Jo Ann Castle, Pianist (1959-1969)
Doctor Diagnosis of Drug Abuse & Alcoholism
Jo Ann Castle was a Lawrence Welk Show pianist who struggled with child molestation, sexual assault, drug abuse and alcoholism.
Castle began her career at the age of 3 as a dancer under the coaching of Madle Du of Bakersfield. After six years of dancing, Castle switched to piano studying under Ms. Henry Butcher and Mrs. Ethel McManus Shaver. Her parents recognized her talent and sacrificed themselves by moving from the Skyline Park area of Bakersfield to Ventura and then finally Hollywood to allow Castle to pursue her career. During this time she also began to take accordion lessons from Frankie Umbro. After moving to Hollywood as a teenager she performed at local bars and nightclubs including the Elks Club in Ridgecrest, CA with Spade Cooley in 1957, Ciro's, the Four Jokers and Plymouth House. She also had two guest appearances on the Spike Jones TV program, a guest spot on the Arthur Godfrey Show and her own quartet at the Fremont Hotel in Las Vegas and at the Saddle and Sirloin in Missouri.
During this time, she recorded her first album, "Accordion in Hi-Fi" while being represented by Art Whitting Attractions and her stage-mother, Dotsy. After hearing the album, Lawrence Welk hired her in 1959. The album featured a one-of-a-kind accordion version of the famous song "Flight of the Bumble Bee."
After joining the Welk Show, Castle eloped with cameraman Dean Hall to escape her stage mom, Dotsy. They had a daughter, Deanna, together. Castle and Hall divorced in 1966 and Castle gave up custody of Deanna to the State of California shortly thereafter.
Castle also became estranged with Dotsy during this time which left a void in her life and led to heavy drinking and partying. Fellow Welk Show performers and friends noticed that Castle couldn't just have one drink, but "drank till she passed out."
After her divorce from Hall, Castle opened a bar and nightclub called Jo Ann's Castle. It soon became a regular watering hold for Welk Show cast members and her second husband. On December 24, 1968, They married and soon had two children together.
Amphetamines and alcohol fueled their fiery and short-lived marriage that ended in 1970. Castle later received probation for filing a false report against him during a jealous rage. The bar, meanwhile, burned down under mysterious circumstances.
Castle's alcohol-induced combativeness also created some embarrassment to Lawrence Welk, such as her fist fight with local patrons at a Detroit bar. Castle had to be pulled off the patrons by boyfriend and fellow performer Steve Smith. Shortly after this incident, she left the Lawrence Welk Show.
Life After Welk
Alcoholism, drug abuse and the onset of depression brought on by her declining career took a heavy toll on Castle after leaving the Lawrence Welk Show. The death of her daughter, Deanna, in 1978 was also painful as Castle sometimes blamed her heavy drinking during pregnancy for Deanna's medical problems.
In 1978, Castle met and married her next husband and moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Their concomitant drug use inspired her to write and record off-beat material such as the "Belly Button Song" and "Take That Easy Ride With Me."
Castle also pledged her support to unsuccessful abortion rights and gambling initiatives in the State of Arkansas. Castle's children, meanwhile, were required to farm the marijuana fields as she corralled them into her underworld of illegal drugs.
Castle's children were taken from her by their father after law enforcement was alerted to child abuse and child molestation. Castle successfully bailed her boyfriend out of jail by falsifying a police report denying the incident and married him in a church. The children were then kidnapped at their elementary school by Castle and secretly relocated from California to Michigan during a child custody battle.
Castle suborned eight more years of child molestation until she divorced in 1987, telling one reporter she had been "brainwashed" by her husband. "I was a mess and I hated myself," she explained, "consuming enough booze and food to weigh 300 lbs."
Lawrence Welk Theatre - Branson
In 1994, Larry Welk Jr. invited Castle to rejoin the Lawrence Welk Show in Branson, Missouri at the brand new Welk Resort Champagne Theatre.
During this time, fellow performers reported a series of bizarre threats by her and boyfriend, Lin Biviano, including Castle's assault of a bar patron at the Candlestick Inn in Branson, Missouri and Biviano's threats to blow up the Champagne Theatre following his dismissal for on-stage alcoholism and drug abuse. Castle left the show in 2001 due to alcoholism, declining health and bouts of fury backstage.
Despite a lengthy diagnosis of alcoholism and drug addiction by physicians and other health care providers, Castle continued to binge drink and self-medicate and suffered cerebral strokes in 2005 and 2009 following heavy benders of drinking and drug abuse. Other side effects included Castle's confabulated claim that her dead mother had come back to life and visited with Castle in a series of living room conversations.
Chronic medical issues continue to limit her mobility and cause encephalopathy and confabulation. Castle's holy trinity of self-medication consisted of a dangerous cocktail of opiates, benzodiazapines and alcohol that potentate each other to the point she hears "voices" talking to her. Doctors at Cleveland hospital singled out this particular combination as especially popular with drug addicts.
Medical Treatment Program
Today, she is retired in Branson, Missouri. In 2011, she married long distance boyfriend Lin Biviano, a hair stylist turned Berklee Trumpet teacher and former Lawrence Welk Show bandmember who struggled alongside Castle with his own alcoholism. Biviano played trumpet in the Lawrence Welk Show band until he was fired for falling over the bandstand drunk during a live performance in front of a thousand people.