Tesla is an American hair metal band formed in Sacramento, California in late 1981 by bassist Brian Wheat and guitarist Frank Hannon. The band is ranked at No. 22 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hair Metal, and have been described as a “thinking man’s hair metal band” .
Lead vocalist Jeff Keith and drummer Troy Luccketta had joined them by 1984. They are the longest serving members and have appeared on all band’s releases. In 1996, the band disbanded, with members devoting themselves to solo projects. In 2000, they reformed, but Tommy Skeoch departed the band in 2006 and was replaced by Dave Rude. They have sold 14 million albums in the United States.
Formation and Mechanical Resonance (1981–1988)
The band City Kidd was renamed Tesla during the recording of their first album, 1986’s Mechanical Resonance, on the advice of their manager that City Kidd was not a great name (in addition, there was already another band going by that name). The band derived their name, certain album and song titles, and some song content from events relating to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. Along with the band’s next two studio albums, Mechanical Resonance was produced by Michael Barbiero and Steve Thompson.
The band’s original lineup consisted of lead vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, bassist Brian Wheat, and drummer Robert Contreras, who was soon replaced by ex-Eric Martin Band drummer Troy Luccketta.
In the early days of their career, Tesla toured with David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, and Poison, which resulted in the band being categorized as a glam metal band. The band’s members resented this labelling. The band, according to Troy Luccketta, now doesn’t mind being called a part of that scene.
The band released Mechanical Resonance LIVE on August 26, 2016, featuring live versions of every song from the original album, including a bonus track, “Save That Goodness,” produced by Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen.
The Great Radio Controversy and Psychotic Supper (1989–1993)
The band released their second album, The Great Radio Controversy, in 1989. The album helped solidify the band’s growing reputation and fan base, and produced five hit singles, including the power ballad “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 covers most notably a version of “Signs“, a 1971 hit by the Five Man Electrical Band.
In 1991 the band released their third studio album Psychotic Supper. The band itself considers this to be their best album according to their official web site. The 1998 Japanese reissue import of Psychotic Supper contains one previously unreleased song, “Rock the Nation”, as well as the songs “I Ain’t Superstitious”, and “Run Run Run”, both of which had only been previously available as b-sides to two singles from The Great Radio Controversy.
Bust a Nut and hiatus (1994–1996)
After the release of Bust a Nut, Skeoch departed because of his struggle with substance abuse. He rejoined after completing rehab, only to depart again months later. The band moved forward as a four-piece for a short while. However, it wasn’t long before Skeoch briefly joined up with solo artist Marshall Coleman’s band to support his solo career, only to see a departure of Marshall soon after. This band eventually morphed to include Jeff Keith and resurfaced as Bar 7 with a single “Four Leaf Clover”, from the album The World Is a Freak. Brian Wheat formed Soulmotor and Frank Hannon formed Moon Dog Mane, while Troy Luccketta worked with several local artists including the Bay Area’s One Thin Dime.
Reunion, Into the Now and Real to Reel (2000–2007)
After a break of six years, the Sacramento Bee reported that the band had reformed in 2000 with the help of local radio personality Pat Martin of KRXQ. The band played an emotional sold-out show at ARCO Arena in Sacramento on October 25, 2000. Soon after they recorded the double live album Replugged Live. In 2002 they were featured in the Rock Never Stops Tour alongside other 1980s rock bands.
2002 saw the release of a further live album Standing Room Only which is just a single CD version of Replugged Live.
In 2004 they released their fifth studio album Into the Now which debuted on the Billboard album chart at number 30. The album was well received by fans and the band was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
In the summer of 2006, the band embarked on the Electric Summer Jam Tour without guitarist Tommy Skeoch. Skeoch had left the band indefinitely to spend time with his family, and, as he later revealed on “The Classic Metal Show”, other reasons; particularly his continuing problems with substance abuse. Scott Johnson of the Sacramento band Rogue filled in for a time on this tour. Eventually Dave Rude replaced Skeoch permanently.
Tesla recorded a two-volume collection of cover songs titled Real to Reel, which was released on June 5, 2007. The recording is available as a 2-CD set. The first CD (containing 13 songs) is sold in a case with a blank slot for the second CD. The second CD (containing 12 additional songs) will initially be available to concert goers in the US at no additional charge beyond the cost of a ticket. The second CD was also given away with the August edition of Classic Rock magazine in Europe.
At the end of August Tesla announced their first world tour in 16 years with dates in Australia, Japan, and Europe in October and November 2007.
Forever More and Twisted Wires (2008–2012)
In June and July 2008, Tesla played a few shows in Europe and the US, including Sweden Rock Festival, Graspop Metal Meeting and Rocklahoma. On July 15, 2008 “Tesla- Comin’ Atcha Live! 2008” was released from a live concert filmed February 22, 2008 at the sold out Myth Nightclub in Maplewood, Minnesota. The 2 hour show included hits “Modern Day Cowboy”, “Love Song” and “Song and Emotion” along with additional backstage footage.
On August 11, 2008, it was reported that Tesla’s next album, entitled Forever More, would be released on October 7 on their own record label, Tesla Electric Company Recordings. The album was produced by Terry Thomas, who produced Bust a Nut. The band aired the album’s first single, “I Wanna Live” on radio stations across the globe on August 18 and kicked off a world tour on October 1. Forever More debuted No. 33 on The Billboard 200 chart and spawned singles I Wanna Live, Fallin’ Apart & Breakin’ Free.
On May 10, 2011, the band played at a rally for the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association. Tesla performed two songs, “Signs” and “Love Song” during the Kings #HereWeRally at Cesar Chavez Park in Sacramento, California to celebrate the team staying in Sacramento for at least one more year.
Simplicity and Shock (2013–present)
On August 26, 2016, Tesla released Mechanical Resonance Live in celebration of the album’s 30th anniversary. It included a new single “Save That Goodness”, written and produced by Phil Collen of Def Leppard.