Guitarist Huey Long, 105, Dies

Huey Long, a jazz guitarist whose sprawling career included stints with musical giants Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker and as part of the famed Ink Spots vocal group, has died. He was 105.

Long died Wednesday in a nursing home in Houston, surrounded by his daughter, Anita Long, and the female caregivers who often called him “Poppa,” his daughter said Friday.

In his final moments, Long listened as his daughter sang melodies they once harmonized on, including the Ink Spot classics “If I Didn’t Care” and “I’ll Get By.” During her rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Long shed a single tear, his daughter said.

“Music was always a mainstay for him,” said Long, who opened a museum in Houston dedicated to preserving her father’s musical legacy. “The music, that was his life. If it didn’t have to do with music, he wasn’t interested.”

Long was first drawn to music as a teenager when a group of minstrels visited his hometown of Sealy, a small Texas town about 20 miles west of Houston. He began playing the banjo and joined the Frank Davis Louisiana Jazz Band in the mid-20s.

In the 1930s, Long — by then a guitarist — went to Chicago where he recorded with pianist Lil Armstrong and joined with Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra, who brought him to New York in 1943.

There, Long joined Earl “Fatha” Hines, whose big band included Gillespie, Parker and Sarah Vaughn. In 1945, Long was leading his own trio when vocalist Bill Kenny invited him to join the Ink Spots, whose velvet harmonies and flashy performing style had helped them become one of the first black groups to gain acceptance among white listeners.

The Ink Spots, whose recordings included “My Prayer,” “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Java Jive” and others later reinvented for newer generations, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. They are often credited with having a direct influence on the evolution of doo wop groups and rhythm and blues.

After his stint with the Ink Spots, Long went on to form his own combo and studied music in California. He also lead a version of the Ink Spots in the 1960s.

But for Long, the high point of his career was his time as a teacher in New York City, his daughter said.

“That was the pinnacle for him in a lot of ways,” she said. “Teaching was truly something that was his passion. He did that with everyone who came in front of him.”

In his final years, Long often sat with his daughter in the museum named after him, The Original Huey “Ink Spot” Long Living History Music Museum, directing her where to place pieces of his musical memorabilia. He also delighted in every milestone. On April 25, his last birthday, Anita Long recalled, he looked forward with glee to his birthday cake.

Funeral arrangements are pending as Anita Long, whose savings went to support her father and the museum, seeks assistance for her father’s burial. In addition to his daughter, Long is survived by two sons, Rene and Shiloh Long, of San Jose, Calif.