Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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CASTLE, Vernon and Irene

Dance team. Vernon Blythe was an English magician; he began a career in the USA with small parts in shows c.1906 and met Irene Foote in 1911; they married and became an international sensation, capped in Watch Your Step '14. They employed first-class talent; James Reese Europe led an eleven-piece band at the dance emporium Castle House, aka 'Castles in the Air', and wrote original music, helping to invent dances like the Fox Trot and the Turkey Trot; the Castles also originated the Bunny Hug, Maxixe, Castle Rock, others. Their dress and mannerisms were imitated; they organized a chain of dance studios and ballroom dancing became a national fad.

Vernon joined a British flying squad in France in WWI and did aerial photography; he transferred to the USA to teach flying and was killed in an accident at Fort Worth Flying School in 1918. Their biopic in 1939 starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (who else?). Their importance in helping to popularise dancing was to set the stage for the Swing Era, and in hiring Europe, who taught them to make their moves to the backbeat.