Last month, local musician Gino Long, best known to Cleveland music fans as one of First Light’s three frontmen, woke up one morning and was having problems breathing. His wife took him to the hospital, where they found out he had an enlarged heart.
They treated him and kept him overnight, and in the process, he had a small stroke. With all the talk about this country’s failed health-care coverage system, you know where this is going. The care was good, but as an uninsured musician, he ended up with a pile of bills.
Enter the many friends he’s made in his 25 years on the local music scene. Longtime friend, Chopper, one of First Light’s other singers/guitarists, got the ball rolling, assembling a batch of bands to perform a benefit concert for Long that’s been dubbed “Gino-Palooza,” at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Grog Shop. Admission is $6, and all of it goes to help defray Long’s medical and day-to-day living expenses.
“He’d doing a lot better now," says Chopper. "He looks a lot better than he did last month. Luckily, it was like he had a warning stroke. But he’s got to eat properly, he’s got to do less, he can’t exert himself. He has to do it because we tore him a new one. He plays with Outlaws I&I and the Prayer Warriors, but he can’t work now, which means he has no income.”
A lifelong musician, Long was the last member to join popular rock-reggae band First Light, about a year after they formed in early 1984, and he remained part of the band’s solidified lineup until they disbanded in late 1998. First Light played full-time, toured extensively and, in 1998, released Reggae Meltdown, one of the bestselling albums ever independently released by a Cleveland band. Until their breakout, they consistently sold out virtually every show they played in Northeast Ohio. He continued to play in area bands after First Light’s breakup.
The concert lineup includes both Outlaws I&I and the Prayer Warriors, Chopper’s rock band Sammy’s Good Eye (which he broke up a couple of years ago but is putting back together for the occasion), rockers Ohio Sky, prog-metal band Forged in Flame and the third member of First Light’s front line, Carlos Jones, the keeper of Cleveland’s reggae flame. Michael Stanley has been promoting the event on his WNCX radio program and has been extremely supportive, Chopper says.
“It’s musicians supporting musicians,” he says. —Anastasia Pantios