Bill Long was a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, born on his
parents 2,000 acre ranch. They said when he was ten, he would
sit on the corral fence with his guitar and sing. But his
career saw him go north to Canada as we will see.
When he was 18 years old, he decided to try his hand at the rodeo
circuit in the USA and Canada and was said to have established
himself as a decent if not 'ace' rider. But even then, music was
always a part of him, though just a hobby then, and he took his
guitar with him as he traveled the circuit.
He appeared in many of the legendary rodeos of the day, the annual
Keystone event in South Dakota, the Cheyenne, Wyoming show. And he
was on the verge of fulfilling one of his aims as a tournament
cowhand - entering the chuckwagon race at the Calgary (Alberta)
Stampede. But a friend of Bill's injured himself in that same
show. Bill looked inward a bit and saw that fate might be waiting
for him, too, so he quit the rodeo circuit and turned to his other
love of entertainment, music and singing.
He decided to make singing his career and took his first radio job
at KMOX in St. Louis. This was around 1942. He formed a trio act that was known as Bill Long
and his Ranchboys.
From there, he went to radio station WHAS
in Louisville, Kentucky, where he met up with Clayton McMichen.
It wasn't too long though before he found himself in Chicago,
appearing on the famed WLS National Barn Dance show. While
there, he worked with Red Foley for two years then he formed his own
band. The chain of events are unclear from our research, but he also
became part of the Curley Bradley shows on WGN in Chicago.
Once he had his own band, he started doing his own road tours. He
and the band played in such places as the Village Barn in New York;
the Antler Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado; the Ole Hudelburg
in Chicago as well as the Helsings Vaudeville Lounge where he also
appeared with Al Morgan on television.
Some time after his Chicago days, he met up with a couple of gals
that would become known as the "Ranch Girls" and with Bill Long, they
performed as the "Bill Long Trio".
One of the girls was Madeline Bonin of Denver,
Colorado who sang and played the bass and fiddle, too. The other was
Dorothy Miller, who was a Texas rodeo rider but also sang and played
the steel guitar.
They continued to tour the USA and Canada. And each time they always
found a good reception from the audiences in Canada and they also found
some good luck. It was while they were in Canada that he signed his first
recording contract with the London label and did all "Canadian" songs
in that first session that gained them a following. One was "Blue Canadian
Rockies" and the other was "Relax, Relax, Relax." Bill stayed with that
good luck charm as they said he continued to record Canadian music on his
subsequent recordings that included the London and Capitol labels.
Bill Long and The Ranch Girls were said to be one of the first American
acts to guest star on the CHML Main Street Jamboree and would "stop the
show" so to speak. The producers took note of that and asked them to
become regular performers on the show.
In 1956, he had his own television show on channel 11, CHCH-TV in Hamilton,
Ontario. That show was called the Bar 11 Ranch and was on five days
a week. If he wasn't busy enough with that show, he was also the producer
of the CHML Main Street Jamboree show which was also on television, too
that aired on Saturday nights for two hours.
On Sunday, he found the time to do a show called Fireside on
CHCH-TV which was a children's religious show.
As a result of those tours mentioned, he was signed to a recording contract
with the Capitol label and later would also record for the King label.
Later, while in Canada, he was recording for the Sparton label. We also
found that he had recorded on the London label, too. Around 1955,
his latest release on the King label was titled, "What A Waste of Good
He was still single in 1956. He had a horse, a Palomino stallion that
he named "Golden Pride" that he taught to do many tricks and helped
entertain many a kid at his shows.
Credits & Sources
- CHML Songs and Stars Of Main Street Jamboree Book No. 1;
circa 1953; BMI Canada Limited; Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
- Country Song Roundup No. 36; January 1955; American Folk
Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
- Cowboy Songs No. 47; July 1956; American Folk
Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT