Probably one of the greatest mysteries of the music world, the story of Jim Sullivan remains just as fascinating and baffling as it was back in 1975. On this edition of the show (a classic that we've dug up from a few years ago) we have the pleasure of speaking to Matt Sullivan (strangely enough, absolutely no blood-relation to Jim Sullivan), who is the founder and co-owner of Light In The Attic Records. LITA Records saw its first seeds sewn in a little basement apartment in Fremont, Seattle, back in 2001, and has since provided us with some fantastic re-issued gems by artists such as Sixto Rodriguez (whose fame blew up with the Oscar-winning movie, Searching For Sugarman); produced enlightening documentaries such as Wheedle’s Groove; and pushed our boundaries of traditional music by presenting us with releases such as the Native North American Archival series. Jim Sullivan was one of the “long lost gem” discoveries by LITA.
A talented musician with dreams of making it in the music industry, Jim Sullivan quit his job at a local newspaper in La Mesa, CA, to move to Los Angeles. It was the year of ’68, and with the support of his wife, Barbara, they both had decided to take the leap of faith that would eventually change the paths of their lives forever.
Playing various bars and venues at first, it wasn’t long until Sullivan received his first deal. Most musicians struggle for years on end in Hollywood, often to no avail – for Sullivan, well, he had his debut album recorded and printed by ’69, barely a year after arriving in the City of Angels.
A spiritual and introverted man, Jim was known to simply sit by the beach and take in the scenery of the water and stars at night. His wife recalls times when they would sit by the seaside in Malibu, wondering “what it would be like to be up there.” Alas, it comes as no surprise that his lyrics were deep and reflective, with heavy hints of yearning for a quiet country life. Songs of long and lonely highways, looking up into the Sun, wondering about UFOs; reflections on his deceased older brother and the funeral procession; inspiration drawn from trippy and mysterious movies about curses and sacrifices. Tapping into this man’s mind by listening to his music has definitely always been a trip down the rabbit hole for anyone present.
Fast-forward a few years to early 1975. Not everything had been going according to plan – the music wasn’t quite picking up as expected, and Jim and Barbara’s marriage had begun to fall apart. In a last bid to make something of himself, Jim picked up some of his belongings, packed his guitar, and hit the road with $125 in his pocket. Headed for Nashville, he had hopes of picking himself back up there. However, he never made it to Nashville. Apart from a final call to his wife from Santa Rosa on March 5th (about 900 miles into his journey), none of Jim’s friends or family ever heard of him again. His car and all his belongings were found. Jim, however, completely disappeared. To this day, we still don’t know what happened to him.
Was he murdered? Did he disappear intentionally? Was he abducted by UFOs? Did he simply live out his dream and walk off into the wilderness? Was there foul-play involved?
We had so many questions, and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the life and disappearance of Jim Sullivan with Matt – we hope you enjoy the ride as much as we did.