Interview for Beatles Magazine • Friday, June 1, 2018

Meeting The Beatles : Exclusive Interview with Howie Casey

Interview of Howie Casey


[…] BM: Tony Visconti was producing Marc Bolan, and guided you to work with Paul McCartney. How did that come about, and which records did you play on?

Howie Casey: By the time I worked with Tony Visconti, I had moved to London. He booked me to play on some tracks, he had a small studio in his house. I think I played on some of Mary Hopkin’s tracks, and later for Marc Bolan (T. Rex ), most notably 20th Century Boy. On that Tony said “Howie I’d like you to freak out on your sax at the end of the track” which I did lots of harmonics etc. I can’t remember all the tracks I worked on, but I played on the album, ‘Tanx‘ I also got to tour With Marc a few times. I was doing quite a lot of session work and playing with lots of different bands, when I got a call from MPL (Paul’s office), asking would I be available to do some tracks on ‘Wings’ new album, ‘Band on the Run‘. I sure was! That came through Tony’s recommendation, and I’ll always be grateful to him.

BM: What was it like going on tour with Wings, and having an former Beatle as your front-man?

Howie Casey: After playing on ‘Band on the Run‘, where I played on ‘Jet’, ‘Bluebird’, and ‘Mrs. Vandebilt’, I just carried on doing my gigs and sessions. Paul and ‘Wings’ had done another album, ‘Venus and Mars‘ over in America, and I thought ” Oh well that’s the end of that”. Then I got a call from Alan Crowder at MPL saying Paul has asked if I would be interested in playing on their next world tour; “Yup I’ll have some of that” I said. Working with Paul, we both went back a long way and we hadn’t seen one another since the old days in Liverpool, and Hamburg. That was no problem we got along very well, indeed, lots of common ground.

The Tour was terrific to be on, we were looked after so well, the music and partying was great a brilliant outfit to be with. The other members of the band were so easy to get on with, real nice people. I also played on ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound‘, ‘Wings Over America‘ ‘Back to the Egg‘ the ‘Rockestra‘ sessions, and ‘Rock for Kampuchea‘. […]

BM: Did you know any of the Beatles growing up in Liverpool?

Howie Casey: I first met up with ‘The Beatles’ or ‘The Silver Beatles’ as they were known, at the Larry Parnes auditions at ‘The Wyvern Club’ organized by Alan Williams. Then after that in 1960, ‘The Seniors’ got the gig in Hamburg, Germany at ‘The Kaiserkeller Club’. We’d been there for a while doing great business when Alan wrote to me saying he was sending over ‘The Beatles’ to play in a small bar just up the road from were we were. I wasn’t too happy about this having seen them at the Parnes auditions and we weren’t impressed. We thought they would mess up the scene. As it turned out, when we heard them playing at ‘The Indra’ they’d come on an absolute storm. We all became great friends, we showed them the best cheap places to eat and drink. Many times when they finished their gig they would come to ‘The Kaiserkeller’ and get up and jam with us. Back in Liverpool we played lots gigs on the same bill as them. The manager of the club decided that instead of us playing 45 minutes and breaking for 15 minutes he would take Stuart Sutcliffe from ‘The Beatles’ and split ‘The Seniors’ into two bands so as there were no breaks in the live music. We weren’t best pleased and neither were ‘The Beatles’, but we were dealing with gangsters and you didn’t argue, or else. So the band was split into a 4 piece and a 3 piece. The quartet was Jeff Wallington on drums, Stan Foster on piano, Stuart Sutcliffe on bass, Derry Wilkie on vocals, and me on sax. The trio was Brian ‘Griff’ Griffiths on guitar/ bass, Billy Hughes on guitar/ vocals, and a good German drummer who’s name escapes me. I often wondered if losing Stuart at that time, and Paul having to play bass lines on his guitar, if had influenced him to take up bass as his main instrument.

BM: Do any memories stand out while recording Rockestra Theme, with Paul McCartney, and so many legendary musicians?

Howie Casey: The ‘ Rockestra‘ recording sessions were pretty amazing, all those big names from the Rock industry getting to play together, there weren’t any huge ego’s on show, no ‘prima donnas’ , or tantrums, I think a few were a little nervous if the truth be known, after all they’d come to play with ‘the Man’, Paul McCartney. Of course I felt okay about it I was playing with ‘Wings’ and had worked with a lot of those people. But it was an honour to be there. […]

BM: When Paul McCartney was busted for pot, and the 1980 tour was canceled, what went through your mind?

Howie Casey: When we arrived in Japan for the tour, the Horn section of Tony Dorsey, Thaddeus Richard, Steve Howard, and myself all got together in my hotel room, to have a drink and I handed out cigars I’d bought at duty free. We’d just lit up and were having a laugh when Alan Crowder walked in I offered him a drink and a cigar, which he turned down, which was very unusual for Alan, I said,” What’s the matter Al”? He said ” Paul’s in jail”, and we all thought he was taking the mickey as usual, but he wasn’t laughing. Then he told us what had happened. We were shocked, but said, hey it’s okay the powers that be will sort this out. It didn’t happen like that, we were told to be ready to leave if they could get Paul out. There was a possible seven year sentence if not, so either way we were going home, no tour! To say the least we were pissed off, we’d just negotiated a better deal for ourselves, so this was a big blow for us. Plus the whole crew were stunned, Linda and the rest of the band were in pieces. Of course, Paul did get out and we were told get packed and off to the airport. Paul was brought to the plane and put into the cheap seats with the rest of us, and off we flew. He was of course moved up to first class once the plane took off. The drag was, I think, was that it heralded the end of that line up of ‘Wings‘. A damn shame, as that was one tight band. Thing is we were told dope was easily available in Japan anyway. So there was no need to put in the luggage. Just forgetfulness? Maybe!! […]


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