Correspondence: Speaking Of Joe Sullivan…

Rifftides reader Ken Dryden writes:

It’s funny, but I discovered Joe Sullivan the same way I found out about Meade Lux Lewis, when rocker Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) recorded one of his pieces, “Little Rock Getaway.” Though there was very little in print of Sullivan’s work under his own name in the early 1970s, I managed to find a couple of LPs. He was also one of the pianists featured in Ralph Gleason’s Jazz Casual series, issued on a Koch CD with the Earl Hines performance and likely on DVD/VHS in the series.

(In the Jazz Casual series, the Sullivan program is paired with one featuring cornetist Muggsy Spanier. — DR)

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  1. John Baker says

    I have been a Joe Sullivan fan for 56 years. I met him in Columbus, Ohio at a jazz club called “Lou Posey’s Frolics in 1952 or 1953. I also saw him later at the Grandview Inn in Columbus with George Wettling and Ruby Braff. I immediately fell in love with his playing. It ran full range of emotions, sometimes in the same number. I always felt those variations were the artistic representation of alcoholic mood swings. He called himself a “two fisted” piano player. He used the entire keyboard. In ensembles, he didn’t just provide rhythm. He always had something going on behind the band. Today, I played ” Save it Pretty Mama”, and “Go Back where You Stayed Last night.”…two of my favorites. Many jazz historians pass over Joe completely. He was a giant. I was fortunate to have talked with him. After every number, he apologized for messing it up. Even on the Jazz Casual TV program, he apologizes. I have a huge collection of Joe Sullivan records.
    Oh, Did I tell you I liked the guy?

  2. says

    I was googling “Lou Posey’s Frolic’s in Columbus, Ohio” and up popped Rifftides. I read Mr. Baker’s comments on the Frolics’ appearance of Joe Sullivan. It brought back some fine memories. My father Sid Hines, was the piano man on the house band, and my mother was Lou’s bookeeper. I was privileged to attend Mr. Sullivan’s appearance at the 1952 Saturday afternoon Jazz session. I sat in the back corner booth with my mother, and finally saw the man I had heard so much about. He was indeed an artist at the keyboard. I am well familiar with “Little Rock Getaway,” music that my dad played often and well. I was a very young teenager, but will always remember the “greats” I was privileged to see and hear in the Frolics. Joe Sullivan was indeed, one of those greats. Thanks for a shared memory!