Wednesday, January 02, 2013

DJ Shorty Long

Despite their name, it's doubtful that Shorty Long his Santa Fe Rangers ever went to Sante Fe, let alone New Mexico. He was born in 1923, and in 1939 studied violin at the Conservatory of Rome. His real name was  Emidio Vagnoni, but that didn't roll off the tongue of country music fans so he went with a stage name.  Almost his entire country music career seems to have occurred locally in Berks country Pennsylvania. Shorty played the violin the accordion, and sing, just not all three at once.

He was with radio station WEEU-AM in Reading from about 1946 into 1955. He also recorded a couple sides for Cowboy Records and one for Decca, . I found a note in Billboard in 1945 noting that he left WFIL-AM and was being succeeded by the Sleepy Hollow Ranch Gang, because he was departing for The National Barn Dance. The program aired on WLS-AM. It was a big deal. He parlayed those appearances in Chicago into a deal with Victor records in 1949. ON the career upswing he also played New York City's Paramount Theatre with the Foy Willing Trio on the Andrew Sisters' "Eight-To-The-Bar Ranch Show".  While he was in Chicago he also appeared on the WSIL-AM Hayloft Hoedown. More here.

But it didn't last forever.  Record reviews described his cuts as novelties, somewhat dismissively. In 1950 he was touring with other second stringers like Little Jimmy Dickens and appearing on the Hillbilly Matinee on 870 WGTL-AM in Kannapolis, NC... a city so small it remained  unincorporated until 1984. He did vocals on a single for MGM with the "Blacksmith Blues" with art Mooney in 1952, another novelty. Ella Mae Morse cut the same single that year and her version charted at #3. His didn't. The same year King records released a duet with his wife Dolly Dimples titled "Hillbilly wedding, yet another novelty. More here.

Shorty Long returned to his hometown of Reading, PA and his live show on WEEU around 1952.  In 1955 he took on a regular program on WPAZ-AM in Pottstown, PA while still playing on WEEU. His new  show ran 2 hours a day and 3 on Sundays just spinning records.His show ran at least until 1954. that year he made a special appearance at a polio jamboree on WCOJ-AM in Coatesville. In 1955 he went back to RCA Victor, not just as talent, but as an assistant to A&R director Steve Sholes. In 1956 he did music for a Broadway Play called 'Most Happy Fella" it was not country, not even a tiny bit.  He kept making music into the 1970s and then retired. He died in 1991 at the age of 67. Over the years his name was repeatedly usurped diminishing his brand. An R&B artist using the same name cut "Function Junction" in 1966, and "Here Come the Judge" in 1968. Today there's a midget using the name, I kid you not. I think he'd have been amused.