Alexander "Sandy" Bull (February 25, 1941 – April 11, 2001) was an American folk musician who was active from the late 1950s until his death. Sandy Bull was a composer and accomplished player of many stringed instruments, including guitar, pedal steel guitar, banjo, and oud. His early work blends non-western instruments with 1960s folk revival, and has been cited as important in the development of psychedelic music.
His albums often presented an eclectic repertoire including extended modal improvisations on oud. An arrangement of Carl Orff's composition Carmina Burana for 5-string banjo appears on his first album and other musical fusions include his adaptation of Luiz Bonfá's "Manhã de Carnaval", a lengthy variation on "Memphis Tennessee" by Chuck Berry, and compositions derived from works of J. S. Bach and Roebuck Staples.
Bull used overdubbing as a way to accompany himself. As documented in the Still Valentine's Day, 1969: Live At the Matrix, San Francisco recording, Sandy Bull's use of tape accompaniment was part of his solo performances in concert as well.
Bull primarily played a finger-picking style of guitar and banjo and his style has been compared to that of John Fahey and Robbie Basho of the early Takoma label in the 1960s. Guitarist Guthrie Thomas credits Bull as being a major influence in his early playing career.
Born in New York City, Alexander "Sandy" Bull was the only child of Harry A. Bull, an editor in chief of Town & Country magazine, and Daphne van Beuren Bayne (1916–2002), a New Jersey banking heiress who became known as a jazz harpist under the name Daphne Hellman. His parents were divorced in 1941, shortly after his birth.
Sandy Bull struggled with a drug problem for many years which seriously affected his performing. After completing a rehabilitation program in 1974, he began performing again. By this time he had relocated to San Francisco, where he shared living and rehearsal space with folk singer Billy Roberts, the composer of the Jimi Hendrix song, "Hey Joe". On May 2, 1976 he opened a concert by Leo Kottke at the Berkeley Community Theater, where he performed using his 4-track recorder and a 'Rhythm Ace' as backup instruments.
Bull later moved to Florida and then Nashville, where he built a recording studio. He became close to many prominent Nashville musicians and in the 1990s recorded several records on the Timeless Recording Society label. He also played the oud on Sam Phillips' 1991 album, Cruel Inventions.
- Studio albums
- Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo (1963, Vanguard)
- Inventions (1965, Vanguard)
- E Pluribus Unum (1969, Vanguard)
- Demolition Derby (1972, Vanguard)
- Jukebox School of Music (1988, ROM)
- Vehicles (Timeless Recording Society, 1991)
- Steel Tears (Timeless Recording Society, 1996)
- Live albums
- The Essential Sandy Bull (1974, Vanguard)
- Re-Inventions: Best of the Vanguard Years (1999, Vanguard)
- Vanguard Visionaries (2007, Vanguard)