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

 

shorty long & SF Ranchers

Shorty Long, upper left

200px-Map_of_Pennsylvania_highlighting_Berks_County

Reading, Berks Cty

 

200px-Map_of_USA_PA

Pennsylvania

 

shorty long picture 

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.”
———————————————————————————————————————–

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

download

 

Riley Shepard & Shorty LongBoil them cabbage down

download

 

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

download

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

download
Jack Day, “Rattle bone boogie

download

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

download arcade day rattle

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)

download
Shorty Long, “Just like two tear drops of water

download

 

Shorty Long, “Good night Cincinnati, good morning Tennessee

download

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”

download

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.

santa fe rangers

shorty long affiche

valley long kissesvalley long said
Shorty LongI got nine little kisses

download

Shorty LongWho said I said that

download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

download

Shorty Long, “Make with me de love

download

The Dalton BoysRoll, Rattler, roll

download
Shorty Long, “I got it

download

Shorty Long, “Luscious

download

Shorty Long, “Redstone John

download

 

rca long lusciousk-son long john

 

 

 

 

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.

late January 2014 fortnight favorites

Howdy folks! This is the second serie of favorites for the new Year. All selections do come from the eastern parts of U.S, except one from Indiana.

From Mobile, Alabama, WADE JERNIGAN offers the first titles on the Sandy (# 1010) label. Medium hillbilly bop, steel and fiddle for “Road of love“. Flip “So  tired” is more intimate.

Sandy 101 Wade jernigan road of love

Wade Jernigan “Road of love”

download

sandy 1010 wade jernigan so tired

Wade Jernigan “So tired”

download

From New York on the Mell label (same as Howie Stang‘s) (# 121) by one MOREY DUBOIS. “If you can spare the time” is obviously inspired by 1950 Lefty Frizzell hit, bit it’s Rockabilly from 1959. From Hammond, Indiana, we find BILLY REED and “Honky-tonk mama” a fine medium hillbilly bopper full of steel and fiddle. Topical lyrics. Campfire 45-33.

mell 121 morey dubois if you can spare the time

Morey Dubois, “If you can spare the time”

download

campfire 45-33 billy reed honky-tonk mama

Billy Reed “Honky-tonk mama”

download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LES TUCKER offers “Wrong kinda lovin” , a fast call and response format cross between hillbilly bop and rockabilly from late 1958, on the St Paul, Minnesota HEP label 2144.

On one of the many Dixie labels, one religious Hillbilly bop, “Crossing river Jordan” by HARMON R. WILLIS (# 123) and the Willis Family. Nice guitar. Sounds an accordion in the background?

Finally a curiosity. SHORTY LONG and BOB NEWMAN team up in 1955 on the “X” label for a train song, “Roll Rattler, roll“.(#0045)

hep 2144 les tucker wrong kinda lovin'dixie 45-123 harmon R; willis crossing river jordanX0045dalton boys roll, rattler, roll

Les Tucker “Wrong kinda lovin’

download

Harmon R. Willis “Crossing river Jordan

download

Dalton Boys “Roll, Rattler, roll

download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several stories of artists are on their way. I’m still lacking biographical info on ART GIBSON, SHORTY LONG, HAPPY FATS LEROY.

Rockin’ Rudy Hansen: “Saturday Jump” – Rockabilly, also pop country (1954-58)

Not much is known about Rudy Hansen, except that he was raised on a farm in New York (unknown date of birth). Later on, he was one of the stars appearing on the WLA’s Midwestern Jamboree, aired every saturday from Cincinati, Oh. Inspired by the Shreveport-based Louisiana Hayride, the show was originally called Boone County Jamboree (named for nearby Boone County in Northern Kentucky). Midwestern Hayride was first broadcast before 1937 and was carried live on the radio each Saturday evening through the early 1970s.

WLW television came on the air in 1948, sharing larger quarters with WLW-AM in the former Elks Building, re-christened Crosley Square. It eventually became the originating studio for the regional network Avco Broadcasting Corporation, which included WLW-A in Atlanta, WLW-D in Dayton, WLW-C in Columbus and later WLW-I in Indianapolis (after WLW-A was sold) when the program moved to television in the early 1950s. Then originating from WLW-TV, Midwestern Hayride was simulcast on WLW-AM until the early 1960s, then was revived in the mid-60s. At the show’s peak there was a one-year waiting list for tickets to be in the audience (100 people was the limit for each weekly show).

