Acclaimed Session Guitarist Big Jim Sullivan Dies

Sullivan played with many of the biggest names in British pop at the height of the "Swinging London" era.

Thursday, Oct 4, 2012  |  Updated 7:12 AM EDT
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In Memoriam

Total Guitar Magazine

Big Jim Sullivan, guitarist for Tom Jones, during a portrait shoot in London. Sullivan suffered from heart disease and diabetes.

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Acclaimed session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, who played on dozens of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 71.

Norma Sullivan said that Sullivan had died at their home in West Sussex, England, on Tuesday. He suffered from heart disease and diabetes and had stopped performing live recently because of his health problems.

Sullivan learned guitar as a teenager and turned professional when he was just 16. He played with many of the biggest names in British pop at the height of the "Swinging London" era.

Along with Jimmy Page, who would later star in Led Zeppelin, Sullivan was one of the most in-demand session guitarists of his era. His website lists sessions with the Tom Jones, Marianne Faithfull, David Bowie, Gerry and the Pacemakers and many others. He claimed to have played on more than 1,000 singles that entered the British charts.

Sullivan's website said he joined his first band, the Wildcats, at age 17, in 1958, which he described as "the early days of rock and roll in this country."

He said he and his friends were too busy learning music to do normal teenage things.

He was known for his mastery of a wide variety of styles, from hard rock to country to blues.

"I am a very lucky man," he said on his website. "I am living my life with my hobby as my profession."

Sullivan also toured with Tom Jones's band, playing in Las Vegas casino hotels and on television shows.

He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

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