That they are still roaring and soaring should be no surprise. That’s just how they are built. TESLA may have been born in the mid 80s eruption of leather, spandex, and big hair, but this band has never been about those things. Hardly. Their bluesy, soulful sound is strongly embedded in the roots of organic, authentic, 1970s rock and roll. The same roots that produced bands like The Allman Brothers, Grand Funk Railroad, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Aerosmith.
The ground started shaking up in Sacramento, CA, in 1984; gold country that would soon be producing some platinum. They started out as City Kidd, until someone suggested they change their name in honor of eccentric inventor Nikola TESLA, who pioneered all things electrical – and who, like any revolutionary rock and roll band, made magic working with the basic forces of nature.
A blizzard of industry showcase gigs and TESLA quickly scored a deal with Geffen. Their 1986 debut album, Mechanical Resonance, would eventually go platinum, nestled comfortably in the Top 40, and produce the iconic hard rock hits, “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Little Suzi.” Today, Mechanical Resonance lives on as one of the most successful and acclaimed debuts of the era.
But it was the follow up that truly pushed things over the edge and started to solidify the legacy of the band.
1989’s The Great Radio Controversy brought in many new legions of fans, thanks to a potent one-two sonic punch. The first single, “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” scored huge with hard rock audiences, while the poignant ballad, “Love Song,” provided a softer counterpoint. This helped push the album into the Top 20 and double-platinum sales figures. All of a sudden, TESLA, who cut their teeth opening some of the biggest tours of the 80s from Def Leppard to David Lee Roth, had earned full headlining status, and the brakes were off.
In 1990, TESLA helped reshape the face of modern hard rock music by stripping down to the Five Man Acoustical Jam, a loose, informal collection of their biggest hits peppered with rock and roll classics by the Beatles, Stones, and others. Not only did the format reveal just how sturdy and rock solid the band’s catalog was, it also inspired every major band after them to perform similar acoustic, storytelling shows, going back to the basics. TESLA’s daring experiment also produced their biggest hit single, a cover of Five Man Electrical Band’s “Signs.”
Another platinum album, Psychotic Supper, was released in 1991 and as the early 90s gave way to Seattle’s grunge wave, TESLA, unlike many other bands of their era, managed to keep pushing forward thanks to loyal fans and their ever-present unpretentious approach to craft. After a worldwide arena tour as headliners, they released Bust a Nut in 1994. Then, internal band conflicts shut everything down until 2000.
After a four year break, they exploded back onto the scene with a sold out hometown show at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. TESLA was back, on their own terms. They started their own label and released their own music. The fans had never gone away, and TESLA was still selling hundreds of thousands of albums. Only now, they were in full command of their own destiny, in all its rugged, ragged glory. For the last 18 years, they have continued to release new original music, live sets, and more. They are as productive as they have ever been.
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of one of TESLA’s most iconic albums, Five Man Acoustical Jam. The upcoming 2020 tour will feature performances of the most seminal tracks from this ground-breaking acoustic record. TESLA also visited the legendary London recording studio Abbey Road in June 2019 where they performed, recorded, and filmed a semi-acoustic set that will become their next live album, Five Man London Jam. The new record honors songs from the original live album combined with the wealth of hit songs they’ve crafted over their 30-year legacy.
TESLA has endured many of the same taste-changing challenges that affected many in the post-grunge world, but through it all, their blue-collar work ethic and dedication to the faithful fan base has helped them not just survive, but thrive.
“That’s TESLA? I know that song. I love that song.” You hear it every day.
Younger audiences follow the band because they know the music is real. Older audiences love that a band styled on the classic 1970s model can still kick ass all over the world. TESLA is a band for the ages. All ages.
They were never a flavor of the month. TESLA’s legacy is alive and well as they continue to record and sellout venues all over the world. As comfortable, rugged, and dependable as your favorite pair of boots, they endure. TESLA is a celebration of the greatest spirits of rock and roll.