A View From The Cheap Seats: Five Cool Things About Gregg Sullivan

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Gregg Sullivan with an acoustic guitar. Photo Credit: Amy Heller

There is a concert Saturday night at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall and you should probably go. Why? Because we need to welcome a new member to our musical family on our little sand spit. His name is Gregg Sullivan. He is a guy you want to get to know. He is already hanging around with the coolest jazz guy in the area: Bart Weisman – which is actually how I heard about Gregg. Bart sent me a press release for the show, and like a handful of other people, I saw that this was someone with quite a musical resume.

I drove to Orleans in the cold rain, to have a cup of coffee and a chat with Gregg. I got to the Sunbird Café (directly next door to Jewelry By S&R – my favorite jewelry store in the whole wide world) and realized that I don’t know what Gregg looks like. Honestly… I tried to Facebook stalk him and he doesn’t have a Facebook page? What musician doesn’t have a Facebook page? Gregg Sullivan.

I looked around when I got inside. No one jumped up, so I “casually” pretended to read the menu board on the wall while I did another Google search. (I am not proud… but who hasn’t?) I glanced around again… Not here yet. PHEW! (Nothing worse than Googling someone and realizing they are standing next to you in line). I stepped up to order.

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Gregg Sullivan with an electric guitar. Photo Credit: Felix Vlasak

Gregg arrived before my coffee did. He looks exactly like the picture in the flyer for his show. Did I mention the show is this Saturday at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall? You really ought to go if you can.

CharlieWe sat down and awkwardly tried to introduce ourselves. It was a little loud in the little coffee shop with other conversations rising over the music… And Gregg seemed a little reluctant to talk about himself (Cool Thing #1). Despite a resume that reads like a who’s who of well-known bands and musicians, Gregg is not a name dropper. In fact, given the chance, Gregg would rather tell you about his best friend Charlie, AKA: Mr. Handsome, AKA man’s best friend (Cool Thing #2). Gregg is a dog person, and the most important thing in his life is a boxer mix he adopted from a shelter in Virginia. I am not sure if we spent more time swapping stories about our dogs or music. Honestly, we probably should have gone for a dog walk rather than meeting for coffee!

We did philosophize about music. Gregg misses albums and liner notes (Cool Thing #3). Gregg grew up in the best period of music: When you saved your money from your paper route so you could go to the record store and flip through the bins looking for the new Doobie Brothers album after school. Sometimes you actually had to wait weeks for the album to be released! Gregg and I reminisced about a time in our lives when you had to buy an entire album and not just a .99 single. When you could open an album like a book and read about each musician and studio and the equipment used to produce a specific sound or tone and see the songwriting credits while you were listening with headphones – not EARBUDS- big clunky headphones with curly-cue cables that plugged into a record player so you could hear every wave of guitar riffs and keyboards and hear music move from left to right and front to back… Not just a thump-thump-thump from a drum-track.

Gregg grew up in New Jersey and spent many summers on the Cape. He moved here full time just a couple years ago to be with family. Gregg spent a significant part of his life on the road playing with some well-known acts. Gregg was reluctant to tell me any sensational stories, so I told him I would invent a story about “the time he drove a car through the front window if a White Castle in Indiana”… (I actually heard that story from another musician I once know). Gregg grinned. It’s nearly impossible to imagine this soft spoken man even getting a speeding ticket.

Gregg did tell me one of his favorite gigs was playing the Hollywood Bowl “because the Beatles played there”. Gregg is a big fan of the Beatles. As he told the story about the Hollywood Bowl I realized there was an entirely different reason why it was one of his favorite gigs: “The sound was amazing!” (Cool Thing #4). Gregg cares more about the sound and sound guy than who played on the same stage as him (almost). Gregg is one of those rare musicians who want to know about the guy “behind the curtain” more than the guy in the spotlight. This isn’t to say we didn’t talk about the Beatles, Davis Bowie, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchel and Prince at length, because we did. We also talked about the supporting musicians for each singer and where Gregg had crossed paths with each one, or what documentary he had seen them in –or which liner notes they were listed in.

I did coax a story about Eric Johnson out of Gregg. It was in an airport while hopping red-eye flights in New Jersey. Gregg was awestruck at seeing one of his idols milling about an airport gift shop. He was baffled that there were no paparazzi! Where were the fans? He told me how he chatted with Eric for a few minutes and each went their way. He has had the opportunity to see and talk with Eric Johnson since then. Eric Johnson is also one of those genuine people in the music industry. He remembers you. He introduces you to other people and remembers what band you work with and where you are going. After watching Gregg light up talking about Eric Johnson, I might have to see pull out some old discs.

Gregg is not a name dropper. The names he shared with me are the guys who make other people sound good. Gregg is one of those guys. Gregg is looking forward to his show this Saturday (which you should go to). At the end of our talk, after our cups were long empty and the coffee shop was closing down, Gregg humbly handed me a couple flyers for his show. “If you can make it…” he said trailing off (Cool Thing #5). Gregg just wants to play guitar and share music with you. What is he planning on playing? He is still working on his set list, but you will most likely hear Steely Dan, Michael MacDonald, Chet Atkins and of course the Beatles.

Gregg Sullivan is a true working class musician. No show-boating, no bragging, no name dropping. When you go to his show this Saturday at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall, if you have the chance after the show, make sure you ask him about Charlie, and let him know about the best places to take dogs in Eastham.

If you would like to see what makes Gregg such an amazing guitarist, watch this video of “Lucretia MacEvil” by Blood Sweat & Tears from 2003… If you like, skip to about 2:40 for his solo:

Now, since you are going to see him (along with local greats Bart Weisman, Rich Hill and Fred Boyle) Saturday night, you should probably get your tickets: www.WellfleetPreservationHall.org

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