to become the double live album, ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ The fact that I was there in Studio A cutting basic tracks with Tommy for ‘Teaser’, and going back and forth from Studio A to Studio B, where Peter and Eddie Kramer, and we, (the Frampton band) were choosing tracks for our new live album. So, in a crazy simultaneous fashion, I was there at Electric Lady working on the two projects, more than any other work I have ever been involved in over the years, and in my mind, have defined my career – making music with both Tommy and Peter… Great luck, and well, talk about synchronicity! 

It was definitely quite a party atmosphere there at Electric Lady, I must say. At least in my mind… But there was also work to do! Good news is FCA  was basically already done, because we weren’t one of those bands like Kiss, or other bands of the day, releasing live albums, yet overdubbing everything! Ours hardly needed alteration of any sort to ‘fix’ mistakes. There just weren’t any…  We had captured a practically flawless performance that night at Winterland. And sure, there were a few little things to fix, but hardly anything worth mentioning. Some of those other bands had to entirely re-record stuff’, and then they still called it a live album?! Ours was mostly already in the can.

However, I was much more excited to be tracking new songs for Tommy’s studio album. The caliber of musicians I was meeting there that week at Electric Lady was truly impressive – Jan Hammer, Narada Michael Walden, David Sanborn, Aierto, Michael Brecker, and the great ‘conguero’ Sammy Figueroa. I honestly cannot remember which song we started working on first, but I think it was ‘Marching Powder,’ because Narada is the first player that I recall Tommy introducing me to. Narada had just finished a couple years playing with John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra, displacing drummer Billy Cobham, who had become a star in his own right because of the legendary ‘Spectrum’ recording, which he and Tommy had worked on together back in 1973. 

The main thing I remember about tracking ‘Marching Powder’ was the fact that the song has a very demanding 15/8, odd meter solo section. Tommy and I had done sufficient pre-production playing on this one over the months, so I thought I was as ready as I would ever be to deliver a good performance. One of the best feelings in the world for any musician making a record is to finish a take, look around the room at the other musicians, feeling each other’s presence, and then to acknowledge to each other, just with eye contact, that we have probably succeeded. It was pretty amazing, I think we only ran ‘Marching Powder’ just the one time, as a rehearsal run-through, and then Dennis McKay, Tommy’s  producer, decided to roll tape. It was just Narada, Tommy and me, on the rhythm track that night (other instruments to be added later) and incredibly we got the performance we wanted on the first take. 

Narada often tells me to tell the story because he loves hearing it too. It’s not that rare, many great session players are expected to get a first take. For me as a relatively unseasoned pro it was surprising, yet so fulfilling for me to understand fully what miracles of music can happen when great players are ‘on board.’ 

The next night we were scheduled to have Narada on drums again, but for some reason he had been delayed. Jan Hammer was there to provide keyboards for the basic tracks, and when he realized that Narada was going to be late he insisted that we give him a shot at playing the drums on the rhythm track of ‘People People.’ “Let me play drums!” Jan cried out… We had no cause to be worried because Jan is an incredible drummer, and later on in the eighties, the world would find out, because Jan became musical director in charge of playing all the instruments for the TV soundtrack to ‘Miami Vice’. So again it was just three musicians on the basic track for ‘People People,’ with Jan on drums, me and Tommy. While we were initially running the tune, Dennis McKay had a great suggestion for a sliding bass part on my fretless… it was a subtle difference, but it really made the track work. I’m not sure if it was a first take, or how many takes we did, but I’m certain we got a great take by the 2nd or 3rd try. Dennis McKay is a great producer, and we all were having so much fun, just the way it’s supposed to be. And Jan’s drum performance to this day gives me chills when I listen to it. So powerful and intuitive... We were all in the ‘sweet spot’ that night. 

The following day David Sanborn added Sax to ‘People People,’ Jan overdubbed B3 and synthesizer, Aierto and Sammy Figueoa both added beautiful percussion. ‘People People’ is still to this day my favorite song to have ever worked on with Tommy. Of course ‘Marching Powder’ as well – it's an amazing song with amazing players. The West Coast half of sessions had gone great, and the NY dates were turning out to be as good or even better. Tommy was really happy, and so were we all… This album was really shaping up to be quite something. And then, it was back to Studio B, for me. I can’t believe my good fortune, doing both these great recordings, Peter’s and Tommy’s, at the exact same time, and in the exact same place.

Early version of “Dreamer” by Tommy Bolin, which appeared on Tommy's debut album, “Teaser” in 1975.

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