In the press kit, there's a photo of Long standing beside Gordon. Gordon's office vouches for the proclamation, but Scott Phelps, spokesman for the mayor, admits that they did not know about the scholarship until Long contacted them and that Gordon was not familiar with Long's music. But, Phelps says, Long "seemed like a very nice young man."


Sonny Long offers few details about his personal life. He says he's single and he has kids, but he won't reveal anything else about his children, including their age and gender.

Long holds a pair of sunglasses he supposedly designed.
Jamie Peachey
Long holds a pair of sunglasses he supposedly designed.
Long with his "publicist," Pepper Berry.
Jamie Peachey
Long with his "publicist," Pepper Berry.

At the outset, he refused to name his parents, saying only they were both "national recording artists." When asked why he wouldn't reveal their names, Long talked about how people need to protect their families, and cited the shooting of Tupac Shakur and the deaths of Jennifer Hudson's family as examples.

But it doesn't seem that anybody has a reason to want to hurt Long or his family. Aside from a couple of traffic tickets, the guy has no criminal record, and even the people who call him out, like Willy Northpole, acknowledge he's a nice guy and say they like him as a person.

After some persuasion, Long relents and reveals his parents' names. His mother, Delores Ramsey, was the daughter of a minister and did, in fact, release two out-of-print independent gospel albums (Amen! in 1995 and Give Thanks in 2005) before pursuing her current full-time career in nursing. Long's father, Gary Whitehead Sr., was a member of Phoenix soul act The Whitehead Brothers (not to be confused with the Philadelphia-based duo of the same name).

So it's not surprising that Long's love affair with music started at an early age. Ramsey says when he was about 6, he started singing around the house, just making up silly songs to be funny. "But he had a talent for it," she says. "I always thought he had a unique voice. Having been a singer myself, you recognize things like that."

When Long was 7, Ramsey put him in a fashion show and talent contest she'd organized at the VA hospital on Seventh Street and Indian School Road. "He modeled and he danced," she says. "He was absolutely wonderful."

Ramsey describes her son as a model child who always got straight A's in school. "He never got sick. He was at school every day. He had perfect attendance," she says. "He was always very disciplined. He's always been a great writer and a great speaker, even when he was young. He's always just had a lot of confidence."

Long says he started writing original songs in grade school. "Since I was 4, 5, 6 years old, I've been coming up with songs in my head," Long says. "My first song I had was a song called 'Smooth Brother.' It was, like, 'I'm a smooth brother / dressed undercover / never forget that I'm the ladies' lover.' That's back in like third grade."

He modeled himself after the biggest pop star of the '80s, Michael Jackson, and still has a red leather jacket like the one Jackson wore in the "Thriller" video. His first shot at recording his voice was when he was about 12. He says he'd take two boom boxes and line them up, side-by-side, and record himself singing the vocals on one tape while the instrumental version of a cassette single played on the other.

Asked when he recorded his first song in a bona fide recording studio, Long doesn't really answer but reiterates his boom-box story and says, "And then it developed from there."

It's been 17 years since Long, now 29, first recorded himself on a boom box, but "it developed" is as specific as he gets about what he's done between then and now.

One thing he has done is release three songs via the Internet, and on July 7, he says, he'll be releasing a new single.

A new single isn't quite "a CD every day," but, for Long, it's big news.


On a Sunday morning at the Kiwanis Park Recreation Center, Sonny Long is jogging around an indoor basketball court — wearing sunglasses, of course. He's promised to sing a couple of lines from his supposed new single, "Dance to the Music," while New Times videotapes it for the paper's Web site.

But when the camera starts rolling, Long suddenly changes his tune. He talks about how the new song is going to be like Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" in its themes of unity and struggle, but he says he won't sing lines from the single because he wants to "save that." So, instead, he sings a couple of lines that he says he came up with in the car on the way to the court.

He snaps his fingers to keep rhythm and begins to sing: "To my Arizona people who are struggling . . ."

