Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jimmy Castor

Let us consider for a moment...funk. For our purposes let's narrow the focus to funk of the 1970s vintage. Ah, what probably comes to mind are bands such as The Ohio Players and Kool And The Gang. We can hardly forget Earth,Wind And Fire. And of course George Clinton, he's the guv'nor, yes? How about Jimmy Castor? You can be forgiven for not thinking of him right away because the man simply has not been given his due as a funk legend. So allow me, in my humble way to do so.
James Walter Castor, born June 23, 1940 started out as a doo-wop singer in New York. A doo-wop singer who at sixteen years of age wrote a million seller for Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers titled "I Promise To Remember". He then, about a year later replaced Lymon as lead singer of that group until 1960 when he made the professional switch to saxophone. He played on Dave "Baby Cortez' hit "Rinky Dink" and had a solo million seller with his composition "Hey Leroy, Your Mama's Callin' You" on Smash Records.

"Hey Leroy" was a straight-forward affair, a Latin jazz-influenced instrumental jam session punctuated by a bit of humorous commentary. It was the simplicity and driving beat that made this the popular dance number and top seller that served as Castor's introduction the music buying public. The comedic element would be a recurring aspect of his subsequent releases and would sometimes overshadow the fine musicianship that was at the foundation of his work.

In 1972 Castor formed The Jimmy Castor Bunch, signed with RCA Records and released the album It's Just Begun. This would turn out to be the peak of Castor's recording success with the album's title track going to #27 on the Billboard pop charts and #11 on the RnB charts. The other single from that LP, "Troglodyte (Cave Man)" soared quite a bit higher, peaking at #6 on the pop charts and #4 RnB. "Troglodyte" featured a humorous narrative by Castor over a straight-ahead funk instrumental backing. While he would repeat this formula with appreciable success, he would never achieve the same chart impact.

Castor's band included Gerry Thomas on keyboards and trumpet, bassist Doug Gibson, guitarist Harry Jensen, Lenny Fridle Jr. on congas and percussion, drummer Bobby Manigault and guitarist LeBurn Maddox. Thomas was simultaneously performing with Castor's band and The Fatback Band until the 80s when he left to play with the Fatback Band exclusively. Maddox later went on to establish a solo career as a highly respected
and prolific guitarist in his own right.

From 1976 to 1988 Jimmy Castor recorded as a solo performer. He continued to turn out a repectable string of hits after signing with Atlantic Records in 1974 including "The Bertha Butt Boogie", (a sequel to "Troglodyte"), "E-Man Boogie", "King Kong", and my personal favorite, "Potential". One of his bigger hits was released in 1988, a rendition of the Barbara Acklin classic "Love Makes The Woman" which was a duet with disco diva Joyce Sims.

"What we're gonna do right here is go back...", the spoken line that introduces his hit song "Trogldyte" has been sampled numerous times on hip-hop recordings by various artists and in movies as has been much of Castor's other music. Castor also had his own record label, Long Distance Records but only had one album titled simply C released on it. For a time near the end of his carreer he had also worked as a motivational speaker with various such engagements in the U.S. and abroad.
Jimmy Castor passed away in a Las Vegas hospital due to apparent heart failure on the 16th of January, 2012. He was 71. He is a Funk Legend.

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