Joe Donovan Castle and Florence Mae Caskey Castle
Florence Mae Caskey Castle (1916–2019)
Florence Marie Caskey was born May 13, 1916, in LaSalle, Illinois to Harry Field and Julia Coleman Caskey. Their wedding picture is shown below. Harry was a retail merchant dealing in flour and feed.
Florence’s siblings included Homer, Harry F. and Wayne Farley. While born “Marie”, Florence was unhappy with that name and change it to Mae. Her brother, Homer C., became a firefighter in LaSalle. Her brother, Wayne (at right) became an economist and later was on the staff of Illinois Wesleyan College, a school Florence attended.
In 1932, Florence’s brother Wayne married Margaret Kleefeld. Above is their wedding picture. Left to right in the back: Walter Klauss; Clara Kleefeld (?), bride’s sister; Homer Caskey; Wilhemina or Edith Kleefeld, bride’s sister; Walter(?) Schenig (best man); Florence Caskey.
Front row: Paul Kleefeld (bride’s father); Margaret Kleefeld, bride; Wayne Caskey, groom; bride’s neice, flower girl.
Florence attended Lincoln Grade School and junior high. She graduated from LaSalle-Peru High School in 1934. She was very active in music, playing cornet and trumpet in the band and orchestra. She was absent from her senior class photo, however, her entry was impressive.
She was the pianist for the school play her senior year. Photo below with Florence at the piano.
Following high school graduation, she attended Illinois Wesleyan College in Bloomington, IL. At right, is her senior picture from their 1937 yearbook, Wesleyana. Florence continued her education at Wesleyan and earned a Masters in Music in 1941.
Florence met Joseph Donovan Castle while at Wesleyan. Their names, “Caskey” and “Castle” resulted in their being seated next to each other in common classes. They were married on August 25, 1938, in St. Louis County, MO.
The cold weather caused Joe’s health to suffer. He wrote a letter to the musicians’ union asking about prospects for work in Austin, Texas. He received a letter stating that there was an opportunity for a musician providing he could write arrangements for orchestra, play the rhythm guitar, and violin. Joe and Florence decided to come. He played at the University Commons from 1939 to 1943, got a seventy-cent credit to eat at the cafeteria, and made four dollars or so playing for sororities on the weekends. In 1939, Florence attended Mary Hardin-Baylor College as a non-credit student.
Florence was hired by Dr. E. William Doty, Dean of the School of Fine Arts at UT, to play for the University. For approximately five years, she acted as an accompanist, accompanying junior and senior recitals. She prepared her master’s recital under Dr. Thomas Gorton, head of the Piano Department at UT, and during summers she went back to Illinois Wesleyan, where she received her Masters in Music degree in 1941.
Rev. Milton Maxwell was the first minister Florence played for at the Congregational Church. She remembers Chester Lay, his friend Dorothy (later Dorothy Lay). and Mathis Blackstock were in the choir. Florence was asked to direct the choir, too. She remembers being paid $1.50 a Sunday for her services. The church let Florence and Joe teach music in the church during the week. They gave student recitals there, and she remembers a concert at the church which they gave for the music teachers in Austin. Joe taught violin, and Florence taught piano. Hugo Kuehne was one of her pupils.
Joe spent 1943 to 1945 in the army. He was on limited service at the Fort Sam Houston Reception Center in San Antonio, and it was there that he and Florence met Weldon and Marie Scheel.
Joe and Florence had a daughter, Rita Regina. Rita was born in 1946 and died in 1996. Joe, Rita and Florence are shown above.
Joe and Weldon Scheel were introduced while they both were at Fort Sam Houston. The Post Commander directed personnel to give them regular hours jobs so they could form a base orchestra. Florence and Joe brought their trailer down and joined Weldon and Marie on their farm across Salado Creek next to the base reception center. Florence brought her Chickering piano and Singer sewing machine, which she put in a stone building on the property. There Florence would practice for hours. The only drawback was the dirt floor and no glass in the windows leading to occasional rain on the piano. The termites destroyed the sewing machine cabinet.
