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Al Casey

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Biography

Longtime session guitarist Al Casey is most noted for the records he made with producer Lee Hazlewood, with artists like Duane Eddy and Sanford Clark. He also has made numerous records on his own, reaching his commercial peak in the early 1960s, when a few of his instrumental (or mostly instrumental) surf and R&B-rock singles made the Top 100. In the '60s and '70s, he worked often as a session player in Los Angeles, and was still putting out records under his own name in the '90s. Casey was still in his teens when he started working with Hazlewood in Phoenix, introducing Hazlewood to Sanford Clark, whose hit "The Fool" was produced by Hazlewood. Casey's band backed Clark on the singer's records, as well as other discs cut by Hazlewood. Casey was in Eddy's band, the Rebels, in which he played the piano, although he's more known for his guitar playing. Casey also wrote one of Eddy's earliest hits, "Ramrod," as well as co-writing another Eddy hit, "Forty Miles of Bad Road," with Duane. In the early '60s Casey was dividing his time between sessions in L.A. and Phoenix, and working with his own group, the Al Casey Combo. Somewhat surprisingly, considering his twangy background with Eddy and the surf recordings in his near future, his first successes were with bluesy instrumental rock singles with a jazzy organ groove (played by Casey himself). "Cookin'" made number 92 on the pop chart, while a similar follow-up, "Jivin' Around," did a little better, getting to number 71 pop and number 22 in the R&B listings. In 1963, however, he and Hazlewood rode the surf craze and cut an entire surf LP, much of which featured Hazlewood compositions, and all of which had respectably tough reverberant guitar by Casey. A single from the album, "Surfin' Hootenanny" (with almost incidental female vocals by the K-C-Ettes, aka the Blossoms), became Casey's biggest hit, making number 48; top L.A. session dudes Leon Russell (organ) and Hal Blaine (drums) were present on many or all of the tracks. Casey's solo career petered out when the small independent label he recorded for, Stacy, closed shop around the beginning of 1964. Casey found a lot of work, though, as a session man, on recordings by artists including the Beach Boys, Eddy Arnold, and Frank Sinatra. He also ran a music store in Hollywood in the late '60s, and played as a member of the band on Dean Martin's television show. In the mid-'90s he made a solo recording for Bear Family, Sidewinder. ~ Richie Unterberger

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Born:

15 September 1915 in Louisville, KY

Genre
Years Active:

'30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Contemporaries