Long's voice is strong and soulful, reminiscent of the smooth R&B stylings of artists like Anthony Hamilton or Luther Vandross, but he's still a bit rough as far as vocal control. Toward the end of his a cappella performance, he starts to reach for a high note, but it gets away from him and he has to recover with a couple of extra notes to bring the tenor down. It's a decent display of vocal talent, but nowhere near as clean as the studio music he's released.

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26 comments
acquaintance
acquaintance

I know sonny long and i know he is a liar. All of this story is true. i was told about the article from family of HIS and i had to read it. HE truly is a legend in his own mind. its all true. From the bad boy records deal(LIE) to the slip and slide deal(LIE) he even at one point said he was gonna have a reality tv show! that wasnt published in this article. He is pure lie after lie. one last word.........EXPOSED!!!

Henry Blackwood
Henry Blackwood

Hey Try Again -- so if I try to leave a comment on Sonny Long's MySpace page or sonnylongmusic.com that says he's a sham and his music absolutely sucks balls, then he should leave that comment up there, right? Long has no musical talent whatsoever. He can't even hold a note. I think the few songs he's released are horrible and insulting to my ears and my time. I'm gonna go to his site and write those things. And if he doesn't leave them up there, then he's just a dude on an ego trip.

Try Again
Try Again

Hey Earlessdog

That was really kind of you to try and stick up for Niki but plain and simple her writing sucks. I have researched what she has done in the past and it's just not good. Also, she is not professional it seems when someone expressed there personal feelings on her webpage about her previous work she felt the need to go off. How funny when something negative was said about her she did not like it but yet it was okay when she was doing it to someone else. She is just a chick on a ego trip!!!!!

Jason Swain
Jason Swain

I thought this story was hilarious. The guy was trying to pull a con, and he got caught. Kudos to Niki D'Andrea for writing such an entertaining story. The Wizard of Oz comparison was particularly great.

nat
nat

Is your crew running out of story ideas? this one really sucked. sorry, but it's true. If you need an idea for the next cover, try something that really matters....like "Planet Awesome" for example.

i have faith in you guys. I read every single issue....and they are all fun, but this one just blew my mind on how dull it was.

EarlessDog
EarlessDog

Niki "Andrea" (please read and get it right) has been writing great journalism since junior high - she's received a number of awards for her work over the years. Maybe you don't agree with the opinions expressed, but this is classic Niki - well-written, well-researched, and opinionated. Word-choice, phrasing, sentence structure; this is the way she speaks on a daily basis. You really haven't done your homework and just want to complain.Maybe you like Sonny Long; maybe not. What wanna-be celebrity doesn't warp public perception...? And there's always someone to call them on their BS. That's life. Boo hoo.

j
j

Come on! Niki, you and I both know that you are not the master mind behind the story "Sonny Long Is a Legend in His Own Mind". I took some time to research previous stories written by you and they were not worthy of the ink and paper they were printed with. Everyone who support this article should give all credit to Mike Meyer. In closing, Niki Andrea, you are a real journalist in your own mind. I would like to encourage readers to review Niki Andrea's previous work and see who she really is and why she is so desperate to take credit for a the trash that was written in this article. Otherwise, feel free to read her work and laugh.

Zack Aydelotte
Zack Aydelotte

Great profile of Sonny Long. Of course, you can't help but feel kind of sorry for him at points during the story, but at other points-I'm annoyed with how arrogant and delusional he is. And not just because this is him, but because it's so TYPICAL.

So typical of people in this era. So typical of people in Phoenix in general, unfortunately.

We're all legends in our own minds. If everyone I've met in Phoenix was who they say they were, well, I might as well be famous myself. What, with all the models, musicians, artists, drug dealers and gangsters I know.

Yet these same people have asked to sleep on my couch. They have worked at telemarketing jobs-and quit them. They have been fugitives-on the run from a warrant stemming from a marijuana possession, or DUI arrest. I have watched them beg their significant others not to leave them.

But hey-fake it til you make it right? We've all got to see ourselves as celebrities before anyone else does-and eventually they will realize who we are right?

