November 20, 2007

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Joe Long–Part One!

November 20th, 2007

Joe Long
Joe Long

For Jersey Boys and Four Seasons’ fans, last month’s Jersey Boys Fans Unite to Support BC/EFA event was an evening like no other. The entire Jersey Boys cast, JB writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and the legendary Four Seasons (Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, Joe Long, and Frankie Valli) all in one room shaking hands, signing autographs, and chatting the night away with fans. A truly unforgettable experience!

One of the most awesome and memorable experiences of October 21, 2007 for me was meeting Joe Long, a longtime member of The Four Seasons, who replaced Nick Massi in 1965. Back as a 13-year-old in 1975, I saw Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in concert for the very first time and I will never, ever forget Joe Long’s performance on that stage in Columbus! Being an aspiring deejay/newshound even back then, I remember thinking, ‘I’d love to interview that guy!’

In Act Two of Jersey Boys following the departure of Tommy and Nicky, Frankie says, “So we hold auditions and find a couple of guys, Joe Long and Charlie Calello–both Jersey boys.”

There’s a lot more to the Joe Long story than what we find out in Jersey Boys! Joe Long (whose real name is Joe LaBracio) was a member of the Four Seasons for eleven years. Joe recorded four albums and several hit singles–from “Opus 17″ through “Who Loves You.”

Even though it was a pipe dream back in ’75, never, ever did I think I’d have the opportunity to interview the incredibly talented Joe Long, but 32 years later–it did happen! I am honored to present Part One of a three-part interview with the legendary Joe Long. In Part One, Joe talks about his early years and how he became a member of the chart-topping Four Seasons.

JBB: You’re a Jersey Boy. Tell us about your early years. How did it all begin for you? Was it always your dream to be in a band, or did life take you in that direction? What led you to playing bass?

JL: Both of my parents were Italian. At six years old, I started playing the accordion, or as my dad called it, ‘the cor’deen.’ I was born in the late Depression, and my dad always told me that if you learn to play an instrument, you can always get a job.

My interest in music continued until I was about 14, then I became much more interested in baseball and girls. Then, when I was a late teen, my dad got very, very sick, so I had to go to work to support my dad, my mom, and my kid brother. Back when I was working full-time, I had a nasty accident and my left hand became pretty useless. After about 2 ½ years of rehab, I rekindled my interest in music and became a self-taught bass player. Although I’m not really left-handed, I played left handed because of the injury.

I began training and studying with Alfonse Strazza, who was the principal bassist for the New York Philharmonic. I originally wanted to pursue a career in the concert field. I also began playing a lot of jazz. Because my hand lacked the strength to play classical music, I switched to the Fender bass-guitar and began playing rock. I also took some conducting, harmony, and theory courses at a conservatory.

JBB: You became a member of The Four Seasons back in 1965. What were you doing before that?

JL: Before becoming a member of The Four Seasons, I had a number of my own bands and we toured around the country.

JBB: How did you become a member of the 4 Seasons? Tell us about the audition process.

JL: My agent at the time, whose name was Frankie Fame, arranged for me to meet Tommy DeVito right after Nick left the band with no warning. We met at a music store in Belleville, New Jersey. There was no left-handed bass at the store, so I played a conventional bass upside down for Tommy. Two days later, I met with Frankie, Bob, and Tommy—and they told me I was probably going to be the guy for the job.

JBB: Just like that—you were offered the job?

JL: Well, about two weeks after the initial meeting Tommy called me at my mom’s house. They offered me the job right on the phone and they wanted me to join the band immediately—take a plane and join them at an appearance within a few days.

JBB: And, you said, ‘I’ll be there’?

JL: Well, I told Tommy I couldn’t leave my current band without giving them a two-week notice. Tommy wasn’t too happy with my response, but I explained that it wouldn’t be fair to my other band to leave them without some notice.

I got off the phone and turned to my mom and brother and said, ‘The best band in the world just offered me a job, and I may have blown my chance at the best gig ever.’

Tommy called two days later after talking to Frankie and Bob. They agreed that I could join the 4 Seasons after I gave a two-week notice to my other band. This was right after Nick left the group. They felt that I wouldn’t leave them high and dry, without proper notice.

JBB: Prior to that initial meeting at the Belleville music store, did you already know Tommy, Frankie, or Bob?

