Hours after his Tuesday night show in Bay Shore wrapped up, Gene Casey pulled into his driveway at his one-acre Southold property, weary from the road.
He’d driven for more than an hour after the latest performance of his ubiquitous band, Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks. Now, after a quick run to the store for a bottle of white wine, he was ready for home.
Casey climbed his porch steps as the speaker system inside the house blared out rhythm and blues tunes. He had set it up so the music was playing through the open windows before he left. Even when he isn’t working, the music is all around him.
Casey was in the midst of a five-day run of shows stretching from Shelter Island to Lindenhurst. Tuesday was night four. He’ll take a break in two days, then start another multi-night tour.
The summer schedule is hectic, with some long nights of driving through the dark Pine Barrens as the only car on the road. But better that than the doldrums of February, when the shows dry up and Casey is lucky to book one venue a week.
It’s easy for him to get into a groove this time of year. He knows how to regulate his voice and give just enough at each performance to keep audiences jumping and dancing to his rock and roll and country stylings without burning himself out in the process.
“It’s a continuous gig,” he noted. “It never stops.”
It’s a skill he’s learned after more than 25 years as one of the East End’s best-known and most celebrated musicians.
“I’d put Gene Casey against any national act you can name. He’s that good,” said Howard Thompson, a former talent scout for record labels and music director at WPKN radio in Bridgeport, Conn. “I think Long Island really should know that they have someone very special in their midst.”
If they don’t know that already, they will soon enough.
At a concert in Port Jefferson next Wednesday, Casey — a 27-year veteran of the East End music scene — will be honored by the Long Island Music Hall of Fame with the Long Island Sound Award, an honor for local acts that have made a important contribution to the region’s musical heritage.
“He’s definitely one of those bands that’s created the musical fabric of Long Island,” said Jim Faith, vice chair of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
With the honor, Casey will join the likes of the Good Rats, Doug Seeger, Blue Oyster Cult, Eddie Money, Twisted Sister and Foghat.
Faith said Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks are a mainstay of Long Island’s rising original music scene. While tribute bands have their place, he said acts like Casey’s are ways for locals to “hear a great band with great songs.”
He said going to a Lone Sharks concert is like “what happened when people went out and heard Billy [Joel] for the first time.”
Norm Prusslin, a co-founder of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, is a champion of Casey’s group and helped convince the board to honor him.
“I think Gene was a perfect candidate,” he said. “He’s a perfect ambassador as a Long Islander, as a person making music on Long Island.”
Prusslin said it’s Casey’s ability to jump from R&B to rock and roll to country to twang that makes him so unique.
“He’s always stuck to his guns,” Prusslin said. “He continues to be someone who plays music as it was originally meant to be played — with his own spin on it.”