Born Robert Hanley Casey, this musician was adept at bass and guitar, performing and recording on both and perhaps owing a technical debt of gratitude to his early training on the tenor banjo, an instrument which is played with a technique similar to the guitar, but like the standard bass, has only two pairs of strings. Bob Casey taught himself this type of banjo at the age of 14 and several years later was working professionally with the Egyptian Transportation System Orchestra, based out of Illinois rather than the shadow of the pyramids. At the end of 1927, he moved to St. Louis and through the next half-decade became known as a sideman with leaders such as Joe Gill and Joe Reichman. During this period he picked up the bass and continued doubling on the guitar.
In 1933 he moved on to Chicago, notching up a bit in terms of jazz prestige by signing up with trumpeter Wingy Manone. Casey was a typically busy player in the eager Windy City music scene, gigging with other bands such as the King's Jesters and working as a staff musician for the NBC affiliate. Muggsy Spanier, another of Chicago's lively Dixieland combo honchos, nabbed Casey for his rhythm section commencing in the stifling summer of 1939. This meant more of a life on the road, but when the leader broke the group up, Casey came back to Chicago and began working with Gus Arnheim and Charlie Spivak, among others. In the early '40s he showed up in New York City, playing frequently at the Nick's venue, usually with Brad Gowans. Condon's Club was another Big Apple venue where a typical rhythm section would feature him on either bass or guitar. Proprietor and bandleader Eddie Condon's use of Casey alone is the makings of a beefy discography.
Casey became part of a scene involving players such as trumpeter Bobby Hackett and pianist Art Hodes, all heartened by the fact that the public didn't seem to be abandoning classic forms of jazz after all. This situation happily continued no matter what location Casey chose for a home base. In 1957 he went to bat in Florida, and in the early '60s, was with the Dukes of Dixieland and apparently enjoying more bookings than ever. Casey briefly decided to slow down at the end of that decade yet within a few years was back in New York answering the call for veteran players able to deliver a certain type of authentic rhythmic feel that younger generations simply haven't caught onto. ~ Eugene Chadbourne