Hansen had much success in New Jersey, and got help from Smokey Warren.

In 1954 he cut his first two sides for RCA-Victor « X » sub-label (# 102). Neither « I Walked Away » (ballad) nor « The Mambo Queen » were spectacular songs, the only outstanding being the B side, Country mover, almost pop song.

The mambo queen

download

x hansen mambo

Then we found him circa July 1956 (according to the Rite matrix system) with two songs on his own label, Rudy Hansen # 1226, cut or issued in Springfield, Oh. « Cry Baby Baby » is an average Country ballad, while « Saturday Jump » is THE side. Fast Rockabilly, urgent vocal, nice steel throughout, wild slapping bass, it’s got everything a ’50s lover could look for. I don’t know if the record itself is rare, although I always seen it labelled « advance release », so Hansen seemingly sent it only to D.J.s. Note that the song was co-written with an interesting artist in his own right, Clay Eager, whom I will discuss one day upon (Republic, Clay Eager, Karl and Sage labels recordings).rudy hansen saturdayhansen cry

In 1957, Hanson got a contract with Decca and recorded in Nashville 6 songs during 3 sessions, all pop : chorus (Anita Kerr), and I cannot really recommend any song, except « Puttin’ On The Style » or « Just As Long » from his last, early 1958, session.

After that Hansen disappeared. Maybe, like many others, he went disillusioned and hung up music.

decca hansen castaway
decca hansen puttin'rudy hansen2

SATURDAY JUMP

 

(C. Eager – R. Hansen)? RUDY HANSEN (Springfield Oh, 1956)

 

Boppin’ the blues and blue suede shoes?

 

Baby, lots of fun?

 

Down on the farm on Saturday night?

 

That’s were it all begun?

 

Rudy Hansen

prob. Sept.21, 1956. Court. Eddie DJ Cesc

 

Rudy Hansen color picture B

courtesy Imperial Anglares

 

When all of a sudden they got real wild?

 

This is what I saw?

 

Uncle Ben got his fiddle down off the wall?

 

Uncle Judy got his ol’ banjo?

 

And Sarah jumped up, kicked out her shoes?

 

Screamed out, Go Ben Go!?

 

Fiddler was a pickin’ like you never did hear?

 

You oughta hear the rooster crow?

 

That Saturday night down on the farm?

 

When uncle Ben started rock ‘n’ roll

 

 

With help from Imperial Anglares

early January 2013 fortnight’s favorites

Hi!  to everyone visiting this blog early new year. If you are looking for bopping music, this is the site for you! Latest story (published on Christmas day!): Autry Inman. Let’s take a look and a listen. Great hillbilly/rockabilly  music.

First, one of those Rockabilly acetates flourishing over the web. Never heard of the artist, HAROLD MORRISON, but his “I Gotta Have Her” has got everything to enjoy your ears.

Then on for bit pop flavoured “Baby, Baby, Baby” on RCA 47-6188 (1955) by FLOYD WILSON. Male chorus, and the whole sounds New York but still enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

Return to JAY T. STARR, recently covered in a previous fortnight. This time for a serious Hillbilly boogie: ” Rattle Snake Boogie“, on Coast 9017, complete with fiddle and boogie guitar.

Also I did announce the DALTON BOYS (Shorty Long and Bob Newman). Both had begun their recording career on King (1951) with a split session. 1955 sees them reunited under a disguise for the fine train song “Roll, Rattler, Roll” on X 0045. Great boogie guitar, and harmony vocals all the way. Flip is slower “Just Like Me” (not podcasted).

From Waco, Texas, for a superb “Shorts Crazy” by MACK McCRAY on the Ford label (#1 or # 1074-A, the sequence in unclear on the label). All in all, piano, fiddle and steel do provide an almost Starday sound.

Finally from New Jersey, Jersey City on the Cevetone label (# 1866), a fine hybrid Hillbilly/Bluegrass “Mountain Boy” by VERLIN SPEEKS. Very fast, fiddle and banjo all along, and an energetic rhythm guitar. Just take a listen! In the meantime, have a nice Bopping New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?“.

Shorty Long

1958, 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 Clock

Sonny Miller