Formation and ‘Mechanical Resonance’ (1982-1988)
In late 1982, bassist Brian Wheat (age 20) and guitarist Frank Hannon (age 15) formed City Kidd, a band that then spent time gigging at Sacramento’s defunct Oasis Ballroom. They also began working with American rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose towards writing hard rock hit singles, reasoning “We wanted to get signed, and we thought the way to do that was to write a hit single.” New producers and managers turned the group towards radio pop rock and to come up with the appropriate material. Band manager Steve Clausman hired Grammy award winner Duane Hitchings, who provided the music to Rod Stewart songs such as “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Infatuation”. A representative from Geffen Records then saw where the City Kidd band was headed and let them know that he would only sign them if they “[wrote] from the gut and not from formulas.”By 1986, the band had again changed its direction under a new name, TESLA.
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 Troy Luccketta.
TESLA’s music is often referred to as hard rock or hair metal. The band’s lyrics also strayed from the themes popular in hard rock, particularly in the 1980s at the beginning of their career. 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 was booed off the stage while opening for Def Leppard at Calgary, which was unfair as they were playing well, but were then hardly known and the crowd wanted the main act.
‘The Great Radio Controversy’ and ‘Psychotic Supper’ (1989-1993)
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. The album produced the hit single, a classic ’80s 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 three previously unreleased songs, including “Rock the Nation”, “I Ain’t Superstitious”, and “Run Run Run”.
‘Bust a Nut’ and hiatus (1994-1999)
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 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 Moon Dog Mane, while Troy Luccketta worked with several local artists including the Bay Area’s One Thin Dime.
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.
“Cumin’ Atcha Live” appeared in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
‘Into the Now’ (2004-2006)
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 February 2005, TESLA headlined a benefit show at the PPAC in Providence, Rhode Island for the victims of the Station nightclub fire. During the show the band auctioned off an autographed acoustic guitar with the proceeds going to the Station Family Fund. 100% of the ticket sales also went to this charity.
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 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.
‘Real to Reel’ (2007)
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 USA 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.
‘Comin’ Atcha Live!’ & ‘Forever More’ (2008-2010)
In February 2008, TESLA helped fund and headlined a benefit concert for victims of the Station nightclub fire. The show was broadcast by VH1 Classic. TESLA played three songs: “What You Give”, “Signs”, and “Love Song”, though “What You Give” did not make it onto the broadcast.
In June and July 2008, TESLA played a few shows in Europe and the USA, 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 22nd, 2008 at a 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.
In 2009, TESLA was announced to be among the performers on the cruise ship “ShipRocked” in November 2009.
In 2010, Jeff Keith and Frank Hannon appeared on That Metal Show and announced that they were working on material for a new album, though their studio burned to the ground on September 30, 2010.
‘Twisted Wires & the Acoustic Sessions’ (2011-2013)
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.
On July 12, 2011 TESLA released it’s first ever acoustic studio album titled Twisted Wires and the Acoustic Sessions. The album features two new tracks (“2nd Street” and “Better Off Without You”) as well as re-recordings of ten previously released tracks. Five of the tracks were recorded in 2005 with Tommy Skeoch on rhythm guitar. The album was produced by TESLA and mixed and mastered by George Marino.
In June 2013, TESLA digitally released a new single “Taste My Pain” on iTunes.
On June 10, 2014 TESLA Released their eighth studio album Simplicity in the U.S. which debut at #24 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. The album was released via Tesla Electric Company Recording’s arrangement with E1 Music and distribution. The album was produced by TESLA along w/ Tom Zutaut and mixed and mastered by Michael Wagener.
30 Anniversary & ‘Mechanical Resonance Live’ (2016-Present)
Celebrating 30 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 2016, TESLA kicked off a massive North American summer arena tour with Def Leppard and REO Speedwagon.
TESLA concluded their summer tour with the release of their new album “Mechanical Resonance, Live!” on TESLA Electric Company Recordings/Mailboat Records. The album celebrates the 30th-birthday of the original multi-platinum album and features classic hits as well as a new single, “Save That Goodness,” written by Phil Collen of Def Leppard.
In the fall of 2016 and winter 2017 TESLA wrote and recorded a brand new TBA studio album which was produced by Phil Collen of Def Leppard.
In 2017 TESLA hit the road once again on a winter headline tour beginning on February 1st in Saint Charles, IL, through March 4th. In May of 2017 TESLA once again launched a North American tour with DEF LEPPARD and POISON.
The fall of 2017 saw TESLA back on a headline tour in the U.S. as well as going to South America for the first time ever supporting DEEP PURPLE & CHEAP TRICK.
In February 2018 TESLA announced a summer tour along with STYX & JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS kicking off on May 30 through July.