Frankie Sullivan: Survivor

Why You Should Know Him

For many films, a memorable soundtrack or an iconic song can often be the reason why they become forever immortalized. In the case of the hit film series, Rocky, "Eye of the Tiger" and "Burning Heart" were both co-written by Frankie Sullivan of the American rock band, Survivor.

Sullivan began playing guitar early on in his teens, often sitting in on local garage band practices and helping with their equipment changes. "I was about 13 years old when I began seriously listening to music—and that happened to be the era of great guitar music: Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles' John Lennon. Just about every group had great guitar players. Listening to these guys, I was primed," commented Sullivan on his early influence.

Sullivan was playing in his first band, Mariah, when a former classmate invited him to an impromptu jam session with Jim Peterik. This particular jam led to the formation of Survivor. Sullivan went on to co-write most of the band's music with Peterik, resulting in one of their more popular albums, Premonition, in 1981. In 1982, superstar and director Sylvester Stallone came to the band with a proposition for a theme song for his film, Rocky 3, after hearing the group's hit, "Poor Man's Son." The band was pleased to accommodate Stallone, resulting in what we all know now as "Eye of the Tiger."

Remaining at number one for six weeks on The Billboard Top 100 and going on to receive many nominations, the success of "Eye of the Tiger" catapulted Survivor to global success, with Sullivan and Peterik heading up most of the work. The band subsequently released the hit albums Caught in the Game and Vital Signs, with top hits like "Can't Hold Back," "High On You," and "The Search is Over."

Sullivan has received an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe Nomination, two Grammies, a People's Choice Award, and is a six-time member of the Million-AIRs Club—for artists who have had songs played on the radio at least one million times. Then there's the small matter of having released eleven top-ten records. Additionally, "Eye of the Tiger" ranks number 18 on the Billboard Top 100 Songs of All Time.

The Gear

Sullivan's overall style is mixed with Rock, Pop, Blues, and Country. He has been known to play guitars from Gibson, Les Paul, and Fender, owning a rather large collection from all the manufacturers. He uses D'Addario XL Nickel Wound strings.

Sullivan is accustomed to playing through a Fender Hot Rod Deville, as well as a 100-watt Marshall JMP IIRC amp. Not only does he still use this amp today, but it is the very same one he used to write and record "Eye of the Tiger." Other hits where he used the amp include "High On You," "Burning Heart," and "I Can't Hold Back."

On January 17th, 2017 Sullivan posted on his fan page that his 1960 LGibson es Paul had been stolen and was last seen in Henderson, Nevada.

Where Is He Now?

From 1984 and on, the band was tasked with multiple instances where members of the band either left or needed to be replaced, starting with Dave Bickler. This string of replacements continued for a few years until Sullivan remained the only original member of the band.

In September 2015, Survivor performed with their new vocalist, Cameron Barton, singing alongside Dave Bickler, but Bickler was fired from the band in 2016.

Sullivan continues to tour and perform with Survivor members Cameron Barton, Billy Ozzello, Walter Tolentino, and his son, Ryan Sullivan, though the band hasn't recorded a new studio album since 2006.

Back to the Top 40 Under-Appreciated Guitarists of the 1980s.

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