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Jim Sullivan's Unexplained Fate and Unreal Music Commemorated on Reissue of 'If the Evening Were Dawn'

Photo Courtesy of Barbara and Chris Sullivan

The backstory behind folk and country-inspired singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan reads like a pitch for a true crime podcast or a Netflix original documentary.

In 1975, Sullivan left his family in Los Angeles to chase greater success in Nashville. Within two days, he vanished into thin air, with his Volkswagen Beetle and belongings abandoned near his last-known destination, the La Mesa Motel in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. It remains an unsolved mystery, with speculation ranging from small town mistreatment of a long-haired hippie--in line with what happens in Easy Rider, a film featuring Sullivan as an extra--to a less sinister case of a sleep-deprived traveler getting lost in the desert. Others look at the title of Sullivan's debut album, 1969's U.F.O., and blame his disappearance on aliens.

After decades of speculation, only one thing's certain: Sullivan was a great talent, leaving behind not just cult favorite U.F.O. but also a self-titled 1972 album released by Playboy Records. Light in the Attic Records founder Matt Sullivan (no relation) has seen to it that true crime junkies and record collectors get a chance to hear this music, reissuing U.F.O. in 2011 and following that up on Oct. 25 with a reissue of Jim's second album and a collection of unheard acoustic recordings titled If the Evening Were Dawn.

"There's just something in the music that strikes a chord with us," Matt Sullivan says of the label's continued interest in the Jim Sullivan story. "'U.F.O.' really started it. I think Jim's songwriting is phenomenal. His voice, the production, the playing... His records hit on so many levels for me personally.

"As you learn about his disappearance, it gives his music all kinds of context, and it's incredibly intriguing," Matt continues. "But also I think it's important to say that the music speaks for itself. I think there's something there that's really unusual. I love the mix of styles where it has kind of a country/Americana/folk vibe, but then it really takes a bit of a psychedelic vibe. I think it's a really unique mix of styles that you don't hear very often. When you do, they're usually not done well."

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Although U.F.O. was issued by producer Al Dobb's small record label Monnie after Capitol passed on releasing it, Jim Sullivan experienced brushes with mainstream success. Members of the Wrecking Crew backed Jim on U.F.O., Harry Dean Stanton and other Hollywood stars frequented the promising songwriter and guitarist's shows at the Raft club in Malibu and an appearance on Jose Feliciano's television show furthered exposure of an odd yet soothing set of songs. Major record labels came sniffing around at least once, with Sullivan's 1971 single "Highway" b/w "Lorelei Lee" issued by RCA.

In the lead-up to Light in the Attic's latest Jim Sullivan releases, Matt worked with Jim's family as well as side musicians from Jim's recordings, including legendary bassist Jimmy Bond and keyboardist Don Randi,  to track down clues missed all those years ago by search parties and the authorities. Despite such thorough research, Light in the Attic claims just one thing about Jim's legend: the music tells as gripping a story as the paranormal speculation surrounding an intriguing missing person case.

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Jim Sullivan's Unexplained Fate and Unreal Music Commemorated on Reissue of 'If the Evening Were Dawn'