Thanks to the efforts of local music aficionados, a legendary bluesman will finally receive a proper headstone at his final resting place in Lincoln Cemetery.
Casey Bill Weldon, sometimes billed as the “Hawaiian Guitar Wizard,” died in Kansas City in 1972. He was considered a pioneer of the electric slide guitar and was a prolific recording artist in the 1930s. His travels and murky history have invited comparisons to the great blues singer and guitarist Robert Johnson.
Much of the impetus to provide a gravestone came from a 2013 article in Living Blues Magazine by Kansas City-based music writer Jim O’Neal, a co-founder of the publication. With the aid of work done by other researchers, O’Neal traced the outline of Weldon’s life and sought to reconcile discrepancies about his identity and birthplace.
The headstone is engraved with the introductory musical notes of Weldon’s best-known song, “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” (aka “We Gonna Move”), which has been covered by Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Louis Jordan, B.B. King, Mel Torme and Count Basie, among others.
The gravestone was made possible with assistance from the Folk Alliance International and the Killer Blues Headstone Project. O’Neal also credited Kansas City musicians Bob Suckiel and Jason Vivone, both of whom host programs on KKFI-FM, for helping with the effort.
A headstone dedication is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Lincoln Cemetery. Weldon’s grandniece, CoCo York of Los Angeles, is expected to attend. York is a singer and educator. A “Tribute to Casey Bill Weldon” will be at 2 p.m. the following day at BB’s Lawnside Bar-B-Q, 1205 E. 85th St.
Lincoln Cemetery, where jazz great Charlie Parker and other African-American musical figures are buried, is in Blue Summit, an unincorporated area of Jackson County between Kansas City and Independence. Truman Road runs through the area. The cemetery is north of Truman and just west of Blue Ridge Boulevard.