Musician, songwriter. Casey was born in Enoree on September 13, 1912, the son of James Casey and Sallie Griffin. Raised in a musical family, Casey began performing with local string bands in his early teens. In the mid-1920s the Caseys moved to Danville, Virginia, where Claude made his first radio appearance in 1929 on WBTM. Two years later he had his own fifteen-minute program, billing himself as the “Carolina Hobo” and assembling the first aggregation of his most enduring ensemble, the Pine State Playboys. Casey’s career struggled through the early 1930s, and he alternated between music and mill work for several years. In 1937 he made his first recordings, cutting six masters for the American Record Corporation in New York, but none was released.
In 1938 Casey and the Pine State Playboys cut eighteen sides for Bluebird in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Rock Hill, South Carolina, which featured Casey on vocals and rhythm guitar, Jimmie Rouse on fiddle, and Willie Coates on piano. Two years later a revamped Playboys lineup recorded ten more tracks for RCA Victor in Atlanta. The Pine State Playboys were essentially a small western swing combo, deeply influenced by the foot-stomping rhythms of Texas performers Bob Wills and Milton Brown. In 1941 Casey was hired by Charlotte radio station WBT, where he became a featured performer both as a solo act and with the station’s popular bands, the Briarhoppers and the Tennessee Ramblers. He also appeared in several motion pictures during the 1940s, including Swing Your Partner (1943) and Square Dance Jubilee (1949). In 1942 Casey married Ruth Derrick. The couple had two sons.
Casey’s career continued to prosper after World War II. In the early 1950s his new act, Claude Casey and his Sage Dusters, moved to WGAC in Augusta, Georgia, then to WFBC-TV in Greenville. He made his final recordings in Nashville for MGM in 1953. In the early 1960s Casey retired to Johnston, his wife’s hometown, where they founded radio station WJES. In 1987 Old Homestead Records released a collection of Casey’s recordings. He died in Johnston on June 24, 1999, and was buried at Sunset Gardens Memorial Park.
Casey, Claude. Pine State Honky Tonk. Brighton, Mich.: Old Homestead Records, 1987. Sound recording.
Charlotte Country Music Story. [Raleigh]: North Carolina Arts Council, Folklife Section, 1985.
McCloud, Barry. Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers. New York: Berkley, 1995.
Obituary. Columbia State, June 25, 1999, p. B4.