Johnny Long

In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town

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Johnny Long started taking violin lessons as a young boy in North Carolina, however, an accident on his family's farm cost him the use of two fingers on his right hand. Undaunted, he just switched hands and became perhaps the only left handed violin player in big band history. Following Les Brown at Duke University, he formed the Duke Collegians which, after he left Duke, became the the Johnny Long Orchestra. His first big hit, "In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town," came in 1940, it is the one Johnny Long recording that shows up in big band, swing era compilations. But he had bigger hits, such as "No Love, No Nothin" which reached number 3 on the 1943 Hit Parade and stayed there for 10 weeks. Long's rendition of "My Dreams Are Getting Better all the Time" was one of the more popular versions of that tune. His band also appeared in a couple of movies and backed Ella Fitzgerald on a recording of "I'm Confessin'." The band was also playing at better night spots throughout the East and the Midwest. While the members of his band were not household names, they weren't slouches. His arranger, Junie May, created some danceable orchestrations. Yet, Long never made it beyond the second echelon of swing bands. He finally packed it up in the 1960s to become a teacher in West Virginia where he died in 1972 after a long illness.

This LP is a reissue (enhanced for stereo) of tracks Long cut for Decca Records mostly during the 1940s (and some from the 1950s). In addition to "In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town" and "My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time," the album includes a couple of other tunes Long had some success with, including "It's Sin to Tell a Lie" and "Moonlight on the Ganges." He even took a crack at Chuck Berry's 1955 "Mabelline." If nothing else, this LP is a reminder that Long deserves to be remembered for more than a single song.

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