November 22, 1933 – May 31, 2014 Remembering Jerry Sullivan

Remembering Jerry Sullivan was born, (November 22, 1933 – May, 31, 2014) of the famous traditional bluegrass Gospel group, the Sullivan Family A native of Wagarville, in rural southern Alabama, born on November 22, 1933, Gerald ‘Jerry’ Sullivan was attracted to Gospel music from childhood. He developed a liking for blues and rockabilly music also. Another early influence was the old-time drop-thumb style banjo playing of his father J B Sullivan. Also Jerry’s older brother Arthur, when establishing a ministry based on Pentecostalism and encouraged his family to play music to accompany their worshiping.
He was an early recruit to the Sullivan Family, playing bass behind Margie, Enoch and Emmett. The family band launched its career at Radio WRJW Picayune, Mississippi. From 1950 to 1956 the Sullivans were based in Jackson, Alabama, but they were soon touring, finding as much acceptance on the bluegrass and Gospel music circuits as they grew to favor a traditional sound.
Their first recordings were for the Revival label and the Loyal Records label, owned by fellow evangelist, revivalist and broadcast musician Walter Bailes. They stayed with Bailes between 1959 and the early 1970s. Walking My Lord Up Calvary’s Hill and Old Brush Arbor were among their most popular songs.
During his years with the Sullivan Family band Jerry Sullivan grew into a talented and well-respected songwriter, counting among his credits such classic titles as Sing Daddy a Song, The Last Mile and From the Manger to the Garden. In 1978 Jerry Sullivan teamed up with his then 14 year old daughter Tammy. Jerry, a natural baritone, sang and played guitar while Tammy, a mezzo-soprano, sang lead and played upright bass. That year they made their first recordings together, but the duo did not go into music full time until after Tammy graduated from high school.
About 1988 Marty Stuart, who had worked with the Sullivan Family prior to joining Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, joined the duo, playing mandolin and he took on the role of producer of their next album, A Joyful Noise.
As for their two subsequent CDs, Jerry Sullivan, assisted by Stuart, wrote most of the songs on A Joyful Noise. Excellent as they were, none surpassed the quality of Get up John, the tune composed by Bill Monroe that now had words by Sullivan and Stuart. Their next album At the Feet of God was a 1996 Grammy nominee for best Southern Gospel, Country Gospel and bluegrass recording. Tomorrow, their final CD, also displayed considerable versatility and, like its predecessors, earned much critical appraisal. The duo has made personal appearances at small rural churches in the deep South, at bluegrass festivals, in concert in theatres and larger coliseums. Their TV appearances have included ABC-TV’s In Concert and People’s 20th Anniversary, CBS-TV’s Roots of Country Music-The Ryman and Opryland Country Christmas and TNN’s Music City Tonight.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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