Joe Sullivan (pianist)

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Joe Sullivan, circa January 1947.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb .

Joe Sullivan (born November 4, 1906 in Chicago , †  October 13, 1971 in San Francisco ; actually Joseph Michael O'Sullivan ) was an American jazz pianist of Chicago jazz and swing .

Live and act

Sullivan was the ninth child of Irish immigrants and came from a well-off, middle-class family. His father was a local politician - at times Alderman von Chicago - entrepreneur and inventor. Sullivan learned to play the piano from the age of 12 and performed in clubs, as a silent film pianist and with dance bands as a teenager, but also studied at the Chicago Conservatory in 1922/3. He played with leading Chicago white jazz musicians (many of the Austin High School gang ) such as Eddie Condon , Frank Teschemacher , Jimmy McPartland , Bud Freeman , Jim Lanigan , Muggsy Spanier , Bix Beiderbecke and Gene Krupa . His main influences as a pianist were Earl Hines and Fats Waller (and stride pianists he heard in Harlem in 1928, such as James P. Johnson and Willie The Lion Smith ). In 1927 he was with Ben Pollack .

He made his first recordings in late 1927 with the Chicagoans of Red McKenzie and Eddie Condon (Okeh). In 1929 he played with Red Nichols and then, among others, in the orchestra of Roger Wolfe Kahn. From 1933 Sullivan accompanied Bing Crosby , with whom he recorded, appeared on numerous radio shows and was also seen in films. His composition "Onyx Bringdown", recorded in September 1933, was the first of two hits by the pianist in the Billboard Top 30 at # 9 ; in October 1940, his Gershwin version of "I've Got a Crush on You" rose to rank 24. In his Cafe Society Orchestra , a. a. Benny Morton , Edmond Hall , Danny Polo and Billy Taylor , the band singer was Helen Ward .

Sullivan also worked as a studio musician in Hollywood, played with Bob Crosby (1936), for whose band he also contributed compositions ("Minor Mood", "Just Strollin", "Little Rock Get Away", "Gin Mill Blues"), but sat from the end of 1936 two years off because of tuberculosis. In 1938 he played again briefly with Bing Crosby and in 1939 with Bob Crosby. In the 1940s, Sullivan mostly played solo (or with former Chicago colleagues) in nightclubs, including in 1941 in the formation The Three Deuces with Pee Wee Russell and Zutty Singleton , with whom he recorded several titles for Commodore and in 1946 in that of Eddie Condon in New York and around 1943 in Los Angeles. In 1952 he played briefly with Louis Armstrong and otherwise played solo in the San Francisco area. Alcohol problems, combined with private problems (three failed marriages, depression) and a violent temper, made longer engagements impossible. Despite sporadic appearances, he still had a name and was at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1963 and the Newport Jazz Festival in 1964 .

Discographic notes


  • Norman P. Gentieu, Notes for a Bio-Discography of Joe Sullivan. Pt. 1. Chicago, 1906-1928. Journal of Jazz Studies 4 (2) (1977): 33-42
  • Norman P. Gentieu, Notes for a Bio-Discography of Joe Sullivan. Pt. III: 1937-1947. Annual Review of Jazz Studies 2. (The State Univ. Of New Jersey, Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies) Newark 1983, pp. 81-109
  • Norman P. Gentieu, Notes for a Bio-Discography of Joe Sullivan. Pt. IV. Annual Review of Jazz Studies 3 (1985): 11-40.

Lexical entries

Web links


  1. According to Redhotjazz, see web links. According to Reclam's jazz leader Dennis Patrick Terence Joseph O´Sullivan
  2. It was the first successful recording of the song, which was then included in the Broadway musical Strike Up the Band two years later .