Prolific Session Guitarist Big Jim Sullivan Dies

Big Jim played on over 1000 chart singles in his career   02-Oct-12

Prolific session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan has passed away at the age of 71. Big Jim (real name: James George Tomkins) had played on over 1000 chart singles during his career and also pioneered the use of technologies such as the talkbox.

He played guitar on singles for the likes of Tom Jones ('It's Not Unusual'), Engelbert Humperdinck ('Release Me'), Thunderclap Newman ('Something in the Air'), Rolf Harris ('Two Little Boys'), Frankie Vaughan ('Tower of Strength'), Dusty Springfield ('You Don't Have To Say You Love Me') and The Tremeloes ('Silence is Golden').

He also played on albums for George Harrison and Frank Zappa.

He was one of the most sought after and decorated musicians of the 1960s and 1970s, and during a 1973 interview, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had this to say about him:

"Big Jim Sullivan was a big influence... Big Jim used to live practically next door to me. He'd only been playing about two years, but he was just about the best guitarist in England, straight away.

"I thought I was alright and learning pretty well, until I saw him. I couldn't even understand what he was doing. So used to kind of sit on his doorstep and wait. When he'd come out, I'd ask if I could come in.

"He taught me guite a lot of tricks. I think he used to get a bit fed-up with me hanging around. But when you're around someone that good, your own standards are raised. It saves you a lot of trail and error."

The news of his death was announced by English guitarist Adrian Legg, who wrote on Facebook:

"I'm very sorry to hear that Big Jim Sullivan died this morning. He was kind to me when I was an ingenue afloat in a sea of heavy-weights. I remember his generosity with gratitude and him with respectful affection."

Big Jim had most recently toured with Doug Pruden as the BJS Duo.

Not content with being one of the world's most respected guitarists, he also followed George Harrison's lead in learning the sitar, releasing two sitar-based albums.

The imprint he left on pop and rock music in the 1960s and 1970s is unmistakeable, and he will go down in the history books as one of the era's behind-the-scenes heroes.

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