R.I.P. Big Jim Sullivan, One of The Greatest Guitarists You’ve Heard, But Never Of

British session guitarist Jim Tompkins, better known as Big Jim Sullivan, died at 71 yesterday after a long battle with diabetes and heart disease. Among hired-gun studio guitar players in the 60’s, only a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy PageĀ  was better known. In a career that started in the late 50’s, Big Jim toured England with Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent (thankfully he was not in the 1960 car crash that killed Cochran and permanently injured Vincent), played on over 1000 hits for various artists including The Small Faces, Donovan, Thunderclap-Newman, George Harrison, Tom Jones, Peter and Gordon, Long John Baldry, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Frank Zappa, and he came up with the famous walking-step introduction to the James Bond theme. He taught guitar to and mentored Steve Howe of Yes and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple (It was Big Jim, along with Blackmore and The Who’s Pete Townsend who persuaded Jim Marshall to start building amplifiers). He was the first British guitarist to own a Gibson Les Paul, and was the first to use a fuzzbox, wah-wah pedal, and talkbox on recordings. Jimmy Page borrowed his Gibson acoustic to use on Led Zeppelin I, and he did the orchestral arrangements of The Who’s Tommy. In the late 60’s he picked up the sitar, which he often practiced with George Harrison, and released several records as “Lord Sitar”.

More from the UK Telegraph here.

More from Scott Vanderpool

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