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P.W. Long first surfaced as the vocalist for the Michigan-based Wig (appearing only on the 7" Just Obscene and the indie release Lying Next to You), billing himself as Preston Cleveland. After the single's release in 1991, Long left to form the disastrously named N****r Lover, eventually changing the name to N.L. Mule before finally deciding on the more succinct Mule. Backed by Kevin Munro and Jim Kimball, veterans of Ann Arbor's Laughing Hyenas, Mule's eponymous debut was released on Quarterstick Records in 1992, followed by the Wrung EP and the Steve Albini-produced If I Don't Six, both released in 1994.
After abandoning a short-lived tour as an acoustic artist, Long recruited bassist Dan Maister and former Jesus Lizard drummer Mac McNeilly, recording 1997's We Didn't See You on Sunday under the name P.W. Long's Reelfoot. He recorded another album with this lineup (1998's Push Me Again) before dissolving the band and laying relatively low for a few years. A performance at the Shellac-curated All Tomorrow's Parties in England in 2001 was Long's only major public appearance until the tour for his 2003 album, Remembered (released under the simplified moniker P.W. Long).