Mike Longo began his professional career at the age of fifteen in South Florida where he began working with his father’s club date band around the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. He actually began playing piano at the age of three in Cincinnati, Ohio his birthplace. By the age of four, the family took him to the Cincinnati Conservatory where he began formal lessons with a teacher. The family later moved to Ft. Lauderdale when he was at a very early age where he grew up and began playing boogie woogie piano. His professional career took roots after winning a local talent contest at the age of twelve.
Longo went to a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert while in the 9th grade and heard Oscar Peterson who immediately became his idol. Cannonball Adderley, who was a band director in a local high school at the time, heard Longo at a jam session and became interested in the young pianist. The two became friends and the elder Longo hired Cannonball to work some gigs with his club date band. Later, Cannonball got Longo a gig with a R&B band that he was working with and the pianist began playing up and down the east coast of Florida on what was known at the time as “the chittlin’ circuit.” The older Adderley began coaching the younger musician and later hired him to play with his quartet at the famed Porky’s that was depicted in the movies of the same name in the '70s.
After graduation from high school, Longo attended college at Western Kentucky State University where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in classical piano. During his stay there he went on the road with the famed Hal McIntyre orchestra during one summer and played with legendary guitarist Hank Garland in Nashville’s famous Printers Alley as well. During his senior year of college, Longo won the Downbeat Magazine Hall of Fame Scholarship to Berklee School of Music when a fellow student submitted a tape recording of his playing to the magazine. Longo declined the scholarship and upon graduation hit the road as a full-time professional jazz musician. During his two-year stint with a band called the Salt City Six, he was booked into New York’s Metropole Cafe. When the band left, Longo stayed at the Metropole as a house pianist. It was there that he worked with such jazz notables as Henry Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, George Wettling, Gene Krupa and many others.