SHORTY LONG & the Santa Fe’ Rangers: Pennsylvania hillbilly by a former Italian immigrant and classical violinist!

 

shorty long & SF Ranchers

Shorty Long, upper left

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Reading, Berks Cty

 

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Pennsylvania

 

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A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Shorty Long was the leader and organizer of the Santa Fe’ Rangers. When he was just 14, his parents, who were musically inclined, sent him to study music at the College of Rome where he got an education in classical music. They said he graduated cum laude as a violinist. During that time it seems he had formed a hillbilly music band that shocked his ‘serious- minded’ parents and the professors. That classical musical training just added to the bands musical sounds.

Shorty Long could also play the accordion, and sang both solo and tenor lead in his combo. He was with radio station WEEU in Reading from about 1946 and by 1951, seemed to be still there. His fan mail was said to be phenomenal.

Prior to returning to his hometown of Reading, he had also appeared on the WSIL Hayloft Hoedown and also the WLS National Barn Dance during the Alka-Seltzer sponsored portions. He also played to rave reviews at New York City’s Paramount Theatre when he was featured with the Foy Willing Trio on the Andrew Sisters’ “Eight-To-The-Bar Ranch Show”.

Shorty spent his summers at his Santa Fe Ranch which was on Rt. 422 just outside of Reading. It may have been some place where entertainment was held as they mention he played host to the big names in the entertainment field. He also appeared in the movie, “Powder River Gunfire”.

He had also just signed a recording contract with RCA Victor then, too. And in his song folio of 1951, was a recent addition to the King record label.   (BIOGRAPHY TAKEN FROM: hillbilly-music.com)

Shorty Long, Country Musician, Composer

 (an obituary)

By Nathan Gorenstein, Inquirer Staff Writer

POSTED: October 27, 1991

Shorty Long, 67, a country-and-western musician whose songs were played by Roy Acuff and who backed up Elvis Presley on recordings of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” died Friday October 25th, of complications from cancer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Reading, where he was born.

Mr. Long, whose real name was Emidio Vagnoni, lived in Exeter Township and for many years ran the Santa Fe Ranch, a 20-acre family entertainment park. He played country and gospel, and staged family comedies with his wife, the former Gladys Ulrich, whose stage name was Dolly Dimples.

Although Mr. Long never officially changed his name, most of his fans only knew him as Shorty Long, a stage name he adopted 50 years ago.

Mr. Long’s original music training was in the classical tradition, and included a stint at the Conservatory of Rome, where his parents enrolled him for violin studies when he was 16.

Despite that – and playing violin with the Reading Symphony Orchestra for a period – he decided to pursue “hillbilly and western music,” as country music was called in the 1940s.

Only 5-foot-6, Mr. Long told interviewers how he’d gotten his name.

In the 1940s, at the start of his career, a fan approached him for an autograph. Because friends had already given him Shorty as a nickname, he signed “Shorty” – only to have the fan complain that the autograph was inadequate without a second name.

“So I wrote Long,” he recalled in a 1956 interview. “That happened to be the name of a girl I was going with at the time.”

Mr. Long opened the Sante Fe Ranch in 1948, emphasizing country music. In 1967, he and his wife purchased a 67-acre tract in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, and opened Ontelaunee Park, where top-name country music entertainers performed.

He sold the second park in 1982.

Mr. Long played steel guitar, wrote songs and recorded for a number of major labels. He also played violin, piano, bass, organ and banjo in recording sessions for a number of artists, including Presley.

His songs were recorded by Roy Acuff, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Jimmy Dickens, Pee Wee King, Jim Reeves and Hawkshaw Hawkins.

In 1955 he was cast as the lead in a Frank Loessner musical, The Most Happy Fella, and was declared a “showstopper” by columnist Walter Winchell.

Long stayed with the Broadway production for about four months, but later said homesickness for his wife and his country-and-western group, “The Santa Fe Rangers,” brought him back to Berks County.

It was during his stay in New York that he played piano and other instruments on such Presley songs as “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

In 1984 Mr. Long was presented the Outstanding Italian American Citizenship Award of Berks County by the Spartaco Society.

In a 1982 interview, Mr. Long said, “I wanted to be remembered as someone who always wanted to be with my family, the thousands of people who let me entertain them.”
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It has not been very easy to assemble a story of Shorty Long. Indeed the biography and the obit above did help a bit. But what more ? Virtually all I know about him came from his records, and luckily they are quite a lot, in very different styles. Let’s try at one go a classification and an appreciation of Long’s music.

