Born in Glasgow on November 26, 1945, Jim Mullen grew up on the city’s East side and began his musical life aged 8 in the neighbourhood skiffle group. There was only one way to make music – make your own instrument! He was lucky that his father was a carpenter, and remembers his first instrument being a tea chest bass. “I wanted a guitar,” he says, “but dad found the strutting and the fretwork too much, so he reluctantly allowed me to buy my first instrument on one year’s hire purchase.” The guitar was an Egmond and cost the young Mullen around £10. “It was an almost unplayable thing. I was left handed and found myself playing on a right handed instrument – it felt weird holding something in my right hand – but that’s how I started playing with the thumb” – an aspect of Jim’s playing is that like Wes Montgomery, Jim plays exclusively using his thumb. “My claim to fame is that I taught Billy Connolly the chords for ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ on the banjo”.
When an older friend introduced him to jazz, he was hooked.
In the mid-50s, he listened to West Coast labels like Pacific Jazz and to the likes of Mundell Lowe, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney and Barney Kessel.
After leaving school he trained as a journalist while playing on the local music scene. He formed a group with Malcolm Duncan and Roger Ball (later of the Average White Band) and they worked throughout Scotland playing Coltrane tunes and originals. It was in this group that he started attracting attention and in 1969 he moved to London, going on to work in the groups of Pete Brown, Brian Auger, Vinegar Joe and Kokomo.
In 1975 he met tenor player Dick Morrissey and began a 15 year association which produced 7 albums and became one of Britain’s top club bands spearheading the British jazz-fusion movement of the 1970s. “We were listening to jazzers like Stanley Turrentine and George Benson, and saying to ourselves – this is where we want to be.” They embraced everything from bop to pop to funk, and found favour with both jazz and rock fans. After the demise of Morrissey Mullen, Jim worked with Claire Martin (3 albums) and formed a series of quartets (3 albums). As a sideman he is in demand by visiting U.S. stars like Gene Harris, Mose Allison, Jimmy Smith, Weldon Irvine, Percy Sledge, Teddy Edwards, Plas Johnson, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Terry Callier.
Jim Mullen is winner of “Best Guitar” in the British Telecom Jazz Awards (1994 and 1996), “Best Guitar” in the Post Office Jazz Awards 2000 and winner of “Best Guitar” in the Hamlet Cigar British Jazz Awards 2002.
“With his unique mellow guitar sound and his ability to spin a seemingly effortless stream of melody, he never fails to keep your ears fully occupied.” Dave Gelly
“Jim Mullen is one of the great jazz guitarists working today” Jazzwise Magazine
“Jim is in total command of his instrument, passionate and lyrical on ballads, and endlessly inventive when improvising at all tempos.” Dick Armstrong