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Music meant the world to Mike Casale

— Born with spina bifida in 1949, Mike Casale spent his entire 64 years wearing various contraptions designed to hold his body upright to offset the effects of the congenital spinal disorder.

A naturally affable fella, Mike often commented frankly on his disability. “I’m 64 years old, 4-foot-3, and I use a cane,” he said, but he never complained about it and never let it hold him back.

A talented bass guitarist who lived in Liverpool, Mike became of the most recognizable entertainers in Central New York. He made his initial mark on the local music scene from 1970 to 1985 as one-half of the duo Neighborhood Friends alongside six-string guitarist Gary Sprague.

From 1997 to 2012, Mike played bass for Syracuse Area Music Awards hall of famer Bobby Green and A Cut Above. Recently he became a member of Irv Lyons’ band, Native Man. In a few months, we’ll hear Mike’s punchy basslines behind’s Irv’s chunky guitar on the record-in-process, “I Love the Night.”

“He refused to think of himself as having a disability,” said his girlfriend, Sara Cesta. “There aren’t words to describe his love of music. This man could pick up a bass and play the lines of any song, any time, without any rehearsing.

For the past several years Mike worked as office manager at Beat Street Music in Manlius and had previously done similar work for Gaylord Bros. An experienced accountant by day and a sought-after bassist by night, Mike applied his organizational skills to the biz end of show biz. He didn’t last long as a member of the Liverpool Village Zoning Board, but he served more than 15 long years as a member of the Liverpool Is The Place Committee which books 24 concerts every summer at Johnson Park.

His booking and his bass playing hit their zenith together in June 20, 2011, when he brought Orleans to Johnson Park and sat in with the “Still the One” hitmakers. Orleans was one of Mike’s favorite bands, and he was pleased to call those guys his friends. In November 2009, Mike celebrated his 60th birthday by throwing a party upstairs at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. As a favor to Mike, Orleans played the bash to benefit the Spina Bifida Clinic at Syracuse’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. A crowd of more than 250 saw Mike sit in for three songs.

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