No, I don't really think so. Because we ALL want to be famous these days. Only so many of us can be, and even after that, so few of us deserve to be.

I've also met some truly great musicians, and truly great people in general-who never draw attention to themselves, and always downplay their talents. They never do shows or concerts, but listening to their work will blow your mind. They are great artists, but not great liars.

Maybe the liars could teach those people about lying, and those people could teach the liars about real talent, and creativity.

It's hard to accept reality. For some people, it's like going from being God to being an ant.

Cassy
Cassy

All I can say is shame on you New Times for trying to destroy someone who is trying to do something positive. Sonny I hope you continue to push on until you reach the top. I attended your show at OT's in November and I really enjoyed it.

mark
mark

To the writers of this story Niki and Mike, why even bother to use the ink, paper and time to write this story. This is not a story about Sonny Long and "who he's not" but "how can we destroy who he is." I believe that it is important to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This article is truly an injustice to Mr. Long. I support Mr. Long I believe he is truly a fighter in taking the punches of New Times unprofessionalism,unethical conduct. Mr. Long has maintained style and class to who he knows he is instead of what others say he is. How many of you could tolerate this type of heat or should I say unresearched lies? That's what I thought, not many of you. And based on all the comments, many of you are not understanding the impact this article has on each of us and our communities. New Times is saying it is okay to manipulate an article for their personal opinion and gain, it is okay to continue to beat an opponent when you are convinced you have successfully depleted him. I believe Mr. Long is that opponent and he gets up dresses his wound and keeps moving forward. That is what a true leader does. I believe Mr. Long is going to embrace this experience and achieve great accomplishments. Thumbs up for Mr. Long!!

TT
TT

I am amazed on how someone could write a story filled with so many lies and people just follow. News flash for the person who went to South Mountain High with sonny Long, It wasn't him. He never attended South Mountain High. Please try again. This time tell you lie with some truth. LOL!

SHONDRA
SHONDRA

WELL I WENT TO SHOOL WITH HIM AND HE'S BEEN A LIAR SINCE IVE KNOWN HIM AT SOUTH MOUNTAIN HIGH..SO I DOUBT THEIR IS ANY HOAXS ON NEW TIMES PART....

~Wisdom
~Wisdom

Ahhh, the lovely media...I applaud you! You should definately win a Nobel Peace Prize for this one. Not to mention your lack of thorough and complete "research"to back your allegations. I am here to support Sonny Long and confirm his show and performance at VYBe Poetry Lounge at Oscar Taylor's Restaraunt and Lounge November 2008.View more Arizona Nightlife photos at aznightlife.com.

and to commend his courage and pray for his strength.

We tell our children when they are young that they should dream and that they can be whatever they want to be if they put their "mind" to it. Motivational speakers such as Anthony Robbins and Rhonda Byrne Author of "The Secret" tell us to believe in ourselves..."This is the secret to prosperity, health, relationships and happiness. This is the secret to life."

So who are we to come through crashing on someone else's dreams, to destroy "VISION"s and judge? "Lie" is such a very strong word, and I wonder how many of you so quick to comment have never "lied" in your life, even if it was only a "little white lie"? so who is really "lying" or exaggerating here?

Our current society is in such a state of emergency, people are depressed and discouraged and instead of offering hope and encouragement we are so ready to tear down the next guy in hopes to make ourselves look and feel better but does it really? and what about in the "LONG" run?

All I can say is to those of you who feel so compelled to jump on the band wagon of negativity and to you the media, pat yourselves on the back for your contribution to making our society suicidal or homicidal.

JJ
JJ

I took four minutes to listen to Long's track "Favorite Girl" on MySpace. Thirty seconds in, it was apparent I'll never get that part of my life back. Long *might* rock the house ripping off Keith Sweat at karaoke, but he is in no danger of "making it" with his current branding plan.

The more compelling story would be that of a regular dude working a regular, honorable job, trying to make it on the hip-hop scene.

