Bobby Berge BiographyMy times with Tommy Bolin, Buddy Miles, Billy Ryan and more.
BOBBY’S EARLY YEARS WITH TOMMY BOLIN
I first met Tommy in Sioux City, Iowa, around 1965-66. He was with Patch of Blue and I was with the Velairs, a club band in Sioux City. I started jamming Hendrix and Cream songs on the side with Tommy and local friends. We played a little together in the Chatteaux out of Vermillion in 1967. Tommy moved to Colorado and helped form Zephyr in 1968.
In the spring of 1970 I got a call from Tommy in Boulder, and he said he wanted me to come out and audition with Zephyr. I had been listening to their first album, and absolutely loved Tommy’s playing and the sound of the group. After flying out and hitting it off with the group with an initial audition, I immediately moved out to Boulder. Playing with Zephyr for the next year or so was an extremely exciting experience. Boulder was a thriving musical Mecca at the time, and we would play in and around Boulder at small outdoor mini-Woodstock types of concerts. One was with Terry Reid at Hancock Park in the foothills close to Boulder. We played in Denver at Mammoth Gardens along with Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. For a good year we flew to many major cities and played at huge concerts on the same bill as musical greats like Stevie Winwood, Mountain, Fleetwood Mac, the Kinks, and Iggy Pop to name a few. Then in the fall of 1970, what a treat it was to play drums on the second Zephyr album Going Back to Colorado at Electric Lady Studios in NYC with the great Eddie Kramer as engineer. This was my first major experience playing with Tommy Bolin and it was fantastic to say the least.
Energy was 1971-73 and part of 1974. I moved to L.A. on January 1, 1975, to play in the first Tommy Bolin Band, which never got off the ground. I met Jimmy Haslip in 1976 thru a guitarist, Phil Brown. The three of us did an audition for some Columbia people. We did Phil’s stuff, which was a fusion of rock and funk. Nothing happened off it, though.
I was asked recently if I did play on “The Grind” on the Teaser album. I did play on that track, but somehow the record company got the info wrong on the cover.
Tommy was always outgoing, upbeat, friendly, and extremely funny! He was so much fun for a drummer to play with. I loved to play off him and copy his lightning fast riffs as we jammed. I learned a lot about weird time signatures from him. I miss those hippie days, and miss Tommy and playing with one of the greatest.
BILLY RYAN AND BLACK IRISH
Black Irish was Billy Ryan on guitar, his best buddy Jim Ayers on keys, and Bunny Brooks on bass, lead vocals and writing. Bunny was a great player and an awesome singer. Bunny did most of the lead singing. Billy was very demanding and used to work us to death rehearsing all the time till like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. No wonder we were tight though. I also worked on the songs “Generic” and “Jokers Eye” on Billy’s album released in 1988. Man, Black Irish did a kick-ass version of Tommy’s “Crazed Fandango” (see Bobby’s Music page)! What a gas!
BOBBY’S TIME WITH BUDDY MILES
Buddy’s a very talented, soulful man. During 1975-76 I actually did more work with him than with Tommy. I was switching back and forth with projects, mainly recording. I did the More Miles Per Gallon album with Buddy in 1975, and Bicentennial — A Gathering Of The Tribes in 1976. When we played live Buddy would play drums for a few tunes, than I’d hop on the skins and Buddy would go out front and sing. We had a five piece horn section, a funky bass player, and keyboards. It was pretty wild playing with both artists during that period (1975-76). I’ll put up some Buddy stuff some time, kind of a disco feel but very funky!