In recognition of his 27 years contributing to the East End music scene, Gene Casey, frontman of the Lone Sharks, will receive the Long Island Music Hall of Fame’s Long Island Sound Award this Wednesday, August 12, in Port Jefferson.
Currently residing in Southold, Casey was born in Queens and grew up in Malverne. Before founding the Lone Sharks, Casey performed in New York City, struggling to make it as a musician.
“I was part of the late punk rock scene,” Casey says. “I played CBGB, I played The Mudd Club—all those places, with different bands.”
He enjoyed himself, but it was difficult to sustain.
“I was a little tired of having to split up $70 among four musicians,” he says.
Then one summer he came out east to work. He became a landscaper at author John Irving’s Sagaponack estate. Casey got a place in Sag Harbor, liked what he found, and ended up staying.
The pay for musicians was decent, compared to Manhattan, he says. In 1988 he formed a band thinking it would be a one-off, but things grew from there.
While the lineup of the Lone Sharks has changed up many times since then, Casey stuck with it. Now he’s a full-time musician, putting on four to five shows a week.
“I’m not a big star, but I play all the time,” he says. “I somehow made it work.”
Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks gets consistent work on the East End, across Long Island and farther afield, and Casey also performs as the Gene Casey Trio and as a solo artist.
For a long time, he was resistant to playing solo, but now he can often be found doing a set alone. “I always avoided doing it, but now I quite like it,” he says. “It was a little to folky for me … I always wanted to rock out.” Now, he appreciates the challenge of holding a crowd’s interest with just a guitar.
He began putting on solo shows because his bandmates—who have families and other jobs—could not keep up the same schedule he can, and it’s a vehicle to get his original music out there.
He’s put out five albums over his career and is working on a sixth. In recent years a number of his songs have been featured in film and television: three songs on Justified, one on Sons of Anarchy and one in the John Travolta and Robert De Niro movie Killing Season.
Though his records are all original, his performances tend to be a 60-40 split of cover songs and originals, he says. His goal is for his music to fit in seamlessly with the classic tunes.
The Lone Sharks is often referred to as a rockabilly band, though Casey says, “It’s only part of what we do.” His band also plays jump blues—a mix of swing and R&B—and classic hardcore country music. He counts among his influences Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and The Beatles.
Casey’s Long Island Sound Award will be presented at Harborfront Park during Port Jefferson’s Picnic Supper Concert Series. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. August 12.
Casey says he’s happy the presentation is happening at a concert, rather than an event or dinner. He quips, “While I take the honor seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously.”
This isn’t Casey’s first accolade. He and his band have consistently won the Dan’s Best of the Best Award for Local Band, and in 2014 they were inducted into the Dan’s Best of the Best Hall of Fame.
For more information on Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, visit lonesharks.com.