Posts Tagged ‘Jim Sullivan’

Man On A Mission, Or: How A Light In The Attic Release Gets Made (Part Three)

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Harry Dean

The indefatigable Matt Sullivan is hard at work on Light in the Attic’s reissue of Jim Sullivan’s lost classic, U.F.O. Planned for a fall release, Matt has encountered more than his share of obstacles in trying to complete this project. He’s been kind enough to catalog his experiences working on this title, and the result has been an insightful look into how a reissue comes together (you can find Matt’s previous dispatches here and here). Matt’s getting close to the end of his journey, one that now finds our intrepid hero in the blistering wilds of the desert Southwest. Godspeed, Matt:

The last few months have borne witness to a whirlwind of Columbo-style mysteries surrounding our upcoming re-release of Jim Sullivan’s 1969 masterpiece U.F.O. The pile of unanswered questions about Jim and his last known whereabouts keeps stacking up. One thing is certain; we finally set a release date for U.F.O. – Oct. 24. That means I don’t have long before I have to fight my OCD and put this baby to bed.

Jim recorded U.F.O. – with the almighty Wrecking Crew as his backing band – for the Los Angeles-based one-off private-press label Monnie in late 1969. Years later, the man mysteriously vanished in New Mexico, never to be heard from again. I’ve obsessed over this record for sometime: traveling to San Diego to meet Jim’s wife, Barbara, and son, Chris; driving to Calistoga, Calif., to meet U.F.O. co-executive producer Al Dobbs; finding Wrecking Crew bassist and U.F.O. producer and arranger Jimmy Bond in the Westwood neighborhood of L.A. As my obsession grew, I knew I had to get to New Mexico. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my quest. After hearing the record, and learning the small clues I knew about Jim’s life and music, Wheedle’s Groove director (and Humpday co-producer) Jennifer Maas, and music video director and cinematographer Mel Eslyn, knew that the only thing we could do was grab some filming gear, load up the car with 5-Hour Energy drinks and a case of Slim Jims, and head east to New Mexico, retracing Jim’s last known whereabouts, a trail that ended in a place named Santa Rosa.

We decided to head out at dawn. Upon waking up that Sunday morning, we discover thieves have broken into the car. The driver’s side window is smashed, ignition destroyed, and a bunch of stuff is missing from the trunk. After working on this project for well over a year, it seems like another surreal sign. Sign or no sign, we push on. Fortunately, my insurance covers the cost of a rental car, so Monday morning we pick up a stylin’ Ford Taurus, hit Yuca’s Tacos in Los Feliz (are there better tacos in Los Angeles? If so, I’m dying to know), and hit the highway.


Man On A Mission, Or: How A Light In The Attic Release Gets Made (Part Four)

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010


Matt Sullivan remains hard at work attempting to complete Light in the Attic’s reissue of Jim Sullivan’s 1969 album, U.F.O. Scheduled for a fall release, Matt has embarked on quite the journey as he tries to find answers into Jim Sullivan’s mysterious disappearance 35 years ago. He has been kind enough to catalog his story. You can read previous installments here, here and here. This most recent dispatch finds our leading man (and his two ace companions) in the New Mexico desert, where he retraces the final hours before Jim Sullivan vanished:

Awakening to a sunlit sky in Gallup, New Mexico, we pick over the remnants of our hotel’s continental breakfast and hit the road. We head east, bound for Santa Rosa 252 miles away. Around lunchtime, we arrive in Albuquerque. Johnny Horn randomly calls with a tip about a local store – Mecca Records. As we pull up, we notice a Betty Davis poster in the store window. Inside, we discover a nice selection of new and used vinyl, CDs, and books. I find some Waylon and Watertown vinyl (still need that poster). Jennifer picks up the Friday Night Lights book. We chat with Rocky, the shop’s owner. He’s a super cool dude, and big Light In The Attic supporter – LPs and CDs from Rodriguez, Betty Davis, and The Free Design are scattered around the shop. We fill him in about our quest, and he suggests contacting a loyal Mecca customer, a district attorney who has recently been reopening cold cases from the past. As it turns out, he is a Santa Rosa native and Light In The Attic fan. Might have to give this man a call. We hit a Mexican joint for lunch then head back onto I-40.

