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About The Artist
Claude Casey was one of the major purveyors of western swing music in the southeastern states as leader and vocalist with his Pine State Playboys. He then spent some time as a member of the Briarhoppers and Tennessee Ramblers, and appeared in a couple of motion pictures.
After World War II, he moved to a straight country style, was featured and eventually became owner of his own radio station. Throughout, Casey exhibited one of the more pleasing personalities of anyone in the music.
Claude grew up in the Carolina Piedmont and later Danville, Virginia where he managed to make the acquaintance of musical figures ranging from North Carolina Rambler leader Charlie Poole to minstrel legend Emmett Miller. In July 1937, his Claude Casey Trio cut six numbers for the American Record Corporation but none were released.
Forming a swing band, the Pine State Playboys, that included Willie Coates and Jimmy Rouse, they did much better with ten numbers for Bluebird in January 1938 and worked radio in Kinston, North Carolina. The band broke up in 1939, but he soon assembled a new group of Pine State Playboys and recorded again.
In 1941, Claude was hired by radio powerhouse WBT Charlotte and spent the war years working alternately with the Briarhoppers and the Tennessee Ramblers, the two best-known WBT acts. With the latter, he appeared in the motion picture Swing Your Partner that starred Dale Evans, and WLS National Barn Dance Favorites, Lulubelle and Scotty Wiseman. In the film, the Ramblers played cheese factory workers who were getting their musical instruments out at every opportunity. It could best be described as silly but fun.
When the war ended, Casey organized a new band called the Sagedusters, went to Augusta, Georgia, for a time, and signed with RCA Victor cutting several numbers including the tear jerker, "Two Little Girls with Golden Curls" about two children who perished in a fire.
In 1953, he moved over to MGM records. He also made another film appearance in Lippert's production of Square Dance Jubilee that starred Don "Red" Barry accompanied by his unlikely sidekick, "Brooklynese" comic Wally Vernon.
In 1958, Robert Mitchum came back east and caused a stir. He was filming a movie around Asheville, NC. Claude Casey was reported to be in the movie by the local press and playing a gangster. The movie story line is about Mitchum playing the part of a bootlegger in the Carolina Mountains. The movie ended up being called Thunder Road. Another unique aspect of the movie was that Mitchum sang the theme song for the movie, "Whippoorwill", which was the working title of the film when they started filming.
During this time, he and his wife bought some land in the Ellenboro, NC area and called it Capri Park. It was 15 acres that included rustic buildings and a skating rink. On Thursday and Saturday nights, folks could attend square dancing entertainment.
By the end of the 1950's, the music situation had changed and Claude left music for radio work, coming to Johnston, South Carolina where he eventually became station owner. In the 1980's Claude would get together annually with old WBT buddies like Whitey & Hogan, Cecil Campbell, and Don White and they would entertain old and new fans at the Charlotte Film Festival.
He was still not done with movies. In 1965 he was cast as Uncle Foxy Calhoun in the movie Forty Acre Feud, which featured several country music stars. Others that were named with roles were Ferlin Husky, Minnie Pearl, Del Reeves, Sam Tarpley, Bob Corley, and, Jan Moore. Other country music favorites in the movie were George Jones, Ray Price, Bill Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Roy Drusky, Skeeter Davis, The Willis Brothers and Hugh X. Lewis.
Note To Recording Listing: The recordings listed under the Bluebird and Montgomery Ward labels were as Claude Casey and the Pine State Playboys. The remaining listings did not list any band but only 'string band accompaniment' on the label.
Credits & Sources