Is Tesla Sacramento’s Greatest Rock Band Ever?

Album cover for "Psychotic Supper"
Album cover for "Psychotic Supper"
Frank Hannon
Frank Hannon
Singer Jeff Keith
Singer Jeff Keith
Dave Rude
Dave Rude
Mature Tesla
Mature Tesla
Tesla in 2009
Tesla in 2009

Look in the second half of the article for information about other prominent Sacramento rock bands


Sacramento, California has produced many excellent rock bands, and perhaps the best of the bunch is Tesla, a hard rock assemblage formed in the middle 1980s. Please bear in mind, Tesla isn’t simply a local rock band; they’ve toured throughout the world. In fact, you may have heard of them.

Let’s check out Tesla and see how they stack up against other Sacramento rock groups in the present and earlier times.

History of Tesla

The band formed in 1984, having gained at least some inspiration from legendary scientist Nikola Tesla, who invented electrical alternating current. Tesla’s first studio album was Mechanical Resonance, produced in 1986. Tesla has a grungy, blue jeans appearance, in counterpoint to the hair metal (or glam metal) bands such as David Lee Roth, Def Leppard and Poison, with which Tesla toured as the warm-up band in those heady times. By hanging with these flashy rock groups, Tesla became known as something similar, a labeling they reportedly resented.

Tesla’s original lineup included vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, as well as bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta. The rhythm section has stayed with the group since its inception.

In 1989, Tesla released their second studio album, The Great Radio Controversy, which includes perhaps their finest power ballad, “Love Song,” a hit single. Incidentally, over the years, Tesla’s produced numerous popular singles. Then, in 1991, Tesla produced Psychotic Supper, the band’s favorite album, which includes such metal butt-kickers as “Change in the Weather,” “Edison’s Medicine” and “Toke about It.” (Perhaps no Tesla song trumpets the genius of Nikola Tesla better than “Edison’s Medicine.”) And on all of these tunes, singer Jeff Keith sounds and looks decidedly Steven Tylerish.

The group’s fourth studio album, Bust a Nut, came along in 1994. (A Japanese reissue of the album includes a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.”) This album solidified Tesla’s place as hard rock balladeers adept at producing memorable, tear-jerking tunes.

Then guitarist Tommy Skeoch left the band, allegedly because of substance abuse issues. This was the first of many times Skeoch exited the group. In 2006, guitarist Dave Rude replaced Skeoch, seemingly for good.

Consequently - or maybe the time was simply right - Tesla went on hiatus, the next five to six years members fragmenting into solo efforts of one sort or another.

Reunion

Tesla reunited about the turn of the century, playing a concert in Sacramento on October 25, 2000. Apparently this emotional event re-energized the band, because they soon produced the double-album set, Replugged Live, offering such metal staples as “Comin’ Atcha'" and “EZ Come EZ Go.”

In 2004, Tesla produced the album Into the Now, a song of which the band played on the hit late night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! The album debuted at number 30 on Billboard’s album chart.

Then, following the lead of many rock bands, Tesla turned indie in August 2008, as they released the album Forever More on their independent label, Tesla Electric Company Recordings. The album features the hit single “I Wanna Live.”

These guys are certainly capable of conquering adversity, as their Sacramento studio burned to the ground on Sept. 30, 2010. But the members have soldiered on, continuing to produce cutting edge hard rock - or could it be called pop metal? This author bets the members can’t abide that silly label!

Moving on in 2011, Tesla produced the acoustic album, Twisted Wires and the Acoustic Sessions.

Musical Score for a Documentary

In early 2012, members of Tesla sponsored the documentary “Running with Demons,” which follows the travels of a licensed chemical dependency counselor named Todd Crandell, who engages in a three-day, 318-mile triathlon in British Columbia. Crandell, a recovering drug addict, shows the benefits of using physical exercise to get clean and sober and stay that way. Tesla guitarist Dave Rude wrote the score for the documentary, using only original tunes and fills – not Tesla’s music, keep in mind. Rude’s story regarding the creation of the film can be seen at the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gbIcqBd7vE.


Mumbo Gumbo
Mumbo Gumbo
Leo Bootes
Leo Bootes
The Deftones
The Deftones

More Sacramento Rock Bands


As the author stated before, Sacramento has definitely had its share of superb rock bands. Back in the 1980s there was Bourgeois Tagg, a new wave funk band, which once performed on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Incidentally, the Tagg played the best dance music ever!

For a passage to BT’s performance on the Tonight Show, please click on this link.

Also, in the ‘80s there were other notable rock bands such as Secret Service, Charlie Peacock, Lady and the Boys, Steele Breeze, as well as the electric blues band, Little Charlie and the Nightcats (now billed as Rick Estrin and the Nightcats.) The Nightcats, formed way back in 1976, play some of the best urban blues found anywhere. Other important blues artists originating from that period are Johnny “Guitar” Knox and Leo Bootes.

