TESLA (1985–96; 2000–PRESENT). Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar), Tommy Skeoch (guitar), Brian Wheat (bass), Troy Luccketta (drums).
With a straight-ahead rock style that owed as much to seventies-era hard rock as it did to the pop metal/hair metal that they found themselves in, Tesla purveyed a no-frills brand of melodic hard rock that won them a significant following durin the group’s late eighties and early nineties heyday.
Coming together in 1985 in Sacramento, California, Tesla consisted of vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, bassist Brian Wheat, and drummer Troy Luccketta. Naming themselves after inventor Nikola Tesla, the unsung pioneer of early radio technology, the band secured a record deal with Geffen Records after a series of showcases in L.A. Their debut, Mechanical Resonance, released in 1986 sold a million copies thanks to the single “Modern Day Cowboy.” Their follow-up, The Great Radio Controversy, released in 1989, was an even bigger hit. The album featured the hits “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” (a rocker) and the ballad “Love Song,” which evoked the band’s seventies roots with its straightforward sentiments. The album was the band’s commercial breakthrough, reaching the top twenty and selling over two million copies.
The band followed up the album with a low-key affair, the Five Man Acoustical Jam, which saw them playing acoustic versions of their better-known tunes. Featuring a hit cover of the classic sixties tune “Signs” which hit the top ten, the album went platinum, and its acoustic concept provided the inspiration for the hit MTV Unplugged series that followed soon after.
With Psychotic Supper in 1991, Tesla had their fourth consecutive hit. In spite of all their success, the alternative trend in music was taking shape. Even though the band’s straightforward style was not going out of vogue as quickly as that of their more clearly hair-metal band contemporaries, the change was coming and would affect Tesla as well. While 1994’s Bust a Nut sold just under a million copies, its comparatively lackluster sales were an indication of the coming of grunge. And inside the Tesla camp, the group was wrestling with the more immediate problem of guitarist Tommy Skeoch’s substance abuse issues, which led him to leave the band in 1995.
Although the band tried their hand at working as a four-piece, it was a failed experiment, and the group disbanded in 1996. In 2000, with Skeoch back in good health, the band reunited and released the double-live album Replugged Live. The band has remained active since that time, releasing an album of new material with 2004’s Into the Now (after which Skeoch left the group once more), and an album of classic seventies covers in 2007 called Real to Reel. Forever More, their first full studio album featuring new guitarist Dave Rude, was released in 2008.
Discography: Mechanical Resonance (Geffen, 1986); The Great Radio Controversy (Geffen, 1989); Five Man Acoustical Jam (Geffen, 1990); Psychotic Supper (Geffen, 1991); Bust a Nut (Geffen, 1994); Time’s Makin Changes: The Best of Tesla (Geffen, 1995); Replugged Live (Sanctuary, 2001); Standing Room Only [live] (Sanctuary, 2002); Into the Now (Sanctuary, 2004); Real to Reel ( Electric Company, 2007); Real to Reel, Vol. 2 (Tesla Electric Co, 2007); Forever More (Tesla Electric Co, 2008).