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Lionel Joaquin Paul Long, OAM (1939-1998) was an Australian country, Western and folk singer.

Long was born in and grew up in the farming district of the Hunter Valleymarker, north of Sydneymarker, New South Walesmarker. The son of an accomplished violinist, Lionel became one of Australia's most successful and talented country/western/folk artists in the 1960s, recognised as one of EMI's most popular and successful artists releasing over a dozen LPs. More than a singer, Lionel was also a songwriter, guitarist, actor and artist.

Music career

After briefly working as a jackeroo in the Hunter Valley, Lionel's family relocated to Sydney where Lionel attended Hawkesbury Agricultural College, studying commercial art. He learnt to play the guitar with his long-time friend, Gary Shearston. Both young men had a fondness for country/folk music and shared song verses at the Long family home at Rose Bay.

While studying at Hawkesbury Agricultural College, Lionel's musical talent was recognised by Ron Wills of EMI Columbia and Lionel was signed to the music label. Ron Wills had previously produced the country song Pub With No Beer by Slim Dusty and had also signed Frank Ifield to the label. Long's friend Shearston also went on to fame, recording under the label of CBS.

The 1950s saw folk music become intensely popular in Australia with the success of American folk revivalists Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, and The Kingston Trio. The Australian folk music scene's popularity was aided by the international success of Australian band, The Seekers. Australian musicians and producers started to research and re-discover Australian folk music from the 1700s and 1800s, such as Botany Bay, Bound For South Australia and the most famous of all Australian folk songs, Waltzing Matilda. It was this folk music revival that made EMI Columbia insist that Lionel move away from his love of country & western music and record folk music.

In 1958, Long released his first singles. Under the EMI Columbia label, Long released almost a dozen albums from 1961 to 1970, meeting critical acclaim and becoming Australia's most popular performer of traditional "bush music". After his first LP in 1961, Waltzing Matilda, and his second in 1962, Wild Colonial Boy, Long had established himself as a household name. In 1963, he released his third LP, The Bold Bushranger: Song of Wild Colonial Days, which featured famous Australian artist Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly on the sleeve.

Many of Lionel's albums featured accompaniment by other celebrated musicians including Dave Guard of The Kingston Trio, and jazz legend Don Burrows.

TV stardom

During the 1960s Lionel's profile was greatly assisted with his appearance on many TV shows, including the hit Channel 9 music programme Bandstand. In 1962, the famous rocker Johnny O'Keefe suffered a breakdown after disgreements with the producers of his Johnny O'Keefe Show. While O'Keefe convalesced, Lionel Long took over as host of the show, retitled Sing Sing Sing, for a year. Soon after O'Keefe returned to host the show in early 1963, Long's popularity was so strong that he was given his own TV programme titled Music Time which aired for a year.

At around this time, Lionel married Carole Newgrosh.

In 1964, Lionel released another LP, this time not entirely Australian folk songs, Songs of the Sea. This album was dedicated to Long's early memories of fishing off the coast of New South Wales near Port Macquarie and his boyhood adventure of trying to sail from Sydney to Newcastle (130km) in a rubber dinghy at the age of 10. Lionel was a keen sailor, having owned boats and spent much time sailing and fishing with friends, many of whom were famous recording artists in their own right.

Lionel appeared on TV again on the night of 1st of August 1964, as one of the stars of This Is It, a show to inaugurate Channel 0, Melbourne's third commercial TV station.

Lionel was also an acting teacher in the early 1980's for children and teenagers, who worked from firstly a church hall in Bankstownmarker, NSW, with Granville rail disastermarker survivor Erica Watson (whom was later featured in the mini-series The Day of the Roses played by Gigi Edgley) as his assistant coach. The acting class featured in Simon Townsend's Wonder World, interviewed by Sheridan Jobbins, in late 1982. Lionel moved his acting school to the inner city of Sydneymarker in 1984, working also with adults for the next few years in the Stanislavski Method of acting.

The big screen

Having dabbled in acting on TV since 1961 (Whiplash and Riptide), Lionel went to London in 1964 for a cameo appearance in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders, a comedy directed by James Bond director, Terence Young, and starring Kim Novak as Moll Flanders.

Back to music

Long Ago: Folk Songs of the British Isles was Long's 1965 album, and featured Lionel playing a custom-made 6-string lute he purchased in the UK. A photograph of Lionel with his 6-string lute featured on the album cover for this LP and the following two.

A Sunburnt Country was Lionel's next album which returned to Australiana, its title taken from Dorothea Mackellar's famous poem My Country which featured on the LP as a spoken track. Banjo Patteron's The Man from Snowy River also featured as a spoken track.

In 1966, Long's next album was Amberwren and Other Folk Songs. His 1967 release Lionel Long Today included the song Follow the Wind, an unrecorded Bee Gees song.

Homicide

Lionel's best known TV role came in 1968 when he appeared on Homicide as Detective Bert Costello. His character was only planned for a few episodes, but Lionel's popularity was so great that he remained on the hit show all season and appeared in 49 episodes between 1968 and 1969. His character was eventually killed in a mine collapse.

Following his success on Homicide (a Crawford Production), Lionel appeared on other Crawford productions and many other programmes. Long's TV credits include:

His film roles include:
  • "Inn of the Damned" (1975)
  • "Barney" (1976)


Final albums

In 1970, Long released one more album on the EMI Columbia label, titled Close Up, before signing with RCA and releasing three folk music albums, The Man From Snowy River, Australia! Australia! and Brandied Plums. He also released several singles under RCA.

Long re-signed with EMI in 1980 and released his final album titled High, Wild and Handsome which featured famous guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, a version of Let It Be by The Beatles and the well-known Kermit the Frog song Rainbow Connection.

Lionel also displayed visual artistic talents, producing illsutrations for several books and guides.

Long's performed his music well into the 1980s, appearing at the iconic Sydney Opera Housemarker in 1987, and travelling to Nashvillemarker, Tennessee, to work on various recording deals for a few months.

Order of Australia

The Order of Australia Medal (OAM) was bestowed upon Long in the 1993 Australia Day honours, along with the producer who first recognised his talents, Ron Wills. Being one of the highest honours that can be granted to an Australian citizen, this recognised Lionel's contribution to Australian music.

Death

Lionel Long died on 1 January 1998 in the Sacred Heart Hospital at Darlinghurst, Sydney. He was cremated in a small service at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park in Matraville, Sydney.

Stonybrook

His vineyard homestead is now owned and managed under the name Stonybrook by internationally-awarded advertising man, Matthew Batten. Batten maintains a collection of Lionel Long memorabilia including a unique country-style chair, hand-painted by Lionel in a folk art style, that was included in the homestead property when Batten purchased it.

References




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