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Joe Sullivan

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  
(Results 1-25 of 53 records)

Citation

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.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104215

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