Joe and Florence had bought a home in Austin in 1941. Following the war, they moved back to Austin in 1945. Joe played with Jesse James and His Band, The Rhythmaires, and Dolores and the Bluebonnet Boys. Florence played cornet in the Austin Symphony, and Joe played violin at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel, at the Driskill Hotel, and at the Austin Women’s Club. Florence also gave piano lessons to Marie Scheel. In 1948, Florence introduced the Scheels to the Congregational Church of Austin.
In 1953, Joe got his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Texas specializing in violin performance. Following graduation the family moved to Wichita Falls, but returned before the end of the year when son, Paul, was born. Florence joined Marie playing for the Tarrytown Methodist until 1971 and for Faith United Methodist until 1987.
Joseph Donovan Castle was born February 26, 1913, in Mackinaw, Tazewell, Illinois to Bert Henry and Regina Elizabeth Rice Castle. Bert (1875–1946) was born in Iowa and Regina (1877–1947) was born in Illinois and died in Austin, TX. Her parents were born in Denmark. Joe’s siblings included Chester, Doris, Esther Marian, and Calvin A. Joe was the youngest. Joe’s father worked as a house painter and did farming.
The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Mel Bay Presents: The Complete Carcassi Guitar Method, March 1, 1974, written by Mel Bay and edited by Joe Castle. “Joseph Castle (1913-1992) was born in Bloomington, Illinois. His childhood was spent on a fruit farm near Mackinaw, Illinois. When he was twelve, Joseph was "discovered" by Russell Harvey, a teacher at Illinois Wesleyan University with whom he studied violin. There were very few guitar teachers at the time Mr. Castle became interested in the guitar, so he was primarily self-taught on that instrument, using the Carcassi text. His interest in both plectrum and finger-style guitar started in high school. He played guitar and violin in large bands in Austin, Texas as well as violin in the Austin symphony and small chamber groups.
Joseph graduated from the University of Texas in 1953 with a Bachelor of Music degree, majoring in violin and minoring in piano. From 1951 to 1953, he was concertmaster of the University Symphony Orchestra. He taught with the University of Texas String Project from 1952 to 1953.
Joseph later returned to Austin, Texas, to devote his time to the classic guitar by teaching and making arrangements of solo and group guitar pieces. In 1960, his first collection of pieces for plectrum guitar ensemble was published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. Mr. Castle edited and arranged books for classic guitar, violin, and piano for many years for Mel Bay Publications. (The extent of his work can be seen by a search for Joe Castle at Amazon.com.) In 1987, Joseph Castle was accepted into the Manuscript Archives Collection of the Fine Arts Division of the Dallas Public Library. He donated the manuscript of his "Elegie for Strings" to the archives, which was one of two of his pieces performed in the Triennial Festival of Texas Composers. In addition to his teaching and composing activities, Castle tuned pianos for many years. He was interested in the historical temperaments for tuning. Joseph's musical activities included teaching in the string program of the public schools in Wichita Falls, Texas; professional string playing in the Castle Trio and Castle String Quartet; Concertmaster, Austin Civic Orchestra; classic guitar teacher, performer, and music editor. His "Suite in Spanish Style" for Alto Recorder or Flute and Classic Guitar was published by Loux Music in 1992. In 1991, he completed a quartet for two recorders, viola da gamba, and classic guitar.”
Joe died in Austin January 28, 1992.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Pat Oakes and Nodie Murphy for making available their interview notes; also Dave Ross kindly scanned old negatives made available by Paul Castle—Mel Oakes.
Joe and Florence Castle Photos
A local guitarist with a colorful name had some local success with Jesse James & His Gang before most of the members were drafted.
After World War II, the band reformed, this time under the name Jesse James & All the Boys, which included fiddlers, Sonny Raines and Joe Castle, bassist ,Joe Ramon, and Lefty Nason on steel. In 1948, Nason left to play with Hank Thompson, and Grabowske saddled up as the James gang's steel player. A hot, young fiddler named Johnny Gimble even got into the act, albeit briefly.