JAM Magazine Main Features

Tesla - Rocklahoma 2008 - July 9-13

Formed Out of the Remnants

Tesla was formed out of the remnants of City Kidd in 1984. This Sacramento based band was later renamed after the renown scientist during the recording of their first album, 1986’s Mechanical Resonance, on the advice of their manager. The band derived their name, certain album and song titles, and some song content from events relating to Nikola Tesla, a Serbian inventor and electrical engineer born on the border of Serbia and Croatia in the 19th century. The band’s original line-up consisted of vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch (replaced by Dave Rude), bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta.

Tesla’s music is often referred to as heavy metal, but is better described as hard rock with a bluesy feel. The band’s lyrics also strayed from the themes popular in heavy metal, particularly at the beginning of their career. A further distinction from their big hair, leather pants and flashy-make up counterparts was the T-shirt-and-jeans image the band portrayed on stage. Tesla resented the labeling because their music centered around guitars and drums. Occasionally Hannon or Wheat would sit behind the piano or organ.

It was three years before the band released their second album, The Great Radio Controversy. The album helped solidify the band’s growing reputation and fan base, propelled by the hit, “Love Song”. In 1990, Tesla released Five Man Acoustical Jam, a live album featuring acoustic renditions of hits such as “Comin’ Atcha Live,” “Gettin’ Better,” “Modern Day Cowboy,” and “Love Song”. The album also featured a number of cover tunes, most notably a version of “Signs”, the monster ‘70s hit song by the Five Man Electrical Band.

In 1991 the band released their third studio album Psychotic Supper. The band themselves consider this to be their best album according to their official Web site. The 1998 Japanese reissue import of Psychotic Supper contains three previously unreleased songs, including “Rock the Nation”, “I Ain’t Superstitious” and “Run, Run, Run.” In 1994 the band released their fourth studio album Bust a Nut. The 1998 Japanese reissue import of Bust a Nut contains the previously unreleased cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.”

After 1994’s Bust a Nut, the band took a hiatus to support Skeoch during his struggle with substance abuse. However, it wasn’t long before the troubled guitarist briefly joined up with solo artist Marshall Coleman’s band to support his career, only to see a departure of Marshall soon after. This band eventually morphed to include vocalist Jeff Keith and resurfaced as Bar 7 with a single “Four Leaf Clover,” from the album The World Is a Freak. Bassist Brian Wheat formed Soul Motor and Frank Hannon had Moon Dog Mane. Drummer Troy Luccketta worked with several local artists.

After six-year break, Tesla reformed in 2000 and recorded the double-live album Replugged Live. In 2002 they were featured in the Rock Never Stops Tour alongside other ‘80s rock bands. Also that year saw the rel The band’s fifth studio effort, the 2004 Into the Now, debuted on the Billboard Top 200 charts at No. 30. In the summer of 2006, the band embarked on the Electric Summer Jam tour. The following statement appeared on their web page: “We would like you to join us in welcoming guitarist Dave Rude, who will be hitting the road with us for the 2006 Electric Summer Jam tour as Tommy Skeoch will not be performing with us. Please also join us in congratulating Tommy and his wife on the birth of their new baby boy. We wish the whole family the best.”

An article in the Desert Morning News (June 16, 2006), that featured an interview with Wheat, clarified the situation: “This tour is also a chance to introduce the newest member of the band, guitarist Dave Rude, who replaces Tommy Skeoch. The guitarist has been in and out of Tesla since 1994, addressing substance-abuse problems. ‘But with a new baby at home, this time Tommy’s departure is full-time. He just wanted to spend more time with his family after all these years on the road. It’s hard. He’ll always be a part of Tesla history.”