Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 1950, St Louis MO) Blues singer, songwriter, guitarist. His mother played several stringed instruments and supplemented the family income by teaching guitar. From an early age he soaked up music live, on the radio, and pawing through the family’s 78s by people like Cab Calloway. Before he was ten he was tuning into black stations, absorbing the sounds of Jimmy Reed, Buster Brown, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Junior Parker, and all the rest of the blues and jump bands of the day.
In the early 1960s Long and his older brother Claude formed a band called The Mystics, covering pop songs from Rock’n’Roll to Ray Charles, Hank Ballard, and 'Louis Louie,' along with occasional originals written by Claude, who John still credits as a major influence. But both brothers felt the pull of the blues, a music of deep human bravery, a way of feeling better in a world that was full of pain and confusion. John Long continued to dig deeply into the blues classics: Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Tampa Red, Peetie Wheatstraw, Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Lonnie Johnson. Veteran St Louis harp player Doc Terry was another guide and mentor. The early 1970s found Long in Chicago, where Homesick James Williamson took him under his wing: Homesick James, a kin and sometime collaborator of Elmore James, had been playing and singing the blues since the pre-war era. Slowly at first, Long began writing some of his own songs.
It’s never been easy to make a living at the pure blues. For over 30 years John Long honed his craft, perfected his art, found his voice. His complete recorded works consisted of a few obscure appearances on other people’s records, a handful of home-made demos, and a track on a sampler issued by the host of an NPR program. Finally, one of his demos found its way to 'Big Al' Blake, leader of the Hollywood Blue Flames on the Delta Groove label. Blake was fascinated to find Blues of such purity and intensity from an obscure white musician already in middle age; he passed the demo on to Delta Groove boss Randy Chortkoff, who quickly booked Long into a studio to make his first CD, and Lost & Found was released in 2005.