More recently, the alternative rock band Cake formed in 1991. Cake’s music is offbeat and satirical and certainly deserves the label of alternative. Cake released the album Showroom of Compassion in 2011, garnering much national interest. Other notable rock bands forming around 1990 were Sex 66 (Why don’t they call it Sex 69?), Tattooed Love Dogs, The Deftones and Blufood.

One more Sacramento mainstay for many years has been Mumbo Gumbo, a soft rock band which plays a little bit of everything, though they present a distinctive rock and roll style on such hits as “Barbecue,” and “Love Birds.” Because of renown and variety, Mumbo Gumbo may have the largest audience of any rock band ever in Sacramento.

In current times, the Nibblers are a soul and funk ensemble worth a look. Comprised of many fine Sacramento musicians, this band’s sound is similar to that of the Mellotones and Tower of Power.

Another up-and-coming Sacramento rock band is The Old Screen Door. Their music is country rock meet R&B. Don’t miss these guys, who play all over the state or right down the street.

The aforementioned Leo Bootes is a Sacramento bluesman and rocker who’s been blazing the gig scene since the 1980s. From Seattle, Washington and a member of the Sacramento Blues Society, Bootes plays all the blues standards and plenty of rock and roll, including the classic rock of John Lennon and other rock artists. He plays all over, so go check him out!



Afterword

Admittedly, many Sacramento rock bands haven’t been mentioned in this article. The bands that came and went before the 1980s weren’t represented, for instance. But it seems no rock band tops Tesla, a band which has sold millions of albums, four of which platinum. Simply listening to some of their songs will show you how good they are. As for the best rock band ever in Sacramento, who’s to say which one qualifies? Nevertheless, in the realm of hard rock or heavy metal, Tesla is almost certainly the best ever in Sacramento.

Please leave a comment.

Edison's Medicine

Love Song

What You Give

I Wanna Live

More by this Author


Comments 15 comments

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Well heck yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love me some Tesla!!! Love em' like Elvis loved pb and fried nanner sammiches!


TheHeavyReview profile image

TheHeavyReview 4 years ago

Interesting hub! I've never thoroughly listened to Tesla, but they sound really cool. I'll have to go check them out now.


Michael J Rapp profile image

Michael J Rapp 4 years ago from United States

I don't know how Sacramento likes them but they've always been one of my favorites. Great band with a unique sound. Modern Day Cowboy = one of the best hard rock songs ever, IMO. Loved your Hub.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State

Great band. "Mechanical Resonance" still gets spins from me to this very day.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Hey, you guys, Wesman Todd Shaw, TheHeavy Review, Michael J Rapp and FatFreddysCat, I'm glad you appreciate Tesla's music. As far as I can tell, Tesla rocks Sacramento as no rock band has done before. Hope you liked the videos too. Later!


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland

Cool Hub Kosmo

I've been into Tesla ever since The Great Radio Controversy. Brilliant band who have produced consistent quality over the years.

Marked up. Cheers


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Shinkicker. Tesla definitely kicks ass and, ya know, they're right down the street from my place. Later!


Jeffro 4 years ago

Started listening to Tesla after hearing the song "Little Suzie' on the up". The guitar work on all there songs is what puts them above allot of the greats. I have a personnel atta hment to the hit"Getting Better Everday". It helped me through some hard times. They are truly Sacramento's cherished jewel.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Jeffro. I also like Tesla a bunch. Later!


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland

Did you know that 'Little Susie's on the Up' was originally by a Scottish band called PhD? :-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKgzYLBV_cc


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Shinkicker. I'll have to check out the link you provided. Later!


Max 4 years ago

NIKOLA TESLA/Serbian scientific genius/ WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST AND MOST GIFTED MEN EVER TO HAVE WALKED THIS EARTH.THE GREAT INVENTOR NIKOLA TESLA, WAS A MAN WHOSE GENIUS WAS FAR BEYOND THE GREAT MINDS OF HIS DAY. HE HAD AN INTELLECT THAT AT TIMES SEEMED ALMOST UNEARTHLY. I SUPPOSE THIS IS WHY SOME HAVE SPECULATED THAT SUCH A REMARKABLE INDIVIDUAL COULD NOT HAVE SPRUNG FROM THE BOSOM OF MOTHER EARTH, BUT INSTEAD WAS THE PRODUCT OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTERVENTION.IF SOMEONE CAN NAME ANOTHER MAN TO COMPARE WITH THIS GREAT GENTLEMAN, PLEASE TELL US. .... http://max-balkanboy.blogspot.nl/2012/10/nikola-te...


Matt M 2 years ago

Casually forgot the Deftones???


THOMAS 2 years ago

CAKE!


Death to all but METAL 2 years ago

People love rap and techno here Sacramento is a nightmare for musicians who play real rock. Tesla rules though definitely nuts sacs best achievement

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