SHADOWY FIGURE: Casey Weldon.
“Casey” Bill Weldon is one of the forgotten men of the commercial development of the blues. He was born William Weldon on July 10, 1909, in Pine Bluff.
Weldon was a member of the influential Memphis Jug Band, which formed in the mid-1920s, and began recording in 1927 — including sessions with Cotton Plant’s Peetie Wheatstraw on piano. Big Walter Horton, Furry Lewis and founder Will Shade were among notable members of the Memphis Jug Band. Weldon himself began recording solo in the mid-1930s.
In 1936, Weldon recorded “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.” The song’s form is age-old 12-bar blues, but it addressed modern times with its references to getting a refrigerator to replace the ice man. In November 1941, Brinkley-born R&B pioneer Louis Jordan also had his first real hit covering “Outskirts.” Jordan biographer John Chilton said this song “really launched Louis Jordan as a major recording star.”
In fact, Jordan’s version of Weldon’s song “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” was such a success, Jordan recorded his own answer song in 1942 with new lyrics — but still sharing credit with Weldon — called “I’m Gonna Leave You on the Outskirts of Town.” B.B. King, Albert King and others would later record “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town,” although they were likely more influenced by Jordan’s hit version.
Jordan had a third hit reviving a Weldon-connected song when he covered Weldon’s “Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door” in 1945. Jordan’s success with the song led others like Wynonie Harris and Tarheel Slim to follow suit. Weldon’s original version was cut in October 1935.
In addition to his time in the Memphis Jug Band, Weldon performed with the Hokum Boys, the Washboard Rhythm Kings — which featured Washboard Sam of Walnut Ridge — and other bands. He was a sideman on many records, including tracks by the aforementioned Wheatstraw of Woodruff County, Bumble Bee Slim, Big Bill Broonzy of Langdale and, perhaps most notably, with blueswoman Memphis Minnie, known to rock fans as the author of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Some say Minnie and Weldon were once married.
In fact, Weldon’s ubiquity and varied talents have caused some music researchers to suggest he was more than one person. Weldon’s hazy bio doesn’t help his case. Other suggestions are that his nickname is not “Casey” but actually “K.C.,” which refers to his Kansas City origins. Even the date of his death — thought to be in Detroit in the 1960s — is not known.
But while Weldon’s life is shadowy, his contributions to blues music are not. The Jefferson County native is featured on more than 100 recordings — as a solo artist, with influential bands and as a sideman. His skills as a lyricist have kept several of his songs alive as blues standards — even as the “Casey” Bill Weldon name has faded.
• “As the Clock Struck Four”
“I’m Going to Move to the Outskirts of Town”
• “Please Come on Down to My House”
“Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door”