AJ and the Two Tones
AJ Cascio and his son Tony play the blues together in AJ and the Two Tone Blues Band.
Ask AJ Cascio, front man for AJ and the Two Tone Blues Band, what he thought of his son Tony’s early preference for playing classic and hard-rock music on guitar, and AJ sticks his fingers in his ears.
“That’s what I thought about it,” he says.
But every once in a while AJ would hear Tony hit a certain lick as he practiced, and he knew the blues were beginning to sink in.
“At first Tony said the blues were boring,” AJ remembers. But as years went by and as AJ became more familiar with the music scene in the Shreveport area, he approached his son about putting a band together. By that time the younger Cascio was more than willing, and a partnership steeped in the blues was born.
Tony Cascio, who plays guitar and shares vocals in the band, says the Shreveport-based group has been playing for a number of years. But as musicians, his and his father’s histories go much further back.
“Dad used to sing blues on the Bossier strip before I was born,” Tony says. “Once he had a child he gave that up.” But when the time came, says Tony with a laugh, “Dad said I owed him.”
AJ puts it a bit differently. “I couldn’t do it without him,” he says of his son.
Not only a vocalist, AJ is an accomplished harmonica player as well. He began playing 25 or 30 years ago, he says, “but I really got into it in 1995.”
Tony, too, brings a history of performance to the band, though true to his early interest it was in more straightforward rock bands––local groups like Avalanche and Buzzard Pie––that he did most of his playing. In fact, some bluesier rock classics have even made their way onto the Two Tone playlist.
When asked what it is like to play with a father-son duo, guitarist Ken Jacobs calls it “very cool.”
“AJ plays real music,” he adds, in deference to the Two Tone’s oldest member and obvious leader.
Two Tone drummer Randy Cassell readily agrees. Playing with AJ is “a blast,” he says, adding that the music AJ plays “is way, way South, and up in Chicago. It’s Texas blues, Southern blues, Chicago blues.” Cassell spent time touring with a country band in the ‘90s, and he says it has been a fun challenge working to capture the soul of the blues.
Cassell seems to meet the challenge well. The group’s bassist, Chris Ellis, says that working in the rhythm section with Cassell is great. “Randy makes it easy,” he says. For his part Ellis, a Shreveport native, says his early influences were bands like Rush and Van Halen, each of which featured well-known bass players.
On this day AJ and the band were performing a free concert at the grand opening of Rick’s Records on Shreveport-Barksdale Boulevard. Rick Calon, the owner, said he reached out to AJ to perform in order to help mark the occasion.
During a break in the music AJ stands wedged between racks of cd’s and albums to visit with well-wishers and reflect on his career. The former railroad employ has seen a number of band members come and go. But for the Two Tone Blues Band the blues have remained a constant.
Outside, waiting to start another set, Tony reflects on the music scene in the Shreveport area. “It has its ups and downs,” he says. “Shreveport doesn’t support live music” the way others cities do. On the other hand, he says, there isn’t as much competition either.
Returning to the stage, the band launches into another number for the small but enthusiastic crowd of listeners. As the afternoon grows darker and the air becomes colder, the music remains solid. Tony Cascio and Jacobs trade licks on guitar. Ellis and Cassell drive the rhythm. AJ Cascio smiles, seemingly lost in the music, before taking up his harmonica and playing the blues.
By Jim Freeman