Q&A with Baton Rouge-based guitarist Jonathon “Boogie” Long - born with the blues coursing through his veins

“The Blues means everything to me. It’s my roots, my upbringing. Some of my favorite people in the entire World were Blues performers and supporters. No matter my situation, God always provides through the Blues. I will always be a pioneer for Blues music and culture”

Jonathon Long: Boogie All Night Long

From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jonathon “Boogie” Long was born with the blues coursing through his veins. Brought up in a Southern Baptist community, he first picked up the guitar at the age of six, teaching himself old gospel songs. Years later, a teenage Long found himself playing weekly gigs at blues clubs and events around town. At fourteen, he left school to lay down his roots touring with local legends Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor from 2003 to 2005. Additionally, he has toured with Chris Duarte, Kenny Wayne and Tyree Neal on the Chitlin’ Circuit. Boogie has shared the stage with standout musicians such as Dr. John, Rockin’ Dopsie, Monte Montgomery, Ellis Hall, Kenny Neal, Larry Garner, Henry Gray, Lil Ray Neal, and Lou Marini of the Blues Brothers Band.

Eighteen years into century twenty-one, Baton Rouge born Jonathon Long (he’s retired ‘Boogie’-more on that later) has claimed his own share of that legacy. He has mined, refined and re-defined his beloved blues for over half of his 29 years. The shuffles and homages to the King’s and Collins’s, along with his mastery of the red Gibson, have evolved into what will certainly be a milestone in that legacy, his third album, titled simply ‘Jonathon Long’. Recorded in post-Mardi Gras New Orleans earlier this year at NOLA Recording Studios, ‘Jonathon Long’, produced by 2018 Contemporary Female Blues Artist of the Year Samantha Fish, is an extra-ordinary collection of 11 songs, all written by Jonathon save for ‘The River’, written by Detroit’s Kenny Tudrick, a Samantha Fish cohort and drummer for the Detroit Cobras. Long is joined on the record by bandmates Chris Roberts on bass and Jullian Civello on drums, giving it a ‘live in the studio’ sonic signature.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

The Blues means everything to me. It’s my roots, my upbringing. Some of my favorite people in the entire World were Blues performers and supporters. No matter my situation, God always provides through the Blues. I will always be a pioneer for Blues music and culture.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches? How do you describe your songbook and sound?

The first time I heard the Blues I could feel the notes in my bones and I could feel the connection right away. I was already playing guitar by that time in my life and I knew that music would be a part of my life in some way. I don’t like to label my sound as just Blues, though I am heavily rooted in it. I play and write many different genres on music and I like to share all of them with the people. I also throw in obscure cover tunes once in awhile but I’m trying to play as many original songs as possible.

"I miss CDs and vinyl being the primary platform. My biggest fear is that people one day won’t look up from their phones long enough to enjoy life. Back in the day, singers actually had raw talent, and could sing. Now with pitch correction and production tricks, any pretty girl can be a star, regardless of background or having any real actual soul at all. That’s not every artist, but it has been seen before and we all know it."

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I’ve been acquainted with many different artists and people throughout my life and career. A friend and musician Sundanze once told me to open my mouth and sing, otherwise I would just be another guitar player and they are a dime a dozen, advice I also received from my parents though not in that context. I also have a lot of respect for the Neal family, Kenny, Lil Ray, Raful, etc. They have always been around and watched me come up, sharing good advice when they could. I also learned a lot from Henry Turner Jr. as far as how to run a band and keep it functional. So many different lessons from many awesome people.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

B.B King was one of my favorite musicians. On the second night of a 3 weeks tour he told me “I stole some of your licks” to which I replied “That’s alright, I stole all of your licks”. I also told him I would like to carry the torch of the Blues and he said “I would love it very much if you did that”, so I feel like I have the King’s blessing in a way. I’ve opened and jammed with many amazing people, Warren Haynes, Robert Cray, Jimmy Vaughn, ZZ Top, etc. Each show has its own story as you can imagine, crazy stuff happens in the music business on a nightly basis. Cranky road managers, interesting fans, and tasty jams galore.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss CDs and vinyl being the primary platform. My biggest fear is that people one day won’t look up from their phones long enough to enjoy life. Back in the day, singers actually had raw talent, and could sing. Now with pitch correction and production tricks, any pretty girl can be a star, regardless of background or having any real actual soul at all. That’s not every artist, but it has been seen before and we all know it.

"The first time I heard the Blues I could feel the notes in my bones and I could feel the connection right away. I was already playing guitar by that time in my life and I knew that music would be a part of my life in some way. I don’t like to label my sound as just Blues, though I am heavily rooted in it."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Simply more funding for the arts in general. If festivals have better budgets, they can bring more talent for the folks to enjoy and host better, bigger events. Also, more music programs in schools to inspire more young folks to take to music instead of video games, the streets, etc.

Do you consider the Blues n' Boogie a specific music genre or do you think it’s a state of mind?

A state of mind is a good way to put it, although most people still consider it a genre. I’ve considered it a genre myself at times, but it’s honestly more a way of life, and though I deviate from it musically at times, it’s always where my roots will be planted and it’s always where I will feel most comfortable, ya know, most at home.

How has the Louisiana's music and heritage influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

It’s become a part of my life. I’ve been all of the World and Louisiana will always be home. The music, the food, the culture, people’s demeanor, the hospitality, Louisiana is a melting pot of all of those things. Listening to Luther Kent, Kenny Neal, Tab Benoit, Chubby Carrier, and many more growing up really set a high standard for being a showman and putting on a show. I was watching masters do what they do best, and imitating them wasn’t important, figuring out a way to connect with the people in my own way and through my own music was.

"A state of mind is a good way to put it, although most people still consider it a genre. I’ve considered it a genre myself at times, but it’s honestly more a way of life, and though I deviate from it musically at times, it’s always where my roots will be planted and it’s always where I will feel most comfortable, ya know, most at home."

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

I don’t pretend to know much about politics or current World events because I try to stay immersed music, which is my happy place, but I will say that I know that you can bring Blues music to a place, and people of all colors and political stances can come together to dance, groove, and have a good time. I have seen that with my own eyes on more than one occasion

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

There are so many. Did Robert sell his soul to the devil at the crossroads? I’d try to save a special musicians life. I would go back and tell Stevie Ray not to get on that helicopter. Or maybe I’d go to Hendrix’ hotel room and roll him over when he was chocking on his own vomit. One of my favorite albums is Jeff Buckley “Grace”, I’d walk with Jeff into the Wolf river where he was swept away and steer him from around the barge that sucked him under. If any of those 3 people were still here, it would be so amazing, and there are so many more, we would need more time machines.

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