His VW bug was found abandoned, his motel room untouched. Some think he got lost in the desert. Some think he fell foul of a local family with alleged mafia ties. Some think he was abducted by aliens. By coincidence – or perhaps not – Jim’s 1969 debut album was titled U.F.O.
Released in tiny numbers on a private label, it too was truly lost, until Seattle’s Light In The Attic Records begun a years-long quest to give it the full release it deserves – and to solve the mystery of Sullivan’s disappearance. Only one of those things happened. For record collectors, some albums are considered impossible to get hold of, records so rare you could sit on eBay for years and not get a sniff of a copy. U.F.O. is one of those albums. Thoughts from Jim Sullivan (copied from inside the gatefold of CCR5000): "Born Aug 13 which makes me a Leo I guess but actually my name is Jim Sullivan, 7th son of a Nebraska farmer that came to the big city during World War II to work in the defense plants." "I grew up in a government housing project with a bunch of other Oakies and Arkies (…of all sizes and colors) in a fairly clean pile—" "I decided that I would like to play music when I would sit and listen to the blues groups practicing around various houses—you could even hear the upright piano in the early electric blues groups…" "I watched the guitar players studiously and then went home to practice "Oakie-Doakie Stomp" by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown until I had grown callouses on my finger tips and brain." "At the same time I was going to college and working (so what?).
Anyhow me and another guy bought a bar near the college [and used] that for income. We damn near starved to death." "The bar went broke and I went to work with a few different rock groups, the music got louder and louder. A few years of bangin around went by. I decided to move to L.A.
and concentrate on writing and here I am…" "His voice has this kind of weathered, worldly Americana sound," he says. "Kind of a country-mixed-with-rock element to it. From there, the production, the strings — it's lush, but they're dark and eerie. I kind of look at it as pop songs that aren't happy.
They're filled with despair." Jim Sullivan's place in obscurity is a curious one. His lack of fame wasn't because of a weak supporting cast — Phil Spector's studio musicians backed him on the record. According to Matt Sullivan, his gig at a bar called the Raft in Malibu piqued the interest of some entrepreneurs, who decided that the musician was worth investing in. "On Day 2, Texans walk in, hear Jim's music and love it. They realize, 'We should make a record with this guy,' " Matt Sullivan says.
"Somehow, they hired the Wrecking Crew, the band that who backed up everyone from The Beach Boys to Phil Spector back in the day." Legend has it that Sullivan left his family to catch a break in Nashville, but he never made it to Tennessee. "He leaves L.A. in March 1975, and he has $120 in his pocket, so he starts driving in his little VW bug, and 15 hours later, he's outside Santa Rosa, NM," Matt Sullivan says. "He checks into a local motel. Soon after, his car is found is found 26 miles from the motel, and he's never seen or heard from ever again." The mysterious nature of his disappearance is amplified by Jim Sullivan's cryptic lyrics — on U.F.O., he talks about long highways, leaving his family behind and being abducted by aliens in the desert. "With or without his disappearance, there's something in those lyrics that is incredibly mysterious and eerie," Matt Sullivan says.
"One thing that one of Jim's friends pointed out was that the guitar was left in the car. If Jim was going to disappear, that would have been the one thing that he would have taken, because wherever he was in the world, he could always stand on a street corner and make a few bucks playing his guitar." Strange as Jim Sullivan's story is, Matt Sullivan says he hopes the singer is remembered for his music above all else. "I hope that people remember him for making a masterpiece," he says. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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