Jim Sullivan (singer-songwriter)
|Birth name||James Anthony Sullivan|
|Born||August 13, 1940|
|Origin||San Diego, California, United States|
|Died||March 6, 1975(aged 34) (disappeared)|
|Genres||Folk, country, rock|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, guitarist|
|Instruments||Vocals, acoustic guitar|
|Years active||Early 1960s–1975|
|Labels||Monnie, Century City, Playboy|
Sullivan grew up in the Linda Vista area of San Diego, California, where his Irish-American parents had moved from Nebraska to work in the defense industry. A tall man, he was a high school quarterback. According to self-written liner notes on his first LP, he "grew up in a government housing project with a bunch of other Okies and Arkies," and decided to play music after listening to local blues groups. He married, and played guitar in a local rock band, the Survivors, with his sister-in-law Kathie Doran. He and a friend bought a bar near to their college, but it lost money, and in 1968 he moved with his wife Barbara and young son to Los Angeles.
While his wife worked at Capitol Records, Sullivan wrote songs and performed in increasingly prestigious clubs in the Los Angeles area. In particular, he became established at the Raft club in Malibu, where he became friends with Hollywood figures including Lee Majors, Lee Marvin, and Harry Dean Stanton. He appeared as an extra in the movie Easy Rider, and performed on the José Feliciano television show. His friends contributed the funding that allowed him to record an album of his songs with leading Los Angeles session musicians, keyboard player Don Randi, drummer Earl Palmer, and bass player Jimmy Bond, who was also the record's arranger and co-producer. After Nick Venet at Capitol turned down the opportunity to release the record, it was issued by Sullivan's friend Al Dobbs on a small record label, Monnie, a label he set up for that purpose. The album, U.F.O., was released in 1969, and featured Sullivan's songs in a style blending folk, rock and country that has been compared with Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, Gene Clark and Joe South, with arrangements in the style of David Axelrod.
The album was remixed and reissued by Century City Records in 1970, and the track "Rosey" was issued as a single, but they made little impact at the time. Sullivan continued to perform in clubs. In 1972, he recorded a second album, Jim Sullivan, arranged by Jim Hughart, produced by Lee Burch and released by Playboy Records. Again, however, the record was unsuccessful. As Sullivan increasingly turned to alcohol and his marriage began to disintegrate, he decided in 1975 to travel to Nashville, where Kathie Doran was working as a singer and songwriter, and try to find success there.
Sullivan left Los Angeles on March 4, 1975, to drive to Nashville alone in his Volkswagen Beetle. The next day, after being cautioned by a highway patrol officer regarding his driving, he checked into the La Mesa Motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Later reports suggest he did not sleep there, and left his key inside the room, and that he bought vodka at the town store. He was seen the following day about 26 miles (42 km) away, at a remote ranch owned by the Gennetti family. His car was later found abandoned at the ranch, and he was reportedly last seen walking away from it. The car contained Sullivan's money, papers, guitar, clothes, and a box of his unsold records.
He was never seen again, and reports have variously attributed his disappearance to being murdered, becoming disoriented and lost, or, particularly in the light of the title of his first album, alien abduction. Search parties failed to find any trace of him. A decomposed body resembling Sullivan was later found in a remote area several miles away, but was determined not to be his.
Sullivan's records, especially U.F.O., developed a cult following in later years, partly because of their rarity and obscurity. In 2010, Matt Sullivan (no relation), the founder of Light in the Attic Records, decided to reissue U.F.O., and made serious attempts to uncover the mystery of Sullivan's disappearance, interviewing many of those who knew him and those involved in his recordings, but revealing little new information. The album was issued on CD in 2011.
- U.F.O. (Monnie, 1969)
- LP reissue (Century City, 1970)
- CD reissue (Light in the Attic, 2011)
- Jim Sullivan (Playboy, 1972)
- "Rosey" / "Roll Back the Time" (Century City, 1970)
- "Highway" / "Lorelei Lee" (RCA, 1971)
- Martin Winfree, "Jim Sullivan", Underappreciated Rock Artists, October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2015
- "Jim Sullivan: U.F.O.", Waxidermy.com, January 27, 2006. Retrieved 14 October 2015
- Frank Mastropolo, "Rock’s Unsolved UFO Mystery: The Night Jim Sullivan Vanished Into Thin Air", Ultimate Classic Rock, July 2, 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2015
- "The Strange Tale of Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O.", AquariumDrunkard, November 10, 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2015
- Biography by Steve Leggett, Allmusic.com. Retrieved 14 October 2015
- U.F.O., Light in the Attic Records. Retrieved 14 October 2015
- James Allen, Review of U.F.O., Allmusic.com. Retrieved 14 October 2015