Jimmy Long

Jimmy Long was a railroad man with a knack for singing and playing the guitar who emerged on radio and then on records in the 1920s and early '30s. If that background sounds a little like the early biography of Gene Autry, it's no accident -- Long worked the railroads at the same time that Autry did, and the two ended up becoming performing and recording partners; Long also co-wrote the song that became Autry's signature tune, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine"; and Autry married Long's niece Ina in 1930. Long was an employee of the St. Louis & Frisco Railroad at the time Autry joined the company in the mid-'20s, as a relief telegrapher, and the two eventually met. Long, who was older and at that time the more ambitious of the two, was already playing music and singing in his spare time, and entertaining the notion of someday appearing on the radio and maybe making some records. He soon met Autry, younger and less confident or certain of what he wanted to do at first, and the two began working together as a singing duo on occasion. Long's ambitions to go on the radio and perhaps even record eventually were adopted by Autry -- especially after the latter had a chance encounter with Will Rogers while on the job -- and the two began appearing together in Texas and Oklahoma. In 1929, when the record business finally beckoned, it was the two of them that went to New York to cut a pair of sides, both written by Long. Autry emerged as a solo recording act soon after, but he still occasionally worked with Long -- not only as a singer but on the railroad, because he didn't give up his day job until a bit later on. The marriage to Long's niece followed, and lasted until her death in 1980, and in 1931 Long and Autry collaborated what proved to be one of the most popular songs of the decade, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," which was also used in Autry's debut film, the serial The Phantom Empire. Long left the music business after the 1930s. ~ Bruce Eder

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