Lawman on verge of country music singing career

September 06, 2000

Lawman on verge of country music singing career

By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Music was not a big part of Jay Longerbeam's life when he was growing up.


Sure, he remembers his dad listening to country music on the radio. And he played tenor saxophone in public schools, but that was nothing major, he said.

Now the Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) Police Department officer may be on the verge of a country music singing career that practically began as an accident.

Four years ago, friends urged Longerbeam, 26, to sing at a party just outside Harpers Ferry.

The Jefferson County native was hesitant and nervous, but he gave it a try, belting out his own rendition of a Garth Brooks song.


Longerbeam said he doesn't remember singing the song because he "went blank."

But those in the audience saw something promising.

Longerbeam went on to sing in local Moose lodges, American Legion posts and at weddings. Sometimes a band would back him up, but most of the time his accompaniment was a karaoke machine.

In recent years, he has traveled as far as Leesburg, Va., to sing, and performs locally at spots like the Charles Washington Inn in Charles Town, W.Va.

"The reaction has been very, very good. I get a lot of comments from people telling me to pursue it further," said Longerbeam, who has been a police officer at the local department for about a year.

Recently, he took those comments to heart.

In January, Longerbeam went to Nashville to record some songs, and while there he asked a recording engineer how he could break into the country music business.

The engineer recommended he see Larry Butler, a Nashville-area producer who had worked with artists such as Kenny Rogers and George Strait.

At the time, Butler was working on a project with The Dixie Chicks, but agreed to meet with Longerbeam.

On July 31, Longerbeam returned to Tennessee to meet with Butler. Longerbeam said Butler agreed to listen to him sing and warned that he would be frank with him.

Longerbeam sang "Love Sick Blues," a Hank Williams song he has been singing regularly.

"He said, 'That's a very hard song to sing and you nailed it,'" Longerbeam recalled Butler saying.

Assistants in Butler's office told Longerbeam he would be set up with a vocal coach to help him fine-tune his singing style and get his "image started," according to Longerbeam.

Longerbeam is to return to Butler's studio on Oct. 27 for additional training and to learn the "12 commandments of stage presence," the police officer said.

The next step will be to take Longerbeam to recording companies to see if any of them would be interested in offering him a recording contract, Longerbeam said.

Local fans say Longerbeam has what it takes to make it in the music business. Some say it's his "soft eyes" that make him attractive. Others say it's his energetic style of singing.

"For the areas we go, he's the one that brings them in," said Brandan Petti, who is married to Longerbeam's sister.

Longerbeam said he has been told he may have to contribute up to $5,000 of his own money in his efforts to land a recording contract. To help Longerbeam pay for those expenses, a fund-raising picnic will be held at the KOA Campground in Harpers Ferry on Sept. 30.

Those who attend the picnic will be asked for donations, said Brian Mason, a Ranson, W.Va., police officer and friend of Longerbeam's who is helping to coordinate the event.

Mason said local businesses will be asked to donate merchandise for an auction to be held during the picnic to raise money for Longerbeam.

Mason said businesses interested in donating items can call him at 304-728-7789.

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