JL: No, I didn’t. Nick was the only one of the Four Seasons that I knew before joining the band. Back in Asbury Park, I was playing at bars with other bands and so was Nick—this is before they hit it big in ’62 with “Sherry.” Nick worked with a band at Mrs. J’s, which eventually became the famous Stone Pony, and then I worked with my band at the Zulu Club, right along the beach. Nick and I would spend our days on the beach, gathering a bunch of guys and girls, teaching them harmony parts, and singing.

Thank you to Joe Long for taking time for this wonderful interview. In Part Two, Joe will reflect on his incredible career with the Four Seasons–the hits, the concerts, the recordings (including an amazing audio surprise from the late ’60s), and some other fascinating insights.

35 Comments »

  1. [...] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here [...]

    Pingback by Learn Guitar » JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Joe Long–Part One! — November 20, 2007 @ 6:45 am

  2. ‘The best band in the world just offered me a job, and I may have blown my chance at the best gig ever.’

    That gave me goosebumps. I love this interview. It sounds like Joe was a great addition to the band. I can’t wait for part 2. Thanks!

    Comment by Catherine — November 20, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  3. Fantastic interview! Very well written. I too am looking forward to Part 2 & 3. Great job!!

    Comment by Angel — November 20, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  4. Great interview! Looking forward to Parts 2 and 3. The Seasons probably respected Joe’s principled stance that he had to give his old band a proper two-weeks notice. Loyalty and fair play were very important to the Seasons. The editor in me raises this question: shouldn’t the interview read that the accident rendered his RIGHT HAND almost useless, forcing him to play with his left? Many thanks for spending this time with joe for our benefit. Best, Charles

    Comment by Charles Alexander — November 20, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  5. I was honored to meet Mr. Long at the October 21st event. He is charming and kind. I was so glad he was able to be with us that evening. IE

    Comment by irene eizen — November 20, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  6. Joe is a legenday member of a legendary group.

    Joe should be in the R and R Hall of Fame (emphasis added!).

    Scott

    Comment by Scott — November 20, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  7. Scott, I think everyone agrees with you re the Hall of Fame. In fact, David Cace has been saying that since the first day I met him a year or so ago. Go figure.

    It’s not the same as the Hall, of course, but Joe, along with the original Four Seasons, is finally getting some of the recognition he so rightly deserves! And it’s so nice to see him post periodically on Frank Rovello’s fine GILG site.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — November 20, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

  8. Long and McCartney

    Joe Long and Paul McCartney are the most talented/gifted bass player/musicians in R&R history.
    ————————
    Joe Long of The Four Seasons belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!Most fans of The Four Seasons were shocked to learn that do to a minor technicality Joe Long was the only member of band not fully inducted to The Rock and …

    joelong2cleveland.blogspot.com

    S.R. Stout, M.A.
    New Jersey

    Comment by Scott — November 20, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  9. Joe is a most talented musician.

    Induct him to the HALL!

    “Chas”

    Comment by Chas — November 20, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  10. Not only is Joe a talented musician, but a fine man as well…He i truly a rare and loyal friend!!

    Comment by Charlie — November 20, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  11. I’ve been a fan of The Four Seasons since I was a teen in the 1970′s.

    Today the license plate on my car proudly displays Joe’s first song with the group. Any Four Seasons fan should know what it is. I love the song.

    Joe should be in the hall of fame. Other than Frankie himself, Joe recorded songs with the group well into the 1970′s.

    I was thrilled to see Joe made an appearance with the group last month. A Four Seasons fan should consider Joe to be as much a member of the Four Seasons as Frankie, Bob, Tommy and Nick.

    Maybe some day in my lifetime I can get to meet Joe too, but don’t know if he’ll be around in another 32 years.

    Comment by Tom — November 20, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  12. Joe is one of a kind!

    Rare!!!

    jj

    Comment by JJ — November 20, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  13. Joe Long is the BEST bassist!
    Joe ROCKS!
    Carl P.

    Comment by Carl — November 20, 2007 @ 9:22 pm

  14. Very good interview. Of all my knowledge of The Four Seasons back when I was growing up with them,Joe Long was the Season I knew least about. This interview is especially interesting and I look forward to reading more about Joe Long. To have been given the opportunity to perform with The Four Seasons only says one thing Joe Long is also a very good and a talented individual and has what it takes to be a FOUR SEASON!

