Frederick Earl “Shorty” Long was an R&B singer-songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist known for his 1968 song “Here Comes The Judge” and also for his small stature which earned him the stage nickname “Shorty.” The Birmingham-born talent was first an artist of Tri-Phi label, then he became an artist of Motown. He released his first single “Devil With The Blue Dress On” under its subsidiary label Soul, in 1964. But his biggest break came in 1968 when he hit gold with the funky “Here Comes The Judge”, which went at the Billboard Top 10 charts. As his stardom was about to take off by the success of “Here Comes The Judge”, it was cut tragically short when Shorty Long, 29, died in a boating accident on June 29, 1969 on Michigan’s Detroit River. The Prime Of Shorty Long was released by Motown shortly after his death.
Early life and career
Although Shorty Long had lived a short life (pardon the pun), it was otherwise eventful. A year before his death at age 29, Long had scored a top 10 R&B and pop hit “Here Comes the Judge.”
Shorty Long was born Frederick Earl Long in Birmingham, Alabama on May 20, 1940. He might be standing a little over five feet tall, but Shorty Long was otherwise huge when it comes to musical talent. He could play the piano, guitar, organ, drums, trumpet and harmonica. He was probably one of the excellent hand-clappers as well. He performed and toured here and there on local venues, and also worked as a radio disc jockey.
Long’s brief stint at Tri-Phi label
When Long moved to Detroit, he was discovered by record producer Harvey Fuqua, who ran the Tri-Phi label. He waxed a couple of singles on Tri-Phi which vanished without a trace. This was largely due to Fuqua’s problems with distribution and the overall troubles of running the label. So Fuqua sold Tri-Phi to Motown, and in effect Shorty Long automatically became a Motown artist.
Long at Motown Records
Long’s first single with Motown (on its subsidiary imprint Soul) appeared in 1964. It was a blues number called “Devil with the Blue Dress,” which was co-written by himself and William “Mickey” Stevenson. It was only a very minor hit. Likewise, the follow-up “Function at the Junction” (written by Long and Eddie Holland Jr. who would eventually become one of the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland team) was also a dismal performer on the charts.
In 1968 Long released another single called “Night Fo’.” Written by Long and Clarence Paul, the single performed silghtly better on the charts, peaking at #75 on the pop chart and #42 R&B.
Finally, a big hit for Shorty Long with “Here Comes the Judge”
“Night Fo'”‘s follow-up, however, gave Long his first and only bona fide hit in his lifetime, called “Here Comes the Judge.” The song took its inspiration from a sketch on the TV show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In where funnyman and entertainer Pigmeat Markum coined the phrase “Here Comes the Judge.” Markum did release his own song with the same title but an altogether different style. Markum’s “Here Comes the Judge” appeared on the charts a couple of weeks after Short’s own “Here Comes the Judge,” did.
Short’s “Here Comes the Judge” was a big hit on both pop and R&B singles chart, peaking at #8 and #4 respectively. An LP, also titled Here Comes the Judge, contained the hit single, as well as songs that should-have-been hits, and new material.
Long was also given the chance by Motown to produce his own records. He was the only artist, aside from Smokey Robinson, to be allowed by Motown to do such during the 1960s. He also released other singles such as his rendition of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
Shorty Long’s untimely death
Sadly, as Shorty Long’s career began to take off at last, he met his untimely, tragic end. He drowned in a boating accident, along with his friend, on the Detroit River on June 29, 1969. He was just 29 years old. Shortly after Long’s death, Motown released his final LP The Prime of Shorty Long.