With anticipation high, Jim’s U.F.O. album blasts on the car stereo. Before we know it, we’re in Santa Rosa. It’s a small town along Route 66 in eastern New Mexico, tucked away in a long stretch of beautiful desert wasteland. It’s more like the Texas Hill Country than the vast open desert we envisioned earlier. Unlike some of the other towns we’ve come across on Route 66, Santa Rosa doesn’t look riddled by years of hard times. The last census reported that the population was 2,744.


Man On A Mission, Or: How A Light In The Attic Release Gets Made (Part Five)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010


Matt Sullivan remains hard at work attempting to complete Light in the Attic’s reissue of Jim Sullivan’s 1969 album, U.F.O. Scheduled for a fall release, Matt has embarked on quite the journey as he tries to find answers into Jim Sullivan’s mysterious disappearance 35 years ago. He has been kind enough to catalog his story. You can read previous installments here, here, here and here. This most recent dispatch finds our leading man (and his two ace companions) in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, the desert outpost where Jim was last seen:

We wake up to more sunny skies. Can’t complain. While Jennifer and Mel grab breakfast at a local restaurant called Route 66, I remain at the La Mesa Motel to finish some work. They bring back eggs, toast, and sausage. It tastes like dog food. I miss Rancho Bravo Tacos.

Jennifer picks up a copy of this week’s edition of the Guadalupe County Communicator, Santa Rosa’s local newspaper. It’s a good read. I’d be surprised to find another small-town newspaper with its own local comic strip. An article about a murder from the 1930s immediately sparks our interest. Jennifer suggests giving the paper a ring. Next thing I know, I’m on the phone with the paper’s publisher, M. E. Sprengelmeyer, asking if he’s familiar with Jim Sullivan, and if he has access to the paper’s archives from the time of Jim’s disappearance in March 1975. M.E. bought the paper about a year ago, so he recommends I speak with veteran reporter Davy Delgado, a Santa Rosa native in his fourth decade as a newspaperman. M.E. is also an old hand in the newspaper business. After losing his job as the Washington correspondent for the Rocky Mountain News (the paper closed last year), M.E. moved to Santa Rosa and bought the paper. Jennifer immediately suggests that someone should make a doc on these guys. We find out that it’s in the works. It’s an inspiring story. M.E. and Davy, along with a secretary, are the only folks that work at the paper. Circulation: 2,000. Santa Rosa’s population: 2,700.


Man On A Mission, Or: How A Light In The Attic Release Gets Made (Part Six)

Thursday, August 19th, 2010


Matt Sullivan remains hard at work attempting to complete Light in the Attic’s reissue of Jim Sullivan’s 1969 album, U.F.O. Scheduled for a November 2010 release, Matt has embarked on quite the journey as he tries to find answers into Jim Sullivan’s mysterious disappearance 35 years ago in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He has been kind enough to chronicle his story in vivid detail. You can read previous installments here, here, here, here, and here. After tracing their steps through the notable landmarks of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, the desert outpost where Jim was last seen, this most recent, long-awaited dispatch finds our leading man (and his two ace companions) on their way back to San Diego, where Sullivan’s wife Barbara and son Chris currently reside:

After a few hours of sleep at Motel 6 in Yuma, Arizona, we roll outta bed at 7:30 and it’s one of those moments where you’d do just about anything for another hour of shuteye.  Not possible.  We’ve gotta be in San Diego by one o’clock to interview Jim’s wife Barbara and son Chris.  We’re moving slow. The sun is blazing down, already in the mid-90s by the time we’re on the road at 8:30.  We grab some breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks.  Funny enough…those little sandwiches turn out to be the best food we’ve ate in days.   I always forget how difficult it is to find edible food on the road.  Love the fast food, but the stomach can only survive on crap for so long.

With about 200 miles between us and San Diego and nervous with anticipation for what lies ahead, we talk about what to ask Jim’s family.  So many questions and not enough time.  The car cruises along I-8, snuggling up against the U.S./Mexico border.  We notice the desolate scenery as we pass through a number of roadblocks.  They quickly wave us on through, not looking for us honkeys.  Massive hills surrounded by gigantic bolders give way to miles and miles of endless, wide-open desert.  Not the place where you’d want to run out of gas.  One can drive dozens of miles without seeing a single gas station, home, human, or sign of life.  Not even a Mick-eee-dees or Walmart.  I imagine they’ll be here soon enough though.