    Comment by ikie Wayne Durham — November 20, 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  15. I’m going to make an educated guess and say “Let’s Hang On” was Joe Long’s first hit with the group. I’ve taken the group history, chart history, and listening to the 25th Anniversary in chronological order to determine this. After this point, many of their records have the strong bass line. Let us know if this is right, Tom.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 21, 2007 @ 12:04 am

  16. I too Ted have always been curious about the late 65 early 66 recording time frame. While I have never had the opportunity to speak with Charlie Callello, I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with Nick Massi about the last song he recorded and with Joe Long about the first song he recorded. Nick Massi told me that the last song he recorded with the 4 Seasons was “Let’s Hang On!” There is also empirical evidence to back this up. The recording date for “Let’s Hang On!” was August of 1965. Nick left the group in September 1965. This also means that Nick’s last recorded album was the “Big Hits” album which recording date as I recall was also August 1965. Also on the “What’s New Pussycat” album cut from “Big Hits” you can hear a Nick Massi solo bass part which I believe to have been his last, and the last solo bass part ever to appear on a 4 Seasons’ record. Joe Long has told me that his first recording was “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me).” The recording dates also back this up. Remember it use to take a month or two to go from recording to release (at least in the “old” days). Joe told me that the last song he did was “Who Loves You.” I remember seeing Joe perform “Who Loves You” with the group in concert and I recall seeing TV shows with Joe perform it as well (Mike Douglas and a “Midnight Special” as I recall). So Joe bridges the gap from the original Seasons of Frankie, Bob, and Tommy to the new Seasons most notably of Polci and Ciccone and everyone in between like Demetri Callas. The great bass work you hear on “Who Loves You” by the way belongs to that of the talented Joe Long. Quite an impressive resume for Mr. Long. And this man is not standing alongside Frankie, Bob, Tommy, and Nick in the R & R Hall of Fame?

    I can only infer from all of this that Charlie Callello sang on the “Working My Way Back To You” single and the album cuts that appear on the “WMYBTY” album. Perhaps Charles Alexander and Frank Rovello can confirm this or provide additional information.

    Comment by David Cace — November 21, 2007 @ 6:08 am

  17. Frank Rovello kindly and privately, so as not to embarrass me, answered my dumb question about Joe’s injury. If I had ever played the guitar, I would have immediately understood why the left hand is so important to someone who plays “right-handed.” Thanks, Frank for this explanation: “It was his left hand that was injured. Since he could no longer finger the strings with his left hand he switched and fingered with his good right hand and picked with his damaged left.”

    Comment by Charles Alexander — November 21, 2007 @ 9:50 am

  18. Thanks David for your usual great information. I do notice now that you mention it the transformation from almost A Capella in “Spanish Lace” and “Connie O”, (yes there’s the guitar and piano, but not central to the songs) to the great Charlie Calello band percussion sections (I find myself doing “air” chimes!), to the “metal” in later works.

    I don’t remember seeing Joe Long credited on the “Who Loves You” album, but I’ll dig it up and look again. I had heard he was on “Who Loves You” and that that recording had been produced quite a while before release in late 1975.

    Speaking of delays between production and release, that probably cost “Dawn (Go Away)” the #1 Hot 100 Chart Position IMHO. It was reportedly recorded November 20, 1963, just two days before the Kennedy Assassination. Whether the label searching or that period of confusion following that Friday contributed to a delay has been speculated upon, but I think a slightly earlier release would have had “Dawn” topping the charts. As I recall, our local Top 40 station, WTRX, was playing “Dawn (Go Away)” right after Christmas, late December back in ’63, though!

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 21, 2007 @ 10:43 am

  19. Joe Long (LaBracio) was my best man at our wedding and the morals and ethics he displayed in his first contact with the 4 Seasons were those I had always observed in Joe. His abilities as a bass player and vocal harmony played a big part in the continued success of the 4 Seasons during his time with the group and I truly believe he warrants being considered for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

    Comment by Bobby A. – November 21, 2007 @ 11;45 AM

    Comment by Bobby A. — November 21, 2007 @ 11:45 am

  20. Joe Long is one of finest musicians in the history of rock/pop music! – Karen

    Comment by Karen — November 21, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

  21. From everything I’ve read, Nick Massi’s last song with the Seasons before leaving was “Let’s Hang On.” Ironic, since he didn’t. Charlie Calello appears on “Working My Way Back To You”. Joe Long appears on everything from “Opus 17″ to “Who Loves You”. Nick Massi did appear vocally on a 1973 (maybe it was 1974?) single: “Hickory”/”Charisma” and he did a brief bass solo on the latter cut. He also worked with the other guys on the vocal arrangements, and you can hear his technique.

