Michael Joseph O'Sullivan (November 4, 1906 – October 13, 1971) was an American jazz pianist.
Sullivan was the ninth child of Irish immigrant parents. He studied classical piano for 12 years and at age 17, he began to play popular music in silent-movie theaters, on radio stations, and then with the dance orchestras where he was exposed to jazz. He graduated from the Chicago Conservatory and was an important contributor to the Chicago jazz scene of the 1920s. Sullivan's recording career began towards the end of 1927 when he joined McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans. Other musicians in his circle included Jimmy McPartland, Frank Teschemacher, Bud Freeman, Jim Lanigan and Gene Krupa. In 1933, he joined Bing Crosby as his accompanist, recording and making many radio broadcasts.
He contracted tuberculosis in 1936 and while he was convalescing at a sanitarium in Monrovia in 1937, Crosby organized and appeared in a five-hour benefit for him at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles on May 23, 1937 in front of an audience of six thousand. The show was broadcast over two different radio stations with fourteen bands attending (including those led by Woody Herman, Ray Noble, Jimmy Dorsey, Jimmy Grier, Louis Prima, Harry Owens, and Victor Young) and other performers included Connie Boswell, Johnny Mercer, Red Norvo, and Ella Logan. Approximately $3,000 was raised for Sullivan.
After suffering for two years with tuberculosis, he briefly rejoined Bing Crosby in 1938 and the Bob Crosby Orchestra in 1939. In 1940, when leading Joe Sullivan's Cafe Society Orchestra, he had a minor hit with "I've Got a Crush on You".
By the 1950s, Sullivan was largely forgotten, playing solo in San Francisco. Marital difficulties and excessive drinking caused Sullivan to become increasingly unreliable and unable to keep a steady job, either as band member or soloist.
The British poet (and jazz pianist) Roy Fisher celebrated Sullivan's playing with a poem, "The Thing About Joe Sullivan", regarded by some critics as one of the best poems about jazz. Fisher also used that title for a book of his selected poems, because (he said) he felt Sullivan was a neglected master who deserved to have his name on the cover of a book.
Birth and Death Data: Born November 4th, 1906 (Chicago), Died San Francisco
Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1927 - 1946
Roles Represented in DAHR: piano, composer
Recordings (Results 1-25 of 53 records)
|Company||Matrix No.||Size||First Recording Date||Title||Primary Performer||Description||Role||Audio|
|Victor||BVE-48345||10-in.||2/8/1929||I'm gonna stomp Mr. Henry Lee||Eddie's Hot Shots||Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo||instrumentalist, piano|
|Victor||BVE-48346||10-in.||2/8/1929||That's a serious thing||Eddie's Hot Shots||Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo||instrumentalist, piano, composer|
|Victor||BS-028816||10-in.||10/30/1938||Mill blues||Bill Boyd ; Cowboy Ramblers||String band||composer|
|Columbia||W265146||10-in.||10/2/1933||Sweet Lorraine||Joe Venuti's Blue Six||instrumentalist, piano|
|Columbia||W265147||10-in.||10/2/1933||Doin' the uptown lowdown||Joe Venuti's Blue Six||instrumentalist, piano|
|Columbia||W265148||10-in.||10/2/1933||Jazz me blues||Joe Venuti's Blue Six||instrumentalist, piano|
|Columbia||W265149||10-in.||10/2/1933||In de ruff||Joe Venuti's Blue Six||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W82030||10-in.||12/8/1927||Sugar||McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans||Jazz/dance band||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W82031||10-in.||12/8/1927||China boy||McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans||Jazz/dance band||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W82082||10-in.||12/16/1927||Nobody's sweetheart||McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans||Jazz/dance band||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W82083||10-in.||12/16/1927||Liza||McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans||Jazz/dance band||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W400899||10-in.||7/28/1928||Oh, baby!||Eddie Condon's Quartet||Instrumental quartet with vocal introduction||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W401035||10-in.||7/28/1928||Indiana||Eddie Condon's Quartet||Jazz/dance quartet, with male vocal solo||instrumentalist, piano|
|OKeh||W401689||10-in.||3/5/1929||Knockin' a jug||Louis Armstrong Orchestra||Jazz/dance band||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||65942||10-in.||7/10/1939||You and your love||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||65943||10-in.||7/10/1939||Melancholy mood||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||65998||10-in.||7/24/1939||Over the rainbow||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||65999||10-in.||7/24/1939||Oh you crazy moon||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66000||10-in.||7/24/1939||Day in, day out||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66072||10-in.||8/11/1939||There'll be some changes made||Eddie Condon||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66073||10-in.||8/11/1939||Nobody's sweetheart||Eddie Condon||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66074||10-in.||8/11/1939||Friar's point shuffle||Eddie Condon||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66075||10-in.||8/11/1939||Someday sweetheart||Eddie Condon||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66220||10-in.||8/29/1939||Boogie woogie Maxixe||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
|Decca||66221||10-in.||8/29/1939||Blue orchids||Bob Crosby Orchestra||instrumentalist, piano|
Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Sullivan, Joe," accessed October 28, 2020, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104215.
Sullivan, Joe. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104215.
"Sullivan, Joe." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 28 October 2020.
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