An artist who's
contribution to the Motor City sound played a pivital part in its unique musical credibility
to worldwide fame. The one and only Shorty Long. Frederick Earl Long was born on May 20, 1940 in Birmingham, Alabama. He earned the nickname 'Shorty' because of his diminitive height of only 5 feet. His early musical influences were Johnny Ace and Little Willie John. During his stint at Motown, Shorty was one of the chosen few artists to pen his own material. His first recording would inaugerate Motown's subsidary imprint, 'Soul' in 1964 (originally intended for blues artists) and collaborate with A&R / singer/ songwriter, Mickey Stevenson, on a masterpiece composition entilted, 'Devil With The Blue Dress On'. Released on Monday March 23, 1964, the song hit No.26 on Cashbox Magazine chart, the week ending Aug 1,1964.
Long waited two years for his next release, this time collaborating with songwriter great Eddie Holland (of the Holland Dozier Holland songwriting team) that became a soul dance anthem, 'Function At The Junction'. Based on an all night jaboree with party goers from diversion backgrounds from Ling Ting Tong from China to Minasota Fats for Hoboken flats, the song clamouflaging a subliminal message in the lyrics, to come one, come all and have a ball at the Junction. Released on Thurday March 17, 1966 'Function At The Junction' nearly died a quick death but was revived in the fall of 1966, after a popular line dance of the same name developed in Chicago in the black community that caught on quick in various parts of the country. 'Function At The Junction' stayed unto the lower regions, hitting No.42 R&B, the week ending November 26, 1966. The legacy of the song continued to gain popularity among party goers, becoming a soul dance anthem though its bygone years.
In January 1967, Shorty gave honorary nod to the Big Bopper and his classic 1958 hit, 'Chantilly Lace' and wrote a sequel composition to 'Junction' with the late Clarence Paul entitled, 'Night Fo' Last' with Long featured on organ on the instrumental flip side. His next hit would gain him international stardom with 'Here Comes The Judge', a song he composed with Bille Jean Brown (who supervised Motown's Quality Control Department) and a new comer named Suzanne De Passe ( who worked as Berry Gordy's assistant). The song was based on a comedy satire created by legendary comedian, Dewey 'Pigmeat' Markham from his vaudville years as a comic. The sattire was revived by world-reowned entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr. on NBC's No. 1 television show, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in early 1968.
Released in May 1968, 'Here Comes The Judge' hit No. 4, R&B, the week ending July 13, 1968, battling a chart competition with Pigmeat Markham's alternive Chess single version, which also zoomed to the No. 4 R&B, the week ending July 27, 1968. A classic self-titled LP 'Here Comes The Judge' was issued during the fall of 68'. With its zany courtroom antics, the opening lines of 'hearrrrreee hearrrrreee' was contributed by Sammy Davis Jr, who was negotiating a failed deal with Motown at the time. Background vocals and noices were contributed by The Spinners and the Andantes. The Spinners' bass singer, the late great Pervis Jackson, provided the voice of the gravelly grumpy judge, who sentences anyone who can't perform the latest dances.
'Here Comes The Judge' (Chess version) revived the career of the great Pigmeat Markham. With its funky syncopated rhythm licks, accompanied by lead rtythm guitar and bass, with zany background vocals, the song is considered to be the founding essesence of hip-hop music. Markham is historically regarded as the 'father of rap'. After the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, Long vocally traded his novelty tradition to a more subdued image through his recordings with his release of 'I Had A Dream' a tune he composed with Motown songwriter, Sylvia Moy in February 1969 and his last single, a remake of Procum Harum's 1967 classic 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' released in early June.
On Sunday June 29, 1969, Shorty was fishing along the Detroit River when suddenly a big tanker was coming down stream and overturned his boat. Sadly, he drowned and died instantly. As a tribute, Motown released a posthumous LP entiltled, 'The Prime Of Shorty Long' in the fall of 69'. 11 years later, Long legacy was honored with an induction into the Alabama Jazz Hall Of Fame in 1980. Shorty Long's contributions to the world of music, will always continue to remain a true testament through his stature and gifted talent. He's truly one of the great underrated heroes of the Motown Sound.