    Anyway, Joe Long is a wonderful human being and it is great to see him getting this spotlight. He was a “true” Season.

    Comment by Joseph Colin Clark — November 21, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  22. I have a copy of the Motown single “Hickory/Charisma” and a DJ copy which has only “Hickory”. I’ll have to listen to see if I can hear Nick’s basso profundo on it. “Hickory” was played on many Adult Contemporary stations in my area, though it didn’t chart AC.

    I agree that Joe Long belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If it isn’t under consideration, maybe it needs to be brought up again.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 21, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  23. Joe Long, (aka Joe LaBracio) definitely belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His contributions to the success of the Four Seasons in the late sixties and 70′s is immeasurable and should not go unrecognized! Joe is a talented musician and exceptional human being.

    Comment by Ron Reason — November 21, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

  24. TELL IT TO THE RAIN AND BEGGIN AND THAT REMINDS ME, WERE GREAT LONG HITS ALSO, A TRUE GENTLEMAN!

    Comment by JIM PETRECCA — November 21, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

  25. In reply to Ted, it would be extremely tough (if not impossible) to fit “Let’s Hang On” on a license plate. Most states limit the characters to 6 or 7. With that in mind, I requested a license number with my favorite Four Seasons “number song”–Joe’s first. It’s “Opus 17″. The characters “DEC 1963″ would make an excellent license number for Four Seasons fans even though Joe didn’t participate on the song.

    Comment by Tom — November 22, 2007 @ 10:14 am

  26. Tom, I’ve seen vanity plates that had abbreviations like “LTSHNGON”, so I wasn’t sure. “Opus 17″ occurred to me, and it’s also interesting that a third Linzer/Randell composition, “A Lover’s Concerto”, was prominently featured in “Mr. Holland’s OPUS”. BTW, who played bass on “Let’s Hang On”?

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 22, 2007 @ 10:37 am

  27. Wonderful site:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Long

    Comment by Ed — November 24, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  28. Joe Long was actually with the Four Seasons longer than Nick Massi – he belongs in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame!!!

    Comment by Philip Liborio Gangi — December 7, 2007 @ 4:05 am

  29. Fantastic showman!

    Comment by Jill — January 18, 2008 @ 9:59 am

  30. Joe is a talented bassist. He comes from my hometown of Elizabeth, NJ. The Four Seasons were my favorite band back in the day. Joe was a big part of their unique sound and should be in the R & R Hall of Fame. As a side note, my band “Donna Marie and the Mistics” opened for the Four Seasons in 1968 at the Asbury Park Convention Center. I alao play bass. It was an experinece I will always remember.

    Comment by Aaron Chesler — February 27, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

  31. Thank you for this interview, it was very interesting to read about Joe Long‘s background. I had the privilege of seeing Joe Long with the other Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito and Bob Gaudio in Asbury Park back in the 1960s. They put on the best live show I’ve ever seen! The 4 Seasons where on fire that night. It was a very powerful show and Joe had a Rat Pack type of monolog joking going on all night with Frankie Valli and the other guys. Not only was the music perfect but these guys were all very funny. They are truly one of the best rock and roll groups of the 60s. I just saw the Jersey Boys play with my wife in NYC a few months ago and enjoyed hearing the music again, it was a great story. I usually hate when my wife drags me to a Broadway musical, but this time I’m so glad we went. However the Four Seasons live shows are still the best.

    Comment by Freddie — August 1, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  32. Joe and the 4 Seasons will always be my favorite American band.

    Comment by Marie — August 2, 2008 @ 7:16 am

  33. The fantastic Four Seasons will always hold a special place in my heart. Opus 17 has always been my favorite song of that era. God bless Joe! – Jules

    Comment by Jules — August 2, 2008 @ 7:20 am

  34. I have never met Joe Long, but he sounds like a wonderful man. I really appreciate their music.
    (C.J., New Mexico)

    Comment by C.J. — August 2, 2008 @ 7:23 am

  35. Yes Freddie I would agree that the 4 Seasons with Joe Long put on the best live show of any artist I’ve ever seen perform, and the Asbury Park Convention Center shows were the best of their best. Pictures of the 4 Seasons 1968 performance at the Convention Center in Asbury Park can be viewed here on the JerseyBoysBlog in an October 18, 2007 posting.

    Comment by David Cace — August 2, 2008 @ 9:02 am

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