After turning 18, John searched for his calling in some strange places. He unloaded trucks and packed boxes for a garment company; he made health food sandwiches for a restaurant called Earth Banquet and was caretaker of laboratory rats for Leonel C. Strong one of the forerunners in Cancer Research. During his leanest days, he sold his own plasma twice a week and stole clothes from Goodwill booths, which he then sold to Mexican families at flea markets on the weekends. John gave himself the nickname Long Gone in his 20s and worked as a warehouseman for the Teamsters for a decade. His career ended when he fell 15 feet onto a concrete floor, resulting in a concussion, the loss of a few teeth and shattering a kneecap. With the money he received from worker's compensation, he was able to buy his first house. After an entire year in rehab he finally returned to work and was fired a few months later for getting in a fight. His dispute with the company was eventually settled out of court and with his settlement he eventually began his record label in 1988. When his friends, The Lazy Cowgirls couldn't find a label for their live album, John volunteered to put out the record himself. After he thought of the name for the label he started doing a bunch of 7-inch singles. Before he knew it, Sympathy for the Record Industry was a real label. A real label, but one in which the proprietor's personality was very much ingrained. A tone of irreverence was immediately set by the label's moniker, by its Margaret Keane-style, sad-eyed waif logo, and by its motto: "We almost really care." John also decided to do business only on a handshake only basis and relied on fate to send him good music. It is quite surprising how well his lackadaisical attitude worked and by 2006 he had released the recordings of over 550 bands from all over the world.
Since Sympathy's humble inception, Long Gone John has been called many things, from anti- mogul, evil genius, music Nazi, lowbrow art aficionado, shyster, considerably eccentric and the first to recognize the Detroit Garage rock scene. Whether any of the above descriptions are true isn't apparent at face value. What is very apparent is that during the past seventeen years John has single-handedly released over 750 records and helped launch the careers of several well known, controversial and talented artists who’ve littered our airwaves, magazines and hearts. Some of John’s celebrity Sympathy alumni are Courtney Love and her band Hole, The White Stripes, and The Donnas first incarnation The Electrocutes. Some of John’s less famous but yet still very notable Sympathy acts over the years have been, The Muffs, The Von Bondies, Rocket From the Crypt, The Mumps, April March, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Dwarves, Buck, Suicide, The Gun Club, Billy Childish, Turbonegro, Man or Astro-man?, Scarling., Inger Lorre and Motel Shootout, and Redd Kross.
Sympathy Records continues to be one of the more successful indie labels in the US. Many of his releases also involve commissioned artwork from well- known artists such as, Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr and Robert Williams, often involving subversive riffs on other famous works, like the album cover of The Rolling Stones, "Their Satanic Majesties Request."
Along the way, John has compulsively amassed a vast collection of art and pop ephemera. After seeing an inferior version of the character Enid from Daniel Clowes' Ghost World comic, John was motivated to enter the collectible toy game. His new company, Necessaries Toy Foundation started in 2003. It allowed John to finally slow down his label in order to work and focus on manufacturing a new line of toys and publishing art-related books.
In 2006 a feature-length documentary titled "The Treasures of Long Gone John" was released. The film chronicles John's eccentric art and musical obsessions. It also explores the work of several of the artists he collects and collaborates with, including Todd Schorr, Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Camille Rose Garcia and Robert Williams. It features a wall-to-wall soundtrack of over 40 Sympathy artists, original animation and time lapse photography