I get a call from M. E. Sprengelmeyer from the Guadalupe County Communicator, the newspaper in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  He’s been transfixed, listening to the CD-R we gave him of Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O. album.  Seems he’s fixated on the lyrics to the song “So Natural”, especially the line about wishing to have your ashes blown into the wind, disappearing like a ghost that never was.   Another eerie reminder of the foreshadowing on U.F.O. of what was to come in Jim’s life.  All of it rings true. Whatever happened to Jim in the New Mexico desert, there’s no question that it was one hell of a vanishing act on someone’s part.

Standing outside of St. Marks Church
there’s a line.
Waiting as they carried me on the line
I stood there in a daze.
And I heard the things that they’d say
and the words that they spoke
gave me an awful fright
“He looked so natural tonight.
He had his hair combed just right.”
A more natural pose
I couldn’t bear to see.
And I hope that these people never visit me.
It’s my time to go,

I just want the wind to blow
my ashes till they’re completely out of sight.
And they won’t say that,
“He looked so natural tonight.
He had his hair combed just right.”
It’s my time to go,
I just want the wind to blow
my ashes until they’re completely out of sight…

Personally, “So Natural” was the track that sealed the deal on U.F.O. Not that I wasn’t already obsessed with the rest of the album, but something about the lyrics, Jim’s delivery, and mighty drummer Earl Palmer left me continuously mesmerized on each repeated listen.  I spent hours listening and listening again, trying to understand the song and the strange lyric about “his hair combed just right.”  Jim’s wife Barbara and U.F.O. executive producer Al Dobbs shined a light on the back-story.  Both recalled different memories.  Understandably so, considering it’s been forty-one years since Jim cut the tune in a Los Angeles recording studio.  Barbara remembered Jim sitting down at the kitchen table one morning, writing, and playing guitar.  A door-to-door salesman knocked on the door, selling tombstones.  The salesman triggered something in Jim and “So Natural” was born.  Al remembered Jim going to his brother’s funeral and the events not sitting well with him.  Hence the lyrics about cremation and the wish to avoid those undesirables at your funeral.  Makes sense.  Maybe you weren’t too fond of them in your own life time.  Maybe it was a mix of both events that birthed the tune.  Whatever it was, “So Natural” never tires.


We finally roll into San Diego and make a quick stop at Guitar Center for an XLR cable for the microphone.  Next up is a quick bite.  We stumble upon a Chipotle Grill in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, one of my favorite areas of the city and a must stop for record nerds.  Within a block is both Thirsty Moon and Record City. You can always find some goodies at those two spots.  We gotta push on though.  A little after one o’clock, the three of us are standing in the Sullivan’s beautiful home and as always they greet us with warm hugs and smiles.  Vicki, the wife of Jim’s son Chris makes some delicious ice tea, which quenches our thirst after the dry desert climate of the past few days.  Calling the Sullivans good people would be a massive understatement.  These are truly awesome folk who have been exceptionally kind and supportive in our obsession with all things Jim and U.F.O..   For them, it’s been decades of not knowing what happened to their husband, father, and granddad.  We’ve dug up a lot of ghosts but they’ve always been open and willing to chat with us on camera.  Can’t thank them enough for that.  I don’t know if I’d be so strong.

Sitting down at the kitchen table with Jim’s wife Barbara and son Chris, Jennifer begins the interview.  Barbara touches on a number of things that I didn’t quite grasp on our previous visit.  Jim was a seventh son, which to many translates to one having psychic powers.  I’ve never been a big believer in the psychic thing, but this project has turned me around a bit.  There were far too many moments in Jim’s life (as well as the lyrics on U.F.O.) to be happenstance or coincidence.  Even the fact that Jim was in the film Easy Rider seems strange.  The man most likely met a similar twist of fate as Wyatt and Billy, the film’s main protagonists played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper; a hippie from the West Coast stumbles into small-town-U.S.A. and a gang of angry red necks.  I also didn’t realize the sacrifices that Barbara made, trying to give her husband the shot at success that he so desired. Raising two kids, and being the only breadwinner in the family, it’s hard to imagine how she held it together.  She worked full time at Capitol Records from 1968 to 1975 under boss John Rankin (John was the first person close to Jim that posted on the Waxidermy blog back in May of 2008.  Soon after, the family stumbled upon the blog and started filling us all in).  Well, Barbara would not only take care of the kids after a long day at the label, but would often be up all night making late night food for Jim, manager Robert “Buster” Ginter, and other cohorts, and then head off to work in the early morning hours to do it all over again.  Inspiring to say the least.  She recalled countless nights making homemade tortillas for the late night crowd.  Good times but crazy times.  They thought Jim’s big break might be playing the Santa Monica Auditorium.   He had a number of those moments – from performing on the Jose Feliciano television show to his small part in Easy Rider.  Nothing materialized but they didn’t give up hope.  Even when he left for Nashville, Jim still had the feeling he might make it, this time as a songwriter and session player.  Some friends thought maybe his songs would fit better over there.  Who knows what would’ve happened had he made it to Music Row.  Barbara recounted Jim’s disappearance, which was incredibly emotional.   I think we all had tears running down our faces.

