He may be nearing the century mark, but Homer Long’s love for traditional American music remains.
Long was born July 5, 1913 to Jesse and Rena Long in the town of Lacey.
He first began playing music as a child after his mother urged him to take violin lessons. Much of what motivated him to play was the enjoyment he got out of playing. He said that, when he was growing up, he listened to Grand Ole Opry performers on the radio.
“I kind of got interested in this Country/Western stuff and got to playing a couple hoedowns,” said Long, as he showed a photo of himself holding a violin at around age 10.
Over the years, Long played numerous events including those in Pella, What Cheer, Ottumwa, Oskaloosa and Fremont. He also played at nursing homes in Keokuk and Poweshiek counties, as well as other events in Eddyville and Barnes City.
“He’s just had a life of music,” said daughter Gloria Bartlett.
One time, while playing in Greater Ottumwa Park, Long came across famed country singer Marvin Rainwater. Long said he started playing one of Rainwater’s famous tunes while he was there.
No matter if you call it — “blue grass” or “old time music,” Long enjoyed providing happiness to those who’d listen to his fiddle playing.
Of course, Long is a fan of musicians who play in the old time way. He noted that he enjoys the work of artists like Jim Reeves and Bill Monroe. Long said he likedplaying the songs of famous old time musicians. In particular, Long said he enjoyed playing most anything the people listening liked to hear.
“I had quite a collection of songs,” said Long.
Although the fiddle was his preferred instrument, Long has played banjo, guitar, Dobro, steel guitar and even fashioned his own bass guitar out of walnut, said Bartlett. Long said he liked the fiddle the most because it was the easiest to tote around when traveling.
“Even with the fiddle, you’d have to pack up your own sound system and that took up a lot of room,” Long said.
Much like many other musicians, Long played in a number of groups including The Sundowner Band and Happy Memories Band. While playing with The Sundowner Band, the group earned third and then first place in the seniors contest in different years at the Iowa State Fair, noted Bartlett.
“The first time we went up, we didn’t get on about second base,” explained Long. “Next time we went up, we beat ‘em out.”
For more from the Herald’s interview with Long, see the June 26 issue of The Oskaloosa Shopper.