His first Signatures/Hi-Tone sides from 1947 (with Riley Shepard) are exuberant: lot of accordion (Long?), lot of reels (« Sheppard’s Scottische ») or traditionals (« Boil them cabbage down »). I really would like to listen to their treatment of the blues standard « Sweet Corinna blues » (untraced – someone can help?). Anyway nice songs are also present, typical ’40s hillbilly : « Airmail special on the fly » or « After all these years », which remind me a lot of the music that another Pennsylvanian cut at the same time : Bill Haley & His Four Aces of Western swing, early in his career (1949-50) on Keystone, or Cowboy label.

Hi-Tone sheperd&long sheperd'sHi-Tone shepard&long cabbage

 

Riley Shepard & Shorty LongAfter all these years

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Riley Shepard & Shorty LongBoil them cabbage down

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On the Cowboy label, precisely, Shorty Long and the Santa Fe’ Rangers (at this point, not to be confused with Virginian Melvin Price‘s band, who cut on the Regal label as well as Blue Hen, among others, although later in the ’50s) recruited an already 30 to 32 years old singer (born 1918), Jack Day, or the alreay unknown Pee Wee Miller (although Day was present in the writers’ credit) for several sides. Fine uptempo sides with main instrument being accordion well to the fore (a fact which may wonder if Shorty Long was not playing it himself), good and firm singing by Day on « I round up the stars » and « I’ll go on loving you », or Miller in « You’ve got my heart in trouble ». Later on, Jack Day woud pursue a long career, although not very prolific recording-wise, on Coral ( his « Mule boogie [is this the Roy Hall tune on Bullet?]/Coyote blues » sounds promising..), Mercury (a cover of Bob Newman‘s « Lonesome truck driver’s blues »), and finally in late 1959 on Arcade 155: the fine « Rattle bone boogie » (flipside I’d like to hear is an instrumental, « Rappin’ the bass », well before the rap craze, of course).[March 24, 2018. You name it, I find it. Here’s “Rappin’ the Bass”, indeed an instrumental, rather average]

Shorty Long and Santa Fe’ Rangers [Jack Day, vocal] “I round up the stars

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Shorty Long and Santa Fe’ Rangers [Pee Wee Miller, vocal) “You’ve got my heart in trouble

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Jack Day, “Rattle bone boogie

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Cowboy long troubleJack Day, “Rappin’ The Bassarcade day rappin'

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Cowboy long stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get back to Shorty Long – as he aimed to be called then by fans. We find him next on Decca in 1948 for very slow sentimental songs. Long has a fine voice, mellow and easy, but…no uptempo : he’s crooning. Best song to emerge is the standard « I love you so much it hurts ». In 1949-50, he went to RCA-Victor, and all the songs I’ve heard are similar in style and I can think in confidence that Long pursued on slow ballads on the label.  Decca long much

We find him next on King Records, out of Cincinnati. It’s still now unclear where he recorded, either in Cincinnati or Nashville, TN. But he must have used studio musicians : on the labels, « The Santa Fe’ Rangers » have disappeared. All in all, he had better moments then, and went straight on the hillbilly bop bandwagon. My favorites are « Calm, cool and collected » (# 889) and the two-sided # 953. « Just like two drops of water » is a good uptempo ballad, well in the style of the King label circa 1950-52. The best side is however the powerful train song « Good night Cincinnati, good morning Tennessee » (my first exposure to Shorty Long’s music in 1978). Nice steel, infectious rhythm, a little classic !

Scotty Evans, “Three times seven” (Arcade 115)

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Shorty Long, “Just like two tear drops of water

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Shorty Long, “Good night Cincinnati, good morning Tennessee

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King long waterKing long cincinnati

 

 

 

 

I’d like to hear also « Hillbilly wedding » (# 949), which escaped to my research until now ; it must have had some success, since this tune was reissued on # 1076 in 1952.[It’s here, without scan: a gentle hillbilly jiver]

Shorty Long & Dolly Dimple “Hillbilly Wedding”

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Shorty Long’s band must have been in demand, as they are backing Scotty Evans on one of the first Arcade issues (# 115), “Three times seven/What’s become of me“, both reasonable boppers.Arcade evans times

1953, down in Tennessee ; first for the Gallatin Dot label ; « Pretend » and « Crying steel guitar waltz » (# 1153) are highly forgettable, slow sentimental ballads. “Crying” was covered by Pee Wee King with a reasonable dose of success in May 1953.

Second session is a lot more interesting for the Knoxville small Valley label. From then on, I guess it’s a turn in Shorty Long’s career. « I got nine little kisses » is a jivey little rocker, a la Bill Haley (Essex period – actually the song reminds me « Crazy, man, crazy »). Chorus, string-bass, lead guitar and a happy vocal by Long. Its flipside « Who said I said that » is an equally good jiver.

