Big Jim Sullivan  

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Big Jim Sullivan (born James George Tomkins, 14 February 1941 – 2 October 2012) was an English musician, whose career started in 1959.

Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, he was best known as a session guitarist.

In the 1960s and 1970s he was one of the most "in-demand" studio musicians in the UK and performed in more than one thousand charting singles over his career.


Early life

Sullivan was born at Uxbridge Hospital and he went to Woodfield Secondary School in Cranford, London. In 1959, at The 2i's Coffee Bar, he met Marty Wilde and was invited to become a member of his backing group, the Wildcats who were the warm up act on Oh, Boy!. Wilde bought Sullivan a Gibson Les Paul. It was the first to be played in Britain.Template:Cn

Session guitarist and arranger (1959–1976)

Jack Good introduced Sullivan to session work when he met him on the set of the television series Oh, Boy!

He went on to become one of the most sought-after guitarists throughout the 1960s and the 1970s due to his flexibility in playing different styles of music.

He played on at least one thousand UK chart entries. This meant he averaged three recording sessions a day, which allowed him to appear on many hit records.

In 1960 he toured with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran on the fateful tour that ended Cochran's life.

He played on the first records in the UK to use a Wah Wah Effect - Krewkat's 1961 "The Bat", Michael Cox's 1961 Sweet Little Sixteen and Dave Berry's 1964 The Crying Game.

In 1962 with Ritchie Blackmore and Pete Townshend he persuaded Jim Marshall to make amplifiers.

He played uncredited guitar the 1962 Alexis Korner's and Blues Incorporated's seminal album R&B from the Marquee.

He played on the first record in the UK to use a Fuzzbox, which he borrowed from Jimmy Page - P.J. Proby's 1964 Hold Me.

He played on the 1964 Georgie Fame's first album Rhythm & Blues at the Flamingo.

He played on Bobby Darin's 1966 live London album Something Special.

In 1968 he played on George Harrison's Wonderwall.

Jimmy Page borrowed Sullivan's Gibson J-200 acoustic for the recording of 1969 Led Zeppelin.

He directed and played on Amazing Blondel's 1969 first album.

He played on the legendary 1969 album Sound of Sunforest - the overture was used in the film A Clockwork Orange.

In 1971 he played in the Jean-Claude Vannier Orchestra for the Serge Gainsbourg's masterpiece Histoire de Melody Nelson.

In 1971 he played on Frank Zappa's 200 Motels.

Albert Lee and Sullivan were contributors to the 1971 Green Bullfrog album, which featured Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and drummer Ian Paice for Derek Lawrence who put together and produced the superstar jam recording session.

He did arrangements for the orchestral version of The Who's 1972 Tommy.

Tom Jones (1969–1974)

Sullivan joined Tom Jones and it was during his time in Las Vegas that Sullivan met and formed a friendship with Elvis Presley.

He was an innovator of the talk box which he demonstrated on Jones's TV Show.

Derek Lawrence (1975–1977)

Sullivan teamed up with Derek Lawrence, a record producer whose credits include Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash, to form a record label named Retreat Records. They produced various artists over a period of about two years. Among these artists were Labi Siffre, Chas & Dave and McGuinness Flint. Sullivan produced and arranged Labi Siffre's "I Got The . . ." which was sampled by Eminem.

He fronted a band called Tiger (alongside vocalist Nicky Moore), releasing three albums under this name.

Lawrence and Sullivan went to the United States during this period, to produce the glam metal band, Angel.

James Last (1978–1987)

Sullivan became part of the James Last Orchestra for nine years, with a brief amount of time away for him to do a tour with Olivia Newton-John after her success with Grease.

Recent years

Starting in 1987, Sullivan composed music for films and advertising jingles.

More recently, Sullivan and guitarist Doug Pruden have been touring as the BJS Duo, and he also played in the Big Jim Sullivan Band with Duncan McKenzie, Malcolm Mortimore and Pete Shaw.

In 2006 he was featured in the Guitar Maestros DVD series.