JimSullivan-UFO-hi res album cover

After the hour or so interview we listened to the album with the grandkids, playing everyone the new re-mastering for the first time.  The family didn’t have a copy of the LP, and other than a very poor vinyl transfer downloaded from the web hadn’t heard the album since the early ‘70s.  They were stunned with how well it sounded and never remembered hearing the record sound so full.  Big thanks to mastering guru Dave Cooley for all the hard work re-mastering this one.   We headed out in hopes of beating the rush hour traffic for the drive back to Los Angeles.   It had been an emotional last few hours and a very intense last few days.  We covered over 2,000 miles in four days and were clearly beat, ready to get some much needed rest.   Our upcoming Stax 45s vinyl box became the soundtrack for the ride home, but our minds were on overload, trying to digest the events of the past few days.  Definitely a trip none of us would forget.  Four days prior, we set out to uncover a few clues about Jim’s disappearance.  Four days later, we felt that we uncovered so little with a mountain of unanswered questions.  But in some ways we uncovered much more.

Where Jim resides, though, is anyone’s guess.

The album release of U.F.O. is scheduled for November 2010, while the mini YouTube doc of the road trip will land a few weeks prior. Thanks for following the trip. Stay tuned.

U.F.O. VIDEO – The Jim Sullivan Story

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010


In March 1975, Jim Sullivan mysteriously disappeared outside Santa Rosa, New Mexico. 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.

A couple years ago we stumbled upon the album and have been obsessing over it ever since, culminating with a series of road trips retracing Jim’s last known whereabouts to New Mexico and onwards to San Diego to meet Jim’s wife and son.

Sullivan was a West Coast should-have-been, an Irish-American former high school quarterback whose gift for storytelling earned him cult status in the Malibu bar where he performed nightly. Sullivan was always on the edge of fame; hanging out with movie stars like Harry Dean Stanton, performing on the Jose Feliciano show, stealing a cameo in the film Easy Rider. Friend and actor Al Dobbs founded a label – Monnie Records – to release Jim’s album, enlisting the assistance of Phil Spector’s legendary sessioneers The Wrecking Crew.

U.F.O. was a different beast to the one-man-and-his-guitar stuff Jim had been doing on stage; instead, it was a fully realized album of scope and imagination, a folk-rock record with its head in the stratosphere. Sullivan’s voice is deep and expressive like Fred Neil with a weathered and worldly Americana sound like Joe South, pop songs that aren’t happy – but filled with despair. The album is punctuated with a string section (that recalls David Axelrod), other times a Wurlitzer piano provides the driving groove (as if Memphis great Jim Dickinson was running the show). U.F.O. is a slice of American pop music filtered from the murky depths of Los Angeles, by way of the deep south.

The record went largely unnoticed, and Jim simply moved on, releasing a further album on the Playboy label in 1972. But by 1975, his marriage breaking up, Jim left for Nashville and the promise of a new life as a session musician. That’s where it gets hazy.

We know he was stopped by the highway patrol for swerving on the highway in the small town of Santa Rosa, NM some 15 hours after setting off. We know he was taken to a local police station, found to be sober, and told to go to a local motel to get some rest, which he did. Some time later his car was spotted on a ranch belonging to the local Genetti family, who confronted him about his business there. The next day his car was found 26 miles down the road, abandoned. His car and his hotel room contained among other things, his twelve-string guitar, his wallet, his clothes and several copies of his second album. Jim’s family traveled out to join search parties looking for him, the local papers printed missing person stories, but the search proved fruitless. Around the same time, the local sheriff retired and the Genettis moved to Hawaii. Jim’s manager Robert “Buster” Ginter later stated that during the early morning hours of a long evening Jim and Buster were talking about what would you do if they had to disappear. Jim said he’d walk into the desert and never come back.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be announcing more on U.F.O. For now though, we couldn’t resist spilling the beans on a short film directed by Jennifer Maas (Wheedle’s Groove) and cinematographer Mel Eslyn who documented the road trip.  Click below to watch the short film.

