The Joy Factor: Jo Ann Castle

There’s something to be said for a musician who makes even the most complicated music seem fun and effortless. The amount of practice to memorize such songs is mind-blowing for non-musicians. To then perform it with great style and an unforced and unflinching smile is even harder.

Meet Jo Ann Castle. She was a regular performer on The Lawrence Welk Show from 1959 to 1969 on accordion and ragtime piano. She actually started with Lawrence Welk a year before becoming part of the Musical Family with this staggering accordion performance in 1958.

“The World is Waiting for Sunshine” is a short and sweet song from around 1918. Even so, Jo Ann Castle plays it very fast without missing a note. For comparison, here’s famed guitarist Les Paul’s duet of the same song with Mary Ford at a more traditional speed.

Castle began to duet with Lawrence Welk regular Myron Floren. Here’s their duet of “Tea for Two.” Note who is playing the harder part for the first half of the song.

And here they are dueting on “Tick Tock Polka,” one of my favorite polka standards.

Just lovely.

However, Jo Ann Castle is not often remembered for her accordion skills. She is better known as an excellent ragtime pianist. Her high energy performances became a regular feature on The Lawrence Welk Show and she wound up recording 16 albums as a pianist.

Here is her “Maple Leaf Rag” from 1959.

Her technique is flawless in this style. She has great dexterity in both hands and brings out some really nice and unexpected phrases when she starts to improvise on the written composition. It’s quite nice. And did you see her bouncing her legs up and down to the beat? She’s not even relying on the pedal to cover for any mistakes.

By the time The Lawrence Welk Show switched to color, Jo Ann Castle was ready. She began to perform on beautifully painted upright pianos that matched her ensemble. Have you ever seen a brick piano?

Castle was a naturally effortless performer who always performed with a smile and tons of style. Clearly she understood the joy of music.