Style Hard Rock
Although Tesla emerged during the glory days of hair metal, the band’s music was equally indebted to contemporary blues and ’70s-style hard rock, a fusion that helped differentiate albums like The Great Radio Controversy from its contemporaries. Despite the refreshing lack of posturing, Tesla was hit just as hard as the rest of the pop-metal world when grunge arrived in the early 1990s. They did produce one of the era’s more respectable bodies of work, however, including three consecutive platinum-selling albums.
The band formed in Sacramento as City Kidd, and 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.
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. The band’s lyrics also strayed from the themes popular in hard rock, particularly in the 1980s at the beginning of their career. A further distinction from their contemporaries was their T-shirt-and-jeans image which was in strong contrast to glam metal bands of the time, which were characterized by big hair, leather pants, and flashy makeup. Also in the early days of their career, Tesla toured with David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, and Poison which incorrectly resulted in the band being categorized as a Glam metal band. The band’s members resented this labelling.
After playing several showcases in Los Angeles, Tesla quickly scored a deal with Geffen and released the debut album Mechanical Resonance in 1986. It produced a minor hard rock hit in “Modern Day Cowboy,” reached the Top 40 on the album charts, and eventually went platinum. However, it was the 1989 follow-up effort, The Great Radio Controversy, that truly broke the band. The first single, “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” was another hit with hard rock audiences and set the stage for the second single, a warm, comforting ballad named “Love Song” that substituted a dash of hippie utopianism for the usual power ballad histrionics. “Love Song” hit the pop Top Ten and pushed The Great Radio Controversy into the Top 20. Double-platinum sales figures followed as another single, “The Way It Is,” also enjoyed some degree of airplay.
In keeping with their unpretentious, blue-collar roots, Tesla responded to stardom not by aping the glam theatrics of their tourmates, but by stripping things down. The idea behind 1990s Five Man Acoustical Jam was virtually unheard of — a pop-metal band playing loose, informal acoustic versions of their best-known songs in concert, plus a few favorite covers (’60s classics by the Beatles, Stones, CCR, and others). Fortunately, Tesla’s music was sturdy enough to hold up when its roots were exposed, and one of the covers — “Signs,” an idealistic bit of hippie outrage by the Five Man Electrical Band — became another Top Ten hit, as well as the band’s highest-charting single. Not only did Five Man Acoustical Jam reach the Top 20 and go platinum, but it also helped directly inspire MTV’s Unplugged series, both with its relaxed vibe and its reminder that acoustic music could sound vital and energetic.
The studio follow-up to The Great Radio Controversy, Psychotic Supper, arrived in 1991 and quickly became another platinum hit. It didn’t produce any singles quite as successful as “Love Song” or “Signs,” but it did spin off the greatest number of singles of any Tesla album: “Edison’s Medicine,” “Call It What You Want,” “What You Give,” and “Song and Emotion.” Perhaps that was partly due to Tesla’s workmanlike hard rock, which didn’t sound ridiculous if it was played on rock radio alongside the new crop of Seattle bands. The winds of change were blowing, however, and by the time Tesla returned with their 1994 follow-up, Bust a Nut, few bands from the pop-metal era had maintained their popularity. Bust a Nut did sell over 800,000 copies — an extremely respectable showing given the musical climate of 1994, and a testament to the fan base Tesla had managed to cultivate over the years. Yet all was not well within the band, and Tommy Skeoch’s addiction to tranquilizers resulted in his dismissal from the band in 1995.
Tesla attempted to forge ahead as a quartet, but the chemistry had been irreparably altered by Skeoch’s exit, and they broke up in 1996. Most of the bandmembers began playing with smaller outfits, none of which moved beyond a local level. When Skeoch’s health improved, however, the band staged a small-scale reunion in 2000, which quickly became a full-fledged effort. In the fall of 2001, the group released a two-disc live album, Replugged Live, which documented their reunion tour.
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 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.Dave Rude replaced Skeoch on the tour. “Cumin’ Atcha Live” appeared in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Tesla have recorded a covers album 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. 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 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, it was announced that Tesla will be among the performers on the cruise ship “ShipRocked” in November 2009. In 2010, the band announced that they are working on material for a new album, though their studio burned to the ground on September 30, 2010.”Sacramento Bee”.
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. In 2011, they released an acoustic album Twisted Wires and the Acoustic Sessions.
- Mechanical Ressonance 
- The Great Radio Controversy 
- Psychotic Supper 
- Bust A Nut 
- Into The Now 
- Forever More