TV and radio shows

  • He was the resident guitarist at Top of the Pops and Ready Steady Go!. He also helped out at Saturday Club.
  • A feature of the Bay City Rollers' UK TV Show Shang A Lang was Sullivan giving them guitar lessons.
  • He composed the score for an episode of the science fiction series, Space: 1999 ("The Troubled Spirit"), in which he also appeared and performed part of the score on screen, as a crew member giving a sitar concert. Under the guidance of Vilayat Khan, Sullivan learned to play the sitar and released two albums of sitar music. He also plays sitar on a musical interpretation of the Kama Sutra. Sullivan practised the sitar with George Harrison at George's Esher bungalow.

Famous recordings

Sullivan's guitar work appears on the following songs:-

1959 Marty Wilde and Bad Boy

1961 Michael Cox and Sweet Little Sixteen

1961 Krewkats and The Bat

1962 John Barry and James Bond Theme (Vic Flick played lead guitar and Sullivan not only played on the record but he devised the walking-step introduction)

1962 Tony Hatch and Out of This World

1963 Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and Twist and Shout

1963 Bern Elliott and the Fenmen and Money (That's What I Want)

1964 P.J. Proby and Hold Me and Together

1964 Dave Berry and The Crying Game

1964 Freddie and the Dreamers and I Love You Baby

1964 Simon Scott and Move It Baby

1964 Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and Candy Man

1965 Gerry & The Pacemakers and Ferry Cross the Mersey

1965 Donovan and Catch the Wind and Colours (not the original singles)

1965 Eddy Mitchell and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

1965 Vashti Bunyan for Some things just stick in your mind

1966 Joe Loss and A Shot in the Dark (Henry Mancini cover)

1967 The Small Faces and Itchycoo Park

1967 Clinton Ford and El Paso

1967 The Truth and Walk Away Renee

1968 Johnny Hallyday and A Tout Casser

1968 Anita Harris and Dream A Little Dream Of Me

1968 The Koan (from the album Sitar Beat - John McLaughlin on guitar)

1970 Green Bullfrog with Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice and Albert Lee

1971 Serge Gainsbourg's 70s classic Histoire de Melody Nelson

1971 Cliff Richard and Silvery Rain

1972 Julie Felix and Clotho's Web

1972 Gilbert O'Sullivan and Alone Again (Naturally)

1972 Tom Jones and The Young New Mexican Puppeter

1970s If I Could Only Play Like That

1974 Alvin Stardust and Jealous Mind and Guitar Star

1974 Cascade (from the album Big Jim's Back)

1976 Geoff Love (Manuel and his Music of the Mountains) and Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto (Ivor Mairants played the solo)

