Guitarist Big Jim Sullivan died on Tuesday, October 2nd at the age of 71. Sullivan, who made his career as a respected and innovative session musician, passed away at his home in England following complications from heart disease and diabetes.
Sullivan, born James Tomkins, took up the guitar at 14 and started playing professionally at 16. In 1960, Sullivan joined the British tour of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. In the 70s, Sullivan joined Tom Jones’ band and appeared on Jones’ popular ITV series. Sullivan is credited with being the first British guitarist to use the wah-wah pedal on record, and he also was among the first guitarists to use the fuzzbox (lent to him by Jimmy Page) and the talkbox. In fact, Sullivan said that older musicians would call him the “Electric Monster.” Sullivan became one of the hottest session players of the 60s and 70s, playing with artists such as David Bowie, Tom Jones, the Kinks and Marianne Faithful. He claimed to have played on more than 1,000 songs, 55 of which became Number One singles. Some of his credits include Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat?”
Sullivan is survived by his wife, Norma, and the thousands of records on which he played. His contributions to music are incalculable, and he will be missed.