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. Parables of a Southern Man, Long's second release for Samantha Fish's Wild Heart Records out on July 2, 2021. Like his previous album, Long's sophomore effort was also produced by Fish. The first thing you notice about Jonathan Long’s new record, is that his virtuoso guitar playing is not his only strength. Long is a complete musician and entertainer, a great singer and totally original songwriter whose lyrical guitar playing is always in service to the bigger picture.                          (Jonathon Long / Photo by Devon Williams)

Technically there is only so much you can play on an electric guitar-fronted blues band, and most everything has been tried at least once. The differences are more in emotional expression, the ineffable human quality that animates the playing and performance. Long excels at the high-intensity blues-rock format. You can hear Louisiana calling in Long’s control of dynamics, and his conversational manner of playing, that front porch penchant for telling multiple stories in a single solo. As a sheer force player Long belongs in the company of the masters. The bells he rings come closer to Albert Ayler’s than Johnny B. Goode’s. Yet he can be as elegant and soulful as B.B. King on an R&B jump tune or a ballad. But that still isn’t the best thing about Long. What really sets him apart is his songwriting and singing, which has evolved out of the blues canon into his own version of Americana, a place emerging from but not tied to any genre, too personal to be anything but unique.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues n' Boogie music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues and music period has been the foundation for pretty much every journey I’ve taken in my life thus far. Music is my entire World, therefore there are too many instances that it has influenced my views of the World to count.

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.  (Photo: Jonathon Long)

"I write a lot about life experiences and my feelings, but I also pull a lot of inspiration from storytelling or creating story lines around hook lines and melodies. Writing is one of my favorite things to do in life, and honestly, a lot of times I will crank out a bunch of tunes right before we go into the studio and for some reason having to do it quickly, or being in “crunch time” as I sometimes call it gives me extra drive."

How do you describe "Parables of a Southern Man" sound and songbook? How do you want it to affect people?

It’s a musical gumbo of sorts. An album that will have something for everyone on it. You don’t necessarily have to be a “Blues fan” to enjoy “Parables of a Southern Man” because it touches on many genres and flavors. I simply want folks to feel better after they’ve heard it than they did before, and hopefully they get a positive message or some motivation also.

Where does your creative drive come from? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs and music?

I write a lot about life experiences and my feelings, but I also pull a lot of inspiration from storytelling or creating story lines around hook lines and melodies. Writing is one of my favorite things to do in life, and honestly, a lot of times I will crank out a bunch of tunes right before we go into the studio and for some reason having to do it quickly, or being in “crunch time” as I sometimes call it gives me extra drive.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started and what has remained the same?

I have grown in every facet of life. I started touring when I was 14 years old. Times are different, things have changed, the industry has changed, I have grown as a man and a musician, but my love for music and performing has and always will remain the same.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I am proof that if you’re persistent enough and don’t give up, you can do what your passionate about for a living. The biggest lesson I learned was not giving up. Music is humbling and the gift I was given is borrowed from my higher power to whom I owe all of the glory. 

"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."  (Jonathon Long / Photo by Devon Williams)

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."  (Photo: Jonathon Long)

What would you say characterizes Louisiana blues scene in comparison to other local US scene and circuits?

There’s a certain sound that comes from here. I was fortunate to come up around some very heavy hitters: The Neal Family (Lil Ray, Kenny, Darnell, Noel, Rafel, Jackie, etc.), Larry Garner, James Johnson, Rudy Richard, too many to list honestly. These men and women helped me discover my true sound and helped pave the path that I took in life. I owe so much to their kindness and patience.

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.

Jonathon Long - Home

Photo: Jonathon Long)

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