Long suffers from what I call, "Urban Narcissistic Personality disorder." He wants put out a tough persona, when in fact, he is product of suburbia. Think Asher Roth with melanin, knock-off Versace shades, and six-pack abs.

The affectations of a doughy, unnecessary bodyguard (probably a high school chum) and translucent post-Goth publicist may be cool for gaining VIP access to Barcelona. I'm sure it enthralls the orange-faced, fake-boobed cougars that gush over such. I'm sure the facade crumbles when they see him climb into a six year old Maxima on 20s and roll out of the parking lot jamming his mixtape that no one has ever heard...

Werd to his mother. She sounds like a nice lady. I'm sure she is embarrassed.

Robert
Robert

I still say this story is a New Times hoax. But any way you swing it, it's still a story about...nothing.

Far better to have just printed several blank pages and let readers make up their own stories...

Jodi
Jodi

So, I can't believe New Times wasted their time trying to destroy someone life. So, what if stretch the truth some. Hey some parts of the stories had to be true. So, why are you trying to destroy this black man. He trying to do something positive with his life, he not gang banging, selling drugs, he trying to get his music out there. Why don't you go and investigate all the killing going on. go investigate some gang members who are shooting and selling drugs. I think your just as scandalous as you tried to make Sonny Long be.

Cricket
Cricket

Althought the article was interesting and quite humerous...I am confused as to why the paper would spending to much time on someone who is an obvious fake. Im sure 99.9% of the population has never heard of this person.....deluded or not. How did Sonny Long get any press in the first place??? Ill pretend to be a deranged fake star and call the newpaper for an interview..if it is that easy!

EJ
EJ

Sooooo, what did Sonny Long and/or his publicist do for the New Times to warrant a cover shot and multi-page article? I can't believe I wasted so much time reading this worthless attempt at journalism.

In fact, I'm mostly disappointed in the writers and editors at New Times. I give Sonny Long credit for having his people convince a normally outstanding periodical like the New Times devote so much time, paper and ink.

Shame on you New Times!

Robert
Robert

C. Jackson:

Okay, how how was all that research in the article "verified?" And exactly who was the Wizrd of OZ? A humbug, a hoaxster.

Just sayin'

C. Jackson
C. Jackson

The article Sonny Long a legend in his own mind was amazing! The writer was so articulate in describing the events from the first meeting all the way to the last. Especially the analogy of the "Wizard of Oz", it really expressed the way Sonny Long is living a lie in his own mind. This article also demonstrated how much research was applied as well as verified. I commend the writer for all the hard work involved.

C. Jackson

Robert
Robert

Why oh why am I getting the feeling that this article is another in a long line of New Times HOAXES?

AZ
AZ

What a joke.....this guys has 0 talent!

helentroy4
helentroy4

OK, tell you what, when the Phoenix New Times runs the story on Sonny's try out with the Suns, I'll apologize for being wrong in seeing in him the troubled mind of someone else I know. The far-ranging, grandiose, no outwardly concrete product of one's claims, refuted claims by those mentioned in the article, and so on.

There is more to this story than is being reported. And I believe that the reporter realized there was a troubled person and backed off. Otherwise this could be a very snide article when writing about him.

ok
ok

Your calling this person delusional because he believes in himself and has a dream? If you don't believe in yourself nobody else will. I admire his drive to go after what he wants in life not many people have that quality. You are who you hang out with and it looks like you've been hanging out with too many psychos.

helentroy4
helentroy4

I always feel very sad when I read stories like this that clearly speak to someone having delusions. I'm no doc but some of his grandiose pronouncements remind me very much of a talented, kind person I knew who suffered from schizophrenia. When I got to the last paragraph and read the part about his declaring that he will be trying out for the Suns, speaking as if... well, if I say it then it is true, it was much like I heard from my friend. Mental illness unfortunately thwarts a talented person from the ability to move forward unless they have someone who not only supports them but who they can trust to make the decisions and moves they are not capable of. Jonathan Winters has spoken many times of how his wife basically propped him up during his worst times and moved him forward because he could trust her.

 
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