Watch the Jim Sullivan Story on Vimeo.

Watch the Jim Sullivan Story on YouTube.

Pre-Order Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O. Now:
CD/Digital (Nov 16th)
LP (December)

Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout…Jim Sullivan!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010


Hot damn, as i’m sure all of you know by now, we are super excited about the upcoming release of the lost classic U.F.O. by Jim Sullivan. This reissue has been years in the making and on November 16th it will finally be unleased unto the world–for the first time ever on CD (and the first ever reissue on vinyl).

So with all this in mind, do pick up the December issue of Mojo Magazine where U.F.O. is given 5 stars and featured as the lead review in their reissue section! Very cool.

And if you’ve been paying attention, dear friends, you should know all about the Jim Sullivan Story, a short film made by Jennifer Maas (Wheedle’s Groove) about the truly haunting and bizarre story of Jim Sullivan and U.F.O.. Need reminding????  Here:


Make Way – U.F.O. About To Land!

Monday, November 8th, 2010


Here we are, just about one week before Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O. hits the street and the excitement has reached fever pitch! Last week, we reported that U.F.O. received a 5 star review (certified Mojo Classic) from Mojo Magazine in their December issue. And the love for Jim Sullivan just keeps coming (as it should!). We’re super excited to share even more reviews to look out for:

The Stranger gave U.F.O. a spin, and they had this to say:

LITA had to do a lot of traveling and sleuthing to manifest this record, and the label’s heroic efforts pay serious dividends. Like Rodriguez‘s Cold Fact, Sullivan’s U.F.O. deserves to become a cherished cult LP. It ought to become a touchstone from which Americana-enthralled musicians can draw inspiration for years to come.” Check out the full review HERE!

And don’t forget to pick up copies of the December issues of Q, Record Collector and the November issue of Shindig! All have great reviews of U.F.O., and the issue of Shindig! has a very nice full page review with pics!

Jim Sullivan on Coast to Coast AM (Art Bell) Friday 11/19/10

Thursday, November 18th, 2010


We’re super excited to let you know that this Friday’s edition of the national radio show Coast to Coast AM (AKA the Art Bell radio show) will be doing an hour long feature on singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan and his 1969 album U.F.O., which was just re-released by Light In The Attic. The guest will be Jim’s friend and U.F.O. Executive Producer Al Dobbs, chatting about Jim’s music and mysterious disappearance in the New Mexico dessert in March 1975.

Tune in, this is not to be missed!

The Details:

Coast to Coast AM
Fri, Nov 19th
10-11PM PST / 1-2AM EST
The show is broadcast on over 500 stations -

For a taste of Jim’s story, check out the short film “The Jim Sullivan Story” created by Jennifer Maas and Mel Eslyn.

Jim Sullivan and Light In The Attic featured in L.A. Weekly!

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Picture 1

Light In The Attic and Jim Sullivan got a great full page write up in this week’s L.A. Weekly! Thanks to the amazingly talented Jessica Hundley (author of the great Gram Parsons biography, Grievous Angel) for her words! The feature also talks about two L.A.-based labels–Stones Throw Records and Yoga Records, both releasing essential new and old LPs. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, pick up a copy to tack on your wall. If not, check the link HERE for the full article.


Jim Sullivan’s “U.F.O.” featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”

Thursday, December 9th, 2010


Today was a very exciting day! National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program featured a 10 minute spot on Jim Sullivan’s story and his music, focusing on our new reissue of his 1969 lost masterpiece, U.F.O.! Light In The Attic’s Matt Sullivan was interviewed for the segment and he shared his story of discovering Jim and his music. It’s so great that some 40+ years after its creation, Jim’s music is finally making its way out to the world (in a big way)!

Check out the full segment — “Jim Sullivan’s Mysterious Masterpiece: U.F.O. — on NPR’s website HERE!