Joe Long wasn’t an original member of The Four Seasons. But he joined in 1965, when the group was still in its heyday, and remained a group member until 1975. When the group was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2018, he was inducted along with them.
Long — the grandson of Italian immigrants, born Joseph LaBracio in Elizabeth — has died, his friend Alfredo Nittoli posted on Facebook today. Nittoli had also posted, recently, about Long’s struggles with COVID. (Four Seasons co-founder Tommy DeVito died of COVID last year.)
(Note: According to various sources, Long was born in 1932, 1933 or 1941. I will update this if I get definitive word but will leave his age at death unknown for now.)
“It is with great sadness that we learned that our dear bandmate, Joe Long, has passed away,” said Four Seasons members Franki Valli and Bob Gaudio, in a joint statement on Valli’s Facebook page. “We send our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and fans. We will miss Joe.”
When original Four Seasons bassist and backing vocalist Nick Massi left the group in ’65, he was replaced, temporarily, by Charles Calello, and then Long.
“I think people, all people, male, female, young or old, can identify with our music,” Long said in a 2007 interview. “The songs remind them of a favorite time, a special place, or a special guy or girl.”
In a 2018 interview, Long talked about joining the group: “At the time, I was aware of the Seasons, because they were having all those hits, and they were a Jersey group. I can’t say that I was a big fan, because I was not a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll music. I was playing with show groups in the area, which played rock ‘n’ roll, but mostly played rhythm and blues, which is more associated to jazz … you know, Fats Domino and that era, where the roots were right out of jazz music, jazz-blues.”
In a 2004 interview, Long said that when he first joined the band, “I was hired as Nicky’s replacement. Within a year I was MC’ing the band, I was conducting the musicians whenever we used an augmented orchestra. I was going out doing promotions. I was actually doing more than what Nicky was doing.”
Long is only briefly mentioned in the hit Four Seasons jukebox musical, “Jersey Boys.” But during his decade in the group, it had hits such as “C’mon Marianne,” “Tell It to the Rain” and “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’bout Me).” It also released its most artistically ambitious (though commercially disappointing) album, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, in 1969.
“My biggest disappointment was Genuine Imitation Life Gazette because that should have been a hit if only because for no other reason that there was some great writing and some great performances,” Long said in 2004.
After leaving The Four Seasons, he played in the rock band LaBracio and the jazz group, Jersey Bounce.
In 2014, High Street in Elizabeth was renamed Joe Long Way.
“To be honored by your home state is the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon someone,” he said when being inducted into New Jersey Hall of Fame.
You can watch the speech here:
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