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valley long kissesvalley long said
Shorty LongI got nine little kisses

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Shorty LongWho said I said that

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The Davis Sisters covered “Just like me” (RCA 47-5843) in 1955, and the pair offered Martha Carson “I just found God” (RCA EPA 674) in 1956.

 

 

Back to the big RCA-Victor label, this time I think in NYC in 1954, until 1957. Long went more and more pop, after 1956; anyway he had still fine sides, like the train song « Standing in the station » (with a male/female chorus doing train effects – Boudleaux Bryant had already given Long the song “Who said I said that” on Valley) or the mambo-beat « Make with me de love » or on the X label in 1955 ; Long teamed with Bob Newman as « The Dalton Boys » for the great two-sider « Roll, Rattler, roll » b/w « Just like me » (X 0045).

X long stationX long make

Shorty Long, “Standing in the stationx dalton roll

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Shorty Long, “Make with me de love

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The Dalton BoysRoll, Rattler, roll

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Shorty Long, “I got it

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Shorty Long, “Luscious

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Shorty Long, “Redstone John

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The Davis Sisters covered “Just like me” in 1955 on RCA 47-5843, while the pair offered “I just found God” to Martha Carson (RCA EPA 674) in 1956.

 

 

Late January 1956 as pianist he backed Elvis Presley during the mammoth session with saw « Blue suede shoes », « Shake rattle and roll », etc. cut He maintained to have played on « Hound dog », although Gordon Stokes of the Jordanaires held the piano stool for this August 1956 session.

Apart from a fine, very Everly-ish « I got it » (unissued at the time – I don’t know where the Youtuber found it), and a big band-ish « Luscious » (I believe this is the Roy Hall song – B-side of “Blue suede shoes“: the writer is the same, Greg Callahan) , other tracks are « Vacation rock » (curiously issued as B-side to « I got nine little kisses » on the Valley bootleg issue in 1978) which is a belter, as « Burnt toasts and black coffee » (RCA 47-6572). Last good track Long could have cut was Cliff Crofford’s « Another love has ended », alas ruined (to my ears) by over-production and noisy brassy backing. Final track of interest came in 1958 on the Birmingham, AL. K-Son label (distributed by RCA): Shorty Long delivers an honest white-rocker with lot of saxes. Nothing of an earthquake however!

 

Shorty long issued several albums during the ’60s and ’70s along with his wife Dolly Dimples, and was active in music nearly until his death in 1991.

 

This article would have proved impossible to settle down without the invaluable help of collector Ronald Keppner, out of Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Thanks Ronald for the sounds and scans.

early October 2013 fortnights favorites

Howdy folks! Hope you are well!! Thanks to you,  more than 78. 600 visitors can not be wrong, so I will keep up the good work with confidence. Latest posts on the site: the ALLSTAR label from Houston, the JACOBY Brothers from San Antonio. In the process of a huge project on BILL NETTLES & His Dixie Blue Boys. More research on Buffalo Johnson, Billy Hughes, list is endless. I found new friends and contributors, first Herr Ronald Keppner from Frankfurt, Germany.

Here we go first for sad news. Surely you have heard sudden death of MARVIN RAINWATER on September 17. What a great loss, as he was one of the greats in Hillbilly/Rockabilly/R&R of the ’50s. Two tracks there. His original version (later done by the Maddox Brothers) of “I Gotta Go Get My Baby” on 4 *. Then his great (mumbling vocal, and a great slap-bass) “Mr. Blues” on M-G-M 12240 from 1956.
I gotta go get my baby (1954)

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Mr. Blues (1956)

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4* DJ rainwater gotta mgm ranwater blues

Harry Choates i946 “Jole Blon” had many sequels, including Floyd Tilman‘s “Slippin’ around with Jole Blon“. Here I offer what is supposed to be the original version by BUD MESSNER (with the co-writer of the song, Bill Franklin on vocal) on the Abbey label. In due course, there is the flipside, a nice shuffler called “I died all over you”.

Bill Franklin, “Slippin’ around with Jole Blon (Abbey 15004)

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Bill Franklin, “I died all over you (Abbey 15004)

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abbey slipping abbey franklin died

Back to old friends:the GEORGIA CRACKERS. Their story (and that of the younger brother of the Newman trio, BOB NEWMAN) has been told earlier in this site. I recently put my hands on one of their early renditions (1947) on RCA-Victor, “That’s the way it’s gonna be” (RCA 20-0038). Fine bopper. Hope someday RCA will reissue all their output.
Georgia Crackers, “That’s the way it’s gonna be”

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rca ga.crackers waybb 8-11-47 georgia crackers

Now for two sides from the multi-faced SONNY JONES. From New Orleans or vicinity, he was at one time called SKINNY DYNAMO (on Marlin and Excello). Here are his very first sides cut with Salvador Doucette on piano in 1952 for Specialty. Great swooping Louisiana Rocking Blues! Later he went on Imperial.

