The scrapbook, created by C. Shelby Dale (Duke '35), bass player and original member of the Orchestra, contains material pertaining to the career of Johnny Long with the Duke Collegians and the Johnny Long orchestra with the inclusive dates 1931 through 1973. Material includes photographs, clippings, gig posters and advertisements, album liner notes and other assorted memorabilia. Additional material also covers reunions of the surviving members of the Duke Collegians and the careers of other big bands and band leaders such as Les Brown and His Band of Renown (formerly the Duke Blue Devils), a 1936 graduate of Duke; Jelly Leftwich, the first Director of Duke's Department of Music and conductor of the Duke University Club Orchestra; Hal Kemp, leader of the Carolina Club Orchestra formed while a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Joseph Franklin "Sonny" Burke, a 1937 graduate of Duke and leader of the Duke Ambassadors.
Johnny Long was born September 12, 1914 in Newell, North Carolina to Curtis W. and Connie Gardner Long. According to popular legend, at the age of two, imitating an older cousin, Long put his right hand into a hog's mouth in an attempt to feed him and in the process received a damaging bite. Consequently, when Long picked up the violin as a teenager, it was the beginning of his career as one of the few accomplished left-handed violinists.
After finishing school at Charlotte Central High in 1931, Long came to Duke University and shortly thereafter formed the Duke Collegians with ten other freshmen. In addition to being the nightly entertainment at University Unions, the Duke Collegians played gigs throughout the triangle and were the summer house band at White Lake Beach, North Carolina. After graduating in 1935, the Duke Collegians became known as the Johnny Long Orchestra. In 1942, the orchestra played an extended engagement at the Roseland Ballroom and the New Yorker Hotel in New York City. They also performed dates at other well-known jazz locations such as Frank Dailey's in Newark, New Jersey, the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the College Inn and Trianon Ballroom in Chicago, Illinois. The band's first label release was Just Like That in 1937 on Vocalion Records, a label owned by American Record Coporation (ARC). The band signed to Decca Records in 1939 and released several hit songs including In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town , written by Long, and covers of My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time and Poor Butterfly. At the height of the band's popularity they played President Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday party on February 13, 1942, an event attended by Roosevelt. Long also starred as himself in the 1941 Oscar nominated film Beauty and the Beach.
During the decline of the Big Band era Long continued to play with his own band through 1967 and fronted other bands thereafter until 1972. In 1970, Long enrolled at Marshall University to complete his degree, which, due to his commitment to the orchestra, he never completed at Duke. On October 31, 1972 Long passed away in Huntington, West Virginia at the age of 58 and is buried in his hometown of Newell, North Carolina.