“Tonight is a very special night,” said Norman Prusslin, one of the co-founders of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. He was speaking to a large crowd numbering in the hundreds last Wednesday night who had gathered to see Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks perform in concert at the Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. It was intermission and the sun was slowly setting over the calm waters of Port Jefferson Harbor as the boats gently swayed back and forth. The temperature was a comfortable 80 degrees. But Prusslin wasn’t referring to the concert or the tranquil setting.
He was about to present the Long Island Hall of Fame’s Long Island Sound Award to its latest recipient, the frontman of the Lone Sharks, singer/songwriter Gene Casey. The award recognizes a local musician who has made “outstanding contributions to Long Island’s musical heritage.”
“Starting in the late ’80s or so, I started to hear this buzz about this guy out east who was drawing all these crowds playing rockabilly, swing, R&B, traditional, country” he said. “For the past 27 years or so, Gene and his colleagues, The Lone Sharks, have been really serving as ambassadors to our Long Island community, … playing the music from the heart, and … I think we are all very fortunate to be living on Long Island and to have Gene and his compatriots [entertain us] through his recordings, through his performances, through his sound track placement — clearly he is, has been and continues to be the real deal.”
Along with LIHoF member Amy Tuttle and Executive Director Joe Jankowski, Prusslin then presented Casey with the well-deserved award.
“Well here it is,” beamed Casey as he held it high above his 6’ 5” frame. “Thank you folks for such a wonderful turnout tonight. I’d rather play [music] than talk … but first I want to thank the Long Island Music Hall of Fame for the work they are doing and continue to do and I hope they find a permanent home soon. I am very proud to be considered a Long Island musician. I think any scene that has Joan Jett and Debbie Gibson and Dee Snider and Billy Joel — that’s a scene I want to be part of.”
Since their inception, Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks have played at hundreds of venues from Manhattan to Montauk and have produced five CDs of original songs with several featured on the FX Network’s TV show “Justified” and in “The Tall Man,” a feature film starring Jessica Biel.
After thanking his wife and manager Heather and his band mates, Chris Ripley, Tony Palumbo and Paul Scher, Casey said “I am going to accept this award with gratitude and appreciation on behalf of all my hardworking musician friends, many [who] are out here tonight, for keeping the faith and carrying the torch and not giving up on a dream on those very long nights driving home on Route 25, 27, [Interstate] 495. On behalf of them, I thank you folks for supporting live music, local music, and God bless you. Now let’s get back to rockin’!”
True to his word, Casey and his band went on to play well over the scheduled time, taking requests and belting out favorites from Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and performing original songs including “Don’t Leave Her Lonely,” “You Ain’t Missing Much” and “It Should Rain.” And yes, it was a very special night.