Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Things I like, rock and roll and mysteries. So I am kind of shocked that I just recently found out about the disappearance of Jim ‘Sully” Sullivan back in 1975. Jim had quite a bit of talent, and had made a name for himself in the late 60’s LA music scene. His songs were a mixture of hippie rock and cross over country. Some music aficionados claim that his albums are overproduced, and that if you heard him live, just his voice and his guitar you got a more authentic version of his sound.
His first album UFO was basically what we would now call crowd funded, paid for by his own money as well as family and fans chipping in. The album gets its name from a song called UFO, here are some of the lyrics of the song, “Shaking like a leaf on the desert heat, His daddy’s got a bang that’s hard to beat, I bought me a ticket got a front row seat, I’m checking out the show, With a glassy eye, Looking at the sun dancing through the sky, Did he come By UFO.” This song combines the popular 60’s ‘Alien God’ theories with Christianity and alluding that Jesus might be an alien. This song becomes hauntingly pregcognistic when we learn Jim disappeared in the New Mexican dessert.
He and his wife moved up from San Diego to Los angles where he tried to break into the music industry. His wife worked at Columbia Records and he had a few contacts there but they wouldn’t sign him because he sounded too much like their recent find James Taylor. He hung out with Lee “The Six Million Dollar Man” Majors and other stars. He had a cameo in the movie Easy Rider. His second self-titled record was put out by the short lived Playboy Records label, with the famed Wrecking Crew doing back up. In 2010, Light in the Attic Records re-released UFO.
Despite all those things fame in LA alluded him. He decided that he would try his luck in Nashville. He headed out in his VW bug, planning to send for his wife and child when he had made some money. 18 hours in to the road trip he was pulled over by the police for weaving on the highway. He tested clean on a sobriety test, and the cops released him on the condition he stop at a hotel and get some rest.
Jim checked into a room but apparently never slept in the hotel. His wife said that when he called her on the phone, he said he wasn’t leaving till the next day, when she asked him why he replied, “You wouldn’t believe me.” And she dropped the subject. His abandoned bug was found outside a ranch, he had left his wallet, copies of his records and his beloved guitar behind, never to be seen again. The ranch it was found in front of was reputed to be owned by a mafia family, but the only evidence of this was that the family had an Italian name and moved to Hawaii soon after the disappearance.
A body was found in the desert that vaguely matched the description of Jim, but it was ruled to be someone else, when a local chief of police who had talked to Sully for thirty or so minutes when he was brought in said, it was someone else.
It has long been speculated that he was abducted by aliens. What evidence do we have of that? Almost none. Yes he wrote songs about UFO, and his nephew Josh Steely (Guitarist for the band Daughtry) is reported to have said that his family would tell him when he was young, that his uncle had been abducted by aliens, but he felt that, this was probably so they would not have to tell him that Jim was more than likely dead. As far as I can tell there were no UFO reports in that part of New Mexico at that time.
Except for his small but cult like success as a musician and the fact that no body was ever found this might be a pretty normal missing person’s case (if there is such a thing) except in March 2017, a researcher tried to add his information into missing person database NamUS, NamUS found that there was never a missing person case filed in Santa Rose County or New Mexico for a Jim Sullivan. There was a rumor that this all might be a urban legend created to sell re-released records, but more than likely it was a case of bad records keeping. As of today I have not heard resolution on this wrinkle.
If the issue with the police report is resolved, it is possible that maybe there is a John Doe that can be identified as Jim. Until then it is a shame that a man who loved music so much is known more for his disappearance than his art.
Light in the Attic’s documentary about Jim Sullivan.