Undated letter from Bob Casey to Dick Ellis
-- Bob Casey Goes to Washington --
At the start of my freshman year of High School back in 1957 in Yonkers New York, I attended my first dance at the St. Eugene's Gym. It was a 'Record Hop' (they weren't called Sock Hop until the 60s). It was horrible. Someone brought their portable record player and a pile of 45s. The microphone of the Gym system, which wasn't very good to begin with, was placed in front of the 4" loudspeaker of the portable and that was it.
Around that same time (August 5, 1957 to be exact), Dick Clark began American Bandstand on TV and I zeroed in on him. That's what I wanted to do. With the help of my father (who was in the sound system business), I 'borrowed' a couple of special HiFi horns, tri-pod stands, and a special box that he built which had two turntables in it. I appeared on stage for the first time on October 24, 1958 at age 14 with 'Bob Casey's Record Bandstand' and for the next 3 1/2 years I ran some of the best dances in the area.
However, I was doing poorly in school. I was left back twice and no longer had the slightest thought of advancing to graduation, so I quit and joined the Army. All my 'Bandstand' equipment was kept in my folk's attic.
The majority of the 1960s was spent in the military, Korea, Texas, Germany, Okinawa, and course Vietnam. As the story goes, I had a nice job waiting for me when I returned home to New York at WMCA in New York, followed by a stint at WNBC and finally NBC network. Searching to increase my salary and broaden my a horizons, I started a small but prestigious sound system company in New York City and did fairly well for the next 30 years.
Maybe 15 - 20 years ago, a couple of guys from England were writing a book about the history of the disc jockey. I believe they were more interested in disco type deejays. They were combing the big cities of America and Europe looking for the "old school" DJs. Because of all the work I had done building disco systems, my name was batted around enough that they visited me. It seems that they knew nothing about DJs before the disco era. I suggested that they should go back to the beginning - Martin Block on WNEW in New York in 1937. They agreed. I also told them all about the 'Record Hops' and showed them this big dual turntable wooden box that my father had built back in 1955 for a religious ceremony. After the ceremony, the box was then relagated to the attic over my fathers office. I asked my father if I could "borrow' it, and I've carried the box around with me ever since. I told the authors that I used it at my dances to create a "much more music" sound. Some months after they interviewed me, I received a call from England asking if they could have a picture of the box and sent a photographer to my loft in the city. The photo ended up on the front page of their book.
The writers added one small sentence that changed everything. Paraphrasing; "Casey did something different. He was the first one to use two turntables at a dance." Remember, I did this at age 14 back in 1958.
Then about ten years ago another publication asked to photograph the unit and it ended up on an entire page by itself and in color. This made me think that maybe I have something of historic value here. I headed out to my shed and found the original speakers (University BLCs, the original amplifier (Masco M25N), the original folding table and even the small wood box I built to hold 300 45 records.
So on a beautiful Spring day, I set out putting the old system back together again. I replaced the belts on the turntables, put some new tubes in the amplifier and repainted the original "Record Bandstand" sign. I then called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum who politely declined saying that although the system was true artifact material of museum quality, they had no room and what room they had was reserved for future inductees.
Then I received a call from the Smithsonian Institute who asked for some pictures and the story. I physically went back to my place of origin: St Eugene's School Gym in Yonkers, NY, and for the first time in 51 years, set up the entire system once again and took pictures. It was a very heady trip for me as I stepped back in time. Just standing on that stage once again. Nothing had changed.
I sent the photos and story via Fedex to Washington and last Wednesday, I received an e-mail stated that the admissions committee has elected to accept the Record Bandstand system to be used for a major exhibit 'within a year or so' on the culture of the 1950s.
I was told that they already had Dick Clark's original American Bandstand table as well as the original Howdy Doody marionette and my system will be part of it as a starting point for the changeover from bands to recorded music in dance clubs.
The system is due to ship to Washington on November 1st, so I setting it up one more time in my garage for friends and family to see the original system.
PS: I look at the photos and am still amazed that I was only 14 when I designed this system.
From: Dick Ellis
Dated: October 17, 2012
Subject: Our Very Own Bob Casey Bob Casey...(one of our own) and I have been friends since we met at AFVN in Saigon. He was a very knowledgeable and eager young soldier assigned to the station. He didn't have that much "on the air" experience but there was so much potential there the big wigs at the station saw it right away, as did Cal who took him under his wing. We sat in the studio and had many long talks.... I do not have his permission but his latest accomplishment is so historic....I felt I had to share it with all of us. As you can see....he went on to become quite a media professional!!! Bob lives in New York state with his mentally challenged sister Mary to whom he is completely devoted. He is one of those I really missed in Memphis along with Cal. I listened to his Oldies Show CD's all the way home from Tennessee. Dickie
Robert J. Casey SP5, USA Saigon 1968-69
This story arrived in a rather round-about way. The first section is not from a message but is from a letter from Bob to Dick Ellis. Dick they emailed it to the AFNV Yahoo Group.
Individual Photo Albums & Stories
The below link goes to an AFRTS Archive Blog Spot site with a good story of Bob Casey in his own words.