The career of Frederick “Shorty” Long has not been well served in the CD age. Apart from an “Essential Collection” on the Spectrum label in 2000 (conspicuous for its omission of what many of his fans regard as their favourite track, ‘Chantilly Lace’) his work has appeared only on a number of various artist compilations. Now Ace are pleased to present his two albums on a single disc, which together with a pair of out-takes constitute all the material that was mixed to stereo during his tenure at Motown.
Shorty was born in Birmingham, Alabama and spent his early years in the music business touring the USA with vocal harmony group the Ink Spots. When Harvey Fuqua (the younger brother of Ink Spot Charlie Fuqua) started his own label, Tri-Phi, in 1961, Shorty was one of the earliest signings. Tri-Phi released three singles of his but like most of Tri-Phi’s output they were commercially unsuccessful. When Fuqua decided to come in out of the rain and shelter under Berry Gordy’s rapidly growing Motown umbrella in 1963, Shorty was invited along for the ride, together with the Spinners, Junior Walker and a number of lesser-known acts.
Shorty was among the first of these to enter the Hitsville studios, but it was nearly a year before ‘Devil With The Blues Dress’ was chosen for his debut 45 – and moreover as the first release on Gordy’s new Soul imprint – in March 1964. That and the follow-up failed to chart, but with his third single, ‘Function At The Junction’, he scraped into the Hot 100, in time to feature with much bigger names on Motown’s 1966 “Christmas Greetings” promo disc – a sign that the company had him slated for stardom. But two more singles went by before he finally came up with his one and only Top 10 hit, ‘Here Comes The Judge’, a catchphrase from the hugely popular TV comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Despite fierce competition from a Chess 45 by Pigmeat Markham, who claimed to have originated the Judge routine and actually appeared on the show, Shorty’s ‘Judge’ – a different song with the same title – reached #8 on the Hot 100. An album followed rapidly, combining tracks from Shorty’s back catalogue with a mixture of new material and covers of what surely must have been his personal selection of 1950s R&B hits.
Shorty was to have one more single released, before he died in a tragic boating accident on 29 June 1969. A few months later, Motown released the LP “The Prime Of Shorty Long”, consisting mostly of new material he’d been working on.
Fans were rewarded for their wait when ‘Chantilly Lace’ finally made it onto CD in “The Complete Motown Singles” series. But now they have a special treat – an alternative version of the song nearly a minute longer than the single, which was mixed to stereo but never used, never even heard ‘til now. Filling out the set is a stereo mix of ‘Mobile Lil The Dancing Witch’, a mono version of which first surfaced on the “Cellarful Of Motown” series.
By Keith Hughes