Sonny Jones, “Do you really love me?”

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Sonny Jones “Is everything all right

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Have a nice survey of the selections. Comments as usual welcome. Bye

early December 2012 fortnight’s favorites

Howdy, folks. My selection for this fortnight will be made, as usual, of lesser known artists up, and various times, ranging from approx. 1953 to early ’60s.

SHORTY LONG in 1961 was certainly no newcomer to music, as he had been cutting records on King in 1951, sharing a session with BOB NEWMAN. The latter in 1955 was reported as having joined Long’s Santa Fe Ranchers. Here  Long offers the fast “Forget Her“, an hybrid song containing a slap-bass as well as banjo, mandolin and steel on the Smiling 2675 label. Long is billed here “Kentucky”, no doubt his original state. Both Shorty Long and Bob Newman paired in 1955 as Dalton Boys for a solitary “Roll, Rattler, Roll” on the X label: next fortnight.(April 2, 2018. Note the Shorty Long  here has probably nothing to do with the Pennsylvania born Shorty Long – records on King, Valley and RA-Victor; see his story elsewhere in this site)

On a Evansville, IN Eunice 1007 label, DARRELL LEE offers an average Country-rocker/Rockabilly “Really Do You Care?“.affiche shorty long

smiing long forget

shorty long

Shorty Long

eunice lee really1958, TIM JOHNSON on the West Monroe label Leo (# 784) – which is actually a Starday custom issue – do come with the fine shuffler. A bit George Jones vocally, good fiddle and steel.

On Kasko 1643 (Santa Claus, IN) from 1965 RED LEWIS has a country-rocker “Yes, Indeed“(nice guitar, discreet steel) “I’ll Move along“.

The earliest track do come from Nashville in 1953. JOHNNY ROWLAND is a kind of mystery, although his voice seem very  professionnal. He founds himself on Republic 7023 with the fine “Ohio Baby“.

Finally SONNY MILLER on the Boyd label, no doubt early ’60s. Good steel in “Lonesome Old Clockboyd miller clock

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Sonny Miller

leo johnson yeskasko lewisrepublic rowland ohio

late December 2010 fortnight favourites

Howdy folks. This time we are mostly staying in Texas. First with the legendary bandleader CLIFF BRUNER and “San Antonio Blues“, a late ’40s tune. He saw among his band members Moon Mullican or Link Davis.

Then GENE HENSLEE, aimed at Hillbilly bop/Rockabilly circles for his “Rockin’ Baby” on Imperial. He also had this jumping “Dig’n’And Datin‘” with fiddle, piano and steel. Henslee was a resident D.J. at KIHN from Hugo, Oklahoma.

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BASHFUL VIC THOMAS was one of these Country outfits jumping on the Rock’n’Roll bandwagon in 1956. He delivers here the fine romping “Rock and Roll Tonight” on the Premium label. premium thomas rock

From the Sage label out of California comes now BOB NEWMAN (see elsewhere his story in this site), disguised under the family name “GEORGIA CRACKERS” and a remake of “Hangover Boogie” in 1957. He had already cut the song for King during the early ’50s.

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Bob Newman

sage ep  georgia crackers

jack tucker

Jack Tucker

The tune “Big Door” was published twice by 4 Star in 1958. One version, as a Rocker, was sung by GENE BROWN (with a possible Eddie Cochran connection). Here I offer the other version by JACK TUCKER, more Country.   4 star tucker door

Finally, way up North (Richùond, Indiana), here is JIMMY WALLS and the amusing title “What A Little Kiss Can Do” (from 1965!) for the Walton label, which also had Van Brothers‘ issues.

walton walls kiss

A merry Xmas to you all. Enjoy the music!

Bob Newman & The Georgia Crackers

 

Bob Newman & The Georgia Crackers

Bob Newman should have been a millionnaire : he was one of the best Country music composers of the Fifties, under his name or his aliases (Lee Roberts). His rich, vibrant voice could have given him a far more successful career than he had. He remains a minor Hillbilly Bop artist.

However, he didn’t begin as soloist, but in the shadow of his elder brothers, Hank (born Henry, 1905) and Slim (born Marion Alonzo, 1910) in a trio, The Georgia Crackers . They came from a town near Macon, Ga. where Bob saw the light of day on October 16, 1915. Hank & Slim formed a duo during the Thirties, in the manner of the then immensely popular Jimmie Rodgers, and toured extensively in the Midwest and the South. Vocalion label recorded them in 1934 in New York. Later on, they settled down in Columbus, OH, where they founded a club, the G-Bar-C.

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