One of the few youngsters of his era whose parents completely approved of rock ‘n’ roll, Bolin’s mother taught music and his father took him, aged five, to see Elvis Presley. Although Bolin learned drums, his broad-minded mum and dad also saw to it that he had a guitar and a radio, to which he played along with the hits of The Beatles and Stones as a teen.
Bolin was single-minded: he left school at fifteen (following an altercation regarding the length of his hair) and set about making it in music. Stints with a number of bands, including Denver act Zephyr – on whose albums he added lead vocals while playing some strikingly fluent guitar – got the young Bolin noticed by The James Gang (an interim stint with jazz-rockers Energy having failed to land him a deal) and finally Deep Purple.
The British rock pioneers saw in Bolin a natural successor to the departing Ritchie Blackmore, and the Iowa axeman became a permanent fixture for the band’s final year. Despite this success, Bolin was constantly strapped for cash, rumour suggesting he was profligate with his friends and those who worked for him; just as likely is that much of his considerable income at the time was disappearing in the direction of the liquor store and his dealers.
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