The band I've planned for half a century

New Long Road (from left): Celia Hollander Lewis (guitar, Celtic harp, banjo, vocals), Linda White (flute), Julie Myers King (cello), Robin Stratton (ukulele, vocals) and David Budin (guitar, vocals).

When I was 3, I decided I wanted to grow up to become a musician and comedian. So, I did. But I started early, with all kinds of music lessons, beginning at age 6 and continuing through high school; reading books about comedy by comedians, starting at age 10; playing in my first “band” at age 9; and starting to play professionally in my teens.

I was always in at least one rock band; plus, I was in the same folk group from sixth grade till the end of high school. I left Heights High in the spring of 1967, and soon after, in December, I got an idea for a different kind of group: one with guitars and singers, but also including a flute and cello. And then I started that group—a few months ago, or, in other words, 56 years later.

What took me so long? Well, shortly after I got the idea, I left Cleveland Heights for New York City. Almost immediately, I got into a cover band that quickly morphed into an all-original band, and became one of the bands that evolved into Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. But they did that without me, as I had left and signed as a solo artist with Sire Records.

I’ll leave out most of the next few years, because it’s the same story as the vast majority of people who got signed to record labels back then: Lots of cool things happened, and, for a long time, all of us teetered on the brink of major success, but we never got rich or famous. I went from band to band and project to project, moving kind of organically from one thing to the next, until, in 2006, I decided to create a reunion “tour” (three cities in Ohio: Athens, Columbus and Cleveland) of my last NYC project, a duo, which wound up leaving NYC for Columbus, my partner's hometown.

By 2006, she was living in Oregon, so we practiced by sending cassette tapes back and forth across the country, and getting together for a few days in Los Angeles, and then, for a couple of weeks in Columbus, right before the first concert. I got three other musicians, in Cleveland, to—as I said back then—“back, and/or cover, us up.”

Our Cleveland concert was, in fact, in Cleveland Heights, in Cain Park’s Alma Theater. That concert sold out, and people loved it much more than I thought they would. Friends and family have to tell you, once, that they enjoyed it, but then they never have to say another word about it; and strangers don’t have to say anything at all. But for months afterward, many people, even strangers, kept telling me how much they liked the concert. So, I started asking people what they liked about it, and many said it was that it had a “’60s” quality.

So, I said, “Okay. If they want ‘60s, I’ll give them ‘60s,” and I created a show for the next summer, at Cain Park, that was a simulation of a ‘60s folk concert. Again, it sold out, and, again, people loved it. The group I’d put together was meant to be just for that show. But after putting so much work into it, we decided to try to perform it again somewhere. We got booked at the Kent Stage. Halfway through that show, at the intermission, the venue’s manager booked us for a follow-up date. So, we decided to become an official band—Long Road. I got us booked at Nighttown, and that sold out, so, that venue’s booker asked us back again for a couple of months later. At our second Nighttown show, the booker for a West Side venue saw us and hired us to play there. And we continued.

Long Road played for about 10 years. But then a few of us developed some minor medical problems, which caused us to take a break. And then the pandemic hit. And then one member had major medical issues, and could no longer perform. And a couple of members started playing in other bands. So, Long Road, while we never officially ended, just kind of stopped.

But then, last summer, it occurred to me that I could create that group I had conceived in 1967, with the flute and cello. So, over a few months, I started putting the pieces together, gathering the best musicians around, to create New Long Road, with another original member.

And here we are: New Long Road, the area’s only folk-pop-jazz-classical group. We’ll be playing Cain Park’s Alma Theater on Sunday, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m., as part of the park’s free concert series, co-sponsored by the Friends of Cain Park. And now that I can hear this group, it actually sounds much better than I even imagined it would back then.

David Budin

David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.

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Volume 17, Issue 7, Posted 7:25 AM, 06.26.2024