Sullivan Family

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Broadcasters-turned-family act mixed bluegrass and gospel in new, exciting ways in the 1940s, continued for decades.
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Formed at the end of the 40s, the Sullivan Family became prominent in spreading interest in both gospel and bluegrass. The founders were brothers Enoch (b. Enoch Hugh Sullivan, 18 September 1933, St. Stephens, Alabama, USA; vocals, fiddle, guitar, mandolin) and Emmett (b. Emmett Austin Sullivan, 23 July 1936, St. Stephens, Alabama, USA, d. 10 April 1993, Alabama, USA; guitar, banjo, bass), and Enoch’s wife, Margie (b. Margie Louise Brewster, 22 January 1933, Winnsboro, Louisiana, USA; guitar). The brothers’ father, Arthur Sullivan, was a church minister and they grew up hearing gospel music and, on radio, traditional country music. Margie, too, heard both sacred and secular music, and all were especially influenced by Bill Monroe and the Bailes Brothers. After meeting at a revival meeting in Alabama, Margie and Enoch were married in 1949. The Sullivans began broadcasting in Mississippi and Alabama, continuing through into the mid-50s. By this time they had made their first recordings and towards the end of the 50s recorded again, this time for Loyal Records. They maintained their radio performances and also appeared sporadically on television.

The Sullivans had met and befriended both of their early influences (Walter Bailes owned Loyal) and it was through Monroe that they began performing at bluegrass festivals. This was in the late 60s from then on through succeeding decades and they continued this activity and also made a trip to Europe. Although Enoch, Emmett and Margie remained the core of the group, it was often expanded by other family members, among them the brother’s father and their uncle, Jerry Sullivan, Enoch and Margie’s daughter, Lisa, and a cousin, Aubrey Sullivan. Among other singers and instrumentalists who appeared with the Sullivans over the years are many who would become well known in country music circles: Joe Stuart, Marty Stuart, Carl Jackson, Joy DeVille, James Phillips, Joe Cook and Earn Sneed. In addition to live performances and recordings, the Sullivan Family help spread the word of their musical activities through a newspaper, Bluegrass Gospel News, which they founded in 1989. Despite their national fame, the family has not strayed far from their origins and in the new millennium were still living close to Arthur Sullivan’s Alabama home.