1977 The Walker Brothers and Shutout (from their album Nite Flights)

1977 Peace And Quiet (from the album Test of Time)

1977 Strange (from the album Test of Time)

1984 Matt Bianco and Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed

2006 Caravan (from the DVD Guitar Maestros)

2006 Classical Gas (from the DVD Guitar Maestros)

Number one singles

09.11.1960 Frankie Vaughan - Tower of Strength

26.01.1961 Petula Clark - Sailor

01.06.1961 Eden Kane - Well I Ask You

02.11.1961 Danny Williams - Moon River

10.05.1962 Mike Sarne - Come Outside

05.07.1962 Frank Ifield - I Remember You

25.10.1962 Frank Ifield - Lovesick Blues

10.01.1963 Jet Harris and Tony Meehan - Diamonds

24.01.1963 Frank Ifield - Wayward Wind

27.06.1963 Frank Ifield - Confessin'

12.09.1963 Brian Poole and the Tremeloes - Do You Love Me

23.01.1964 The Bachelors - Diane

06.02.1964 Cilla Black - Anyone Who Had a Heart

12.03.1964 Peter & Gordon - A World Without Love

02.04.1964 The Four Pennies - Juliet

07.05.1964 Cilla Black - You're My World

17.12.1964 Georgie Fame - Yeh Yeh

07.01.1965 The Seekers - I'll Never Find Another You

11.02.1965 Tom Jones - It's Not Unusual (not the main guitar)

22.04.1965 Jackie Trent - Where Are You Now (My Love)

13.05.1965 Sandie Shaw - Long Live Love

19.08.1965 The Walker Brothers - Make It Easy On Yourself

02.09.1965 Ken Dodd - Tears

28.10.1965 The Seekers - The Carnival Is Over

13.01.1966 The Overlanders - Michelle

03.03.1966 The Walker Brothers - The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

31.03.1966 Dusty Springfield - You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

23.06.1966 Chris Farlowe - Out of Time

10.11.1966 Tom Jones - Green, Green Grass of Home

26.01.1967 Engelbert Humperdinck - Release Me

02.02.1967 Petula Clark - This Is My Song

16.03.1967 Sandie Shaw - Puppet on a String

27.04.1967 The Tremeloes - Silence Is Golden

23.08.1967 Engelbert Humperdinck - The Last Waltz

08.11.1967 Long John Baldry - Let The Heartaches Begin

03.01.1968 Love Affair - Everlasting Love

14.02.1968 Esther and Abi Ofarim - Cinderella Rockafella

14.02.1968 Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich - The Legend of Xanadu

08.05.1968 Des O'Connor - I Pretend

06.11.1968 The Scaffold - Lily The Pink

04.12.1968 Marmalade - Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

08.02.1969 Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)

11.07.1969 Thunderclap Newman - Something in the Air

30.07.1969 Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg - Je t'aime... moi non plus

22.11.1969 Rolf Harris - Two Little Boys

04.04.1970 Dana - All Kinds of Everything

05.06.1971 Middle of the Road - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

13.11.1971 Benny Hill - Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)

18.12.1971 New Seekers - I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing

21.10.1972 Gilbert O'Sullivan - Clair

17.03.1973 Gilbert O'Sullivan - Get Down

26.05.1973 Peters and Lee - Welcome Home

24.11.1973 New Seekers - You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me

16.02.1974 Alvin Stardust - Jealous Mind

18.01.1975 Pilot - January


  • 1964 - Big Jim Sullivan (Charles Blackwell and Jimmy Sullivan) - Classics With A Beat (deleted)
  • 1965 - Big Jim Sullivan (Charles Blackwell and Jimmy Sullivan) - Folklore With A Beat (deleted)
  • 1967 - M Kansara (aka Big Jim Sullivan) De Wolfe Records DWLP3060 - - Sounds of India (deleted)
  • 1968 - Big Jim Sullivan & Barry Morgan - The Perfumed Garden (deleted)
  • 1968 - Big Jim Sullivan - Sitar Beat (available on CD)
  • 1969 - Big Jim Sullivan - Lord Sitar (available on CD)
  • The 1970 album Jim Sullivan - UFO (label Monnie or Century City) is not Big Jim Sullivan (deleted)
  • The 1972 album self titled Jim Sullivan (label Playboy) is not Big Jim Sullivan (deleted)
  • 1973 - Big Jim Sullivan - Sullivan Plays O'Sullivan (deleted)
  • 1974 - Big Jim Sullivan - Big Jim's Back (available on CD)
  • 1975 - Tiger - Tiger (deleted)
  • 1976 - Tiger - Goin' Down Laughing (deleted)
  • 1983 - Tiger - Test Of Time (deleted - unreleased when recorded in 1977, but released later by manager John Glover)
  • 1992 - Jim Sullivan - Forbidden Zones - Guitar Tutoring (deleted VHS)
  • 1994 - Tiger - Test Of Time (available on CD)
  • 1998 - Big Jim Sullivan - Big Jim's Back / Tiger (available on CD)
  • 2001 - Big Jim Sullivan - Mr Rock Guitar (aka Ultimate Rock Guitar) (available on CD)
  • 2003 - BJS Duo - Hayley's Eyes (available from Sullivan's website on CD)
  • 2003 - Big Jim Sullivan - Rockin' Rebels (deleted)
  • 2004 - The Big Jim Sullivan Trio - Jazz Cafe (available on three CDs)
  • 2005 - The Big Jim Sullivan Band - Live At Coolham (available from Sullivan's website on two VHS tapes)
  • 2006 - Big Jim Sullivan - Guitar Maestros (available on DVD - Sound Techniques)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Big Jim Sullivan" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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