What Really Happened To Jim Sullivan? One Of Rock’s Greatest Mystery

Scary And Fascinating Story All At Once …

Roswell, New Mexico is known for being linked with extraterrestrials, especially the night of July 2, 1947, when witnesses claim that they saw a metallic disk-shaped object slash through the sky. There was debris found at a ranch in Corona by Morning,  and people started calling it “UFO,” or an Unidentified Flying Object. Many people have believed this to be true and have marked their calendars to celebrate World UFO Day every July 2 to mark the sighting.

Some rock musicians were fascinated by these stories as well, who have written songs about the flying saucers, and mysterious E.T. people for decades. If you remember one most notably known classic about aliens, then it was definitely written by Jim Sullivan, a very talented and uncanny singer-songwriter. Sullivan recorded his debut album called U.F.O. in 1969 with some of the best Los Angeles session musicians. And shockingly, in 1975, he left L.A. for Nashville to look for work.

Unfortunately, he never arrived the said City. Sullivan just vanished into thin air without leaving any trace and was last seen in the desert of the southwest. His disappearance had baffled many people as if as it was mysterious as any UFO stories then have never been explained …

Sullivan became a local celebrity at the Raft, a bar in Malibu during 1969, some of his fans were Hollywood actor the likes of Harry Dean Stanton and some film folks. He also appeared in the movie Easy Rider, making a cameo as a commune member. Some of these Hollywood folks had backed him up, recognizing his talent, made up some cash to help him record U.F.O. And if you were wondering who the L.A.’s finest session musicians were, – they were members of the Wrecking Crew. Keyboardist Don Randi, drummer Earl Palmer, and bassist Jimmy Bond were also included and were the ones who produced and arranged Sullivan’s debut album, then was issued on Monnie Records.

Sullivan, during the gatefold of 1970 remix with his project on Century City Records, he shared his unlikely beginnings,

“The seventh son of a Nebraska farmer that came to the big city during World War II to work in the defense plants. I decided that I would like to play music when I would sit and listen to the blues groups practicing around various houses. I watched the guitar players studiously and then went home to practice ‘Okie Dokie Stomp’ by Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown until I had grown callouses on my fingertips and brain. I went to work with a few different rock groups, the music got louder and louder. A few years of bangin’ around went by. I decided to move to L.A. and concentrate on writing and here I am.”

Sullivan’s style was comparable to some folk-rockers such as Gene Clark of the Byrds and Joe South, but his debut “U.F.O.” found little success. And over straight six years, he continued to play at the Raft and some other clubs in L.A., but everything was beginning to fall apart. Sullivan became paranoid and believed that some of his music was stolen then enter the development of his drinking problem.

That was the reason why he planned to find work in Nashville. He even promised his family, wife Carol and son Chris, that they would follow and join him in Nashville once he has earned some money. And his family never saw him after that.

Matt Sullivan (not related to Jim Sullivan) is the founder of Light in the Attic, a small, Seattle-based label that revives long-forgotten albums. 35 years after the disappearance of Jim Sullivan, Matt began looking and hoping to reissue U.F.O.

Fortunately, Matt found a vinyl rip of the debut album of Jim on Waxidermy, a blog site. The comments by those people who knew Jim Sullivan gave some clues regarding his disappearance.

Accompanied by filmmakers Jennifer Maas and Mel Eslyn, Matt Sullivan traveled the country searching for some trace and talk to Jim’s friends, fellow musicians, and his family. Session musicians Don Randi and Jimmy Bond were asked but remembered Jim Sullivan slightly. The original album executive producer Al Dobbs managed to keep some of the old contracts as collections, the original album cover photo and a picture of the singer walking in the California desert. But no one can give any details regarding his disappearance.

The investigation regarding Jim’s mysterious disappearance led Matt Sullivan and filmmakers to the New Mexico desert, as described on the Aquarium Drunkard blog.

“Santa Rosa, N.M., is a small town located two hours east of Albuquerque along Route 66. It’s more like the Texas Hill Country than the vast open desert I previously envisioned,” Matt Sullivan wrote.

“Jim left Los Angeles in his Volkswagen Bug sometime between noon and 1 p.m. on March 4,” Matt continues. “In the early morning hours of March 5, he was pulled over outside Santa Rosa for swerving. He was taken to the local police station for a sobriety test, which he passed. He was swerving from fatigue caused by the taxing 15-hour drive. Jim checked into the La Mesa Motel, but police reports later indicated that the bed in his room was not slept in, and the key was found locked inside the room.”


Jim Sullivan’s VW ended up outside of a ranch 26 miles from the motel. And some reports speculated whether Sullivan talked with the ranch owners or their workers.

When the police found Jim’s car it was locked, and the engine was dead,” Matt Sullivan writes. “A number of things were found in the car, including Jim’s wallet, guitar, clothes, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, silver appointment book, and a box of LPs of Jim’s 1972 self-titled album on the Playboy label.

“Jim’s family traveled out to join search parties looking for him, the local papers printed missing person stories, but the search proved fruitless. Jim’s manager Robert “Buster” Ginter later stated that during the early morning hours of a long evening, Jim and Buster were talking about what would you do if they had to disappear. Jim said he’d walk into the desert and never come back.”


Matt Sullivan believed that there’s a bigger legacy than the talks of Jim Sullivan’s strange and mysterious disappearance.

“I hope that people remember him for making a masterpiece,” Matt told NPR. “His voice has this kind of weathered, worldly Americana sound. Kind of a country-mixed-with-rock element to it. From there, the production, the strings — it’s lush, but they’re dark and eerie. I kind of look at it as pop songs that aren’t happy. They’re filled with despair.

“With or without his disappearance, there’s something in those lyrics that is incredibly mysterious and eerie. One thing that one of Jim’s friends pointed out was that the guitar was left in the car. If Jim was going to disappear, that would have been the one thing that he would have taken — because wherever he was in the world, he could always stand on a street corner and make a few bucks playing his guitar.”