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SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 9:11 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The sign outside says “Jonathon ‘Boogie’ Long -- $10.”

The guitar wailing electric blues inside Fred’s on the River is unmistakable. On stage, Jonathon Long grimaces as his guitar delivers. “Boogie,” the 33-year-old bluesman’s hard-earned moniker, has been retired. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Long steps off the stage, his guitar behind his head. He wades onto a crowded dancefloor and sneaks a verse of “Happy Birthday” into a blistering solo. It is what he does best. But back in high school, Long’s band director pushed him out of the band.

8/11 SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man WAFB
8/11 SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man WAFB(WAFB)

Long laughs about it today. “My band director upset me.” Long laughed today. As a high school freshman, Long played first chair French horn. A case of strep throat caused him to miss a week of rehearsals. “He moved me down to last chair and took away all my solos.”

The band director may have taken his solos, but he could not take the music from Long’s soul. He’s had a guitar in his hand since he was six years old. “I started playing blues jams when I was a kid,” Long said, “and just fell in love with the blues.”

By age 11, he was sneaking into bars to sit in with whomever would have him. That’s where he earned the nickname Boogie -- for his unique blending of blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles.

Almost a quarter-century later, true to his Louisiana roots, he refers to his style as a gumbo. “I always tell people a gumbo because it’s like -- I write blues, rock, country, soul, r-and-b,” he said. “If I feel it, and it moves me and gets stuck in my head, I play with it until it comes out.”

SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man
SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man(WAFB)

His lyrics today come from nearly 20 years hustling in barrooms. He hit the road with a reggae band when he was just 14.

“My parents signed partial custody of me over to the leader of a reggae band when I was 14 years old,” he said. “That’s not to say they’re crazy. They just gave me freedom. Nobody should think that they didn’t have my best interest in mind -- that they did anything wrong. I would have done it the same today. I wouldn’t be the man I am if I hadn’t had those experiences.”

Long splits his time between writing music in a small trailer in Albany, La, and touring the world with some of the biggest names in blues. He was one of the last artists to tour with B.B. King before his death in 2015. “We did 15 shows.” Long remembered. “It was a great experience. I spent a little time with him. The time I spent with him, I’ll never forget.”

Long’s latest album, Parables of a Southern Man, debuted late last month at number five on the Billboard Blues Chart. The album’s first single, “My Kind of Woman,” landed at number eight on Sirius XM’s Bluesville.

SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man
SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Parables of a southern man(WAFB)

Parables is firmly planted in the blues gumbo Long’s longtime fans expect, with a gumbo of other sounds from country to gospel. That is why Long decided to drop the “Boogie” from his name. “I’m just Jonathon Long,” he said. “I’m going to stand on my name alone, and not give anybody a pre-conceived idea of the style of music I might play.”

This night at Fred’s, Long showcased them all, from honky-tonk to rock classics, mournful originals to electric blues solos and funk. Long delivered like the journeyman he is.

He has yet to reach middle age, but has already spent a lifetime on the road, and he has no plans of slowing down. “People come up to me and ask all the time, ‘Are you still playing music?’” Long said. “Well, my answer to that is, ‘Are you still breathing?’ Because I’m going to play music as long as I’m alive and breathing.”

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