Sunday, April 6, 2014

Memories of a Jazz Journalist - Part Five - Al Casey

George Borgman with Al Casey.
Here is a continuation of the series of entries from George A. Borgman's article Memories of a Jazz Journalist from 2004.

Guitarist Al Casey (New York City), a real charmer with a wry sense of humor, had many stories to tell about his years in Fats Waller's bands. Al has appeared many times with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band at this festival (the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival.)

Casey c. 1947 Photo by William P. Gottlieb.
Al Casey was born Albert Aloysius Casey. He reported his birthdate to be September 15, 1915 in Louisville Kentucky, however this date doesn't jibe with census data collected on January 9, 1920 which listed him only as 2 1/2 years old.

Whatever Casey's true birthdate he appears to be the son of Joseph Casey (b. December 23, 1896) the son of Joseph and Polly Casey and Maggie B. nee Douglas (b. 1895) the daughter of Albert and Jeanette (Johnson) Douglas.

His mother Maggie died on November 1, 1920 and it appears his father Joseph may have been the Joseph listed in the 1930 census who was living with his mother Polly and many of his brothers and sisters.

1920 Kentucky Census

Casey worked with the legendary pianist and bandleader Thomas "Fats" Waller and joined his band right after he graduated high school in 1933. He worked with Waller until he switched over to Teddy Wilson from 1939 to 1940 then worked with Waller again until Waller's untimely death on December 15, 1943. Casey can be heard playing guitar on many of Fats Waller's famous recording sessions.

Al Casey and Eddie Barefield in the late 40s.
Photo by William P. Gottlieb.
Soon after Waller's death Casey joined Clarence Profit in a trio but eventually found his own pianist and bass player and formed his own trio. He work in the New York clubs started adding to his fame.

He joined saxophonist King Curtis' band in 1957 and continued playing and recording with his band until 1961.

In later years Casey was a member of the New York based Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. He made many appearances with the band at festivals and clubs and recorded with them.

Al Casey died in New York September 11, 2005 of colon cancer.

Al Casey with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band on June 20, 1985.

Here is an interesting website that has samples of Al Casey's guitar playing. Classic Jazz

Check out Casey's Find-A-Grave Memorial!


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