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Sessionist Al Casey Passed Away

September 18, 2006 | People
Al Casey, guitarist and sessionist, passed away at 8:40 AM on Sunday September 17, 2006. He was a session player on the "'68 Comeback Special".

During the filming for Elvis' 1968 TV Special, a Red Hagstrom Viking II was borrowed for use by Elvis in several segments of the show including a stand up performance in front of a live crowd. The guitar through the years has been mistaken as his and often referred to as the "Elvis guitar". The guitar in fact belonged to Al Casey, who was one of the session players on that show.

Al said "the producer came to the studio players asking if anyone had something flashy that Elvis could use, that he thought it would make a better shot if he was playing something. I had the Hagstrom in my instrument trunk and offered it. During the two stand up live performances taped at NBC's Burbank studio on June 29, 1968 the amplifier used with Al Casey's Hagstrom was his Benson 200. Al said "once Elvis had a guitar to play, he needed an amp to play it through, and the Benson is what I had with me".

In addition to the 68 Special with Elvis Al also played on the soundtrack sessions at Western Recorders in 1968 that originally yielded Elvis' recently remastered hit "A Little Less Conversation". Years after the 68 TV Special Al sold the guitar for an undisclosed amount and it is now said to be owned by a casino corporation out of Illinois.

He was 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 Hundred. Later 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 1960s, 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.

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Aarons wrote on September 19, 2006
My condolences to Al Casey's family.