Turbo Charged: Tommy Castro celebrates new blues single with performance in ToledoWritten by Brian Bohnert | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Later this month, award-winning blues group Tommy Castro & the Painkillers will perform a live concert in Toledo to promote the release of their new 45 rpm single “Greedy/That’s All I Got.”
The show is presented by the Black Swamp Blues Society and will take place on November 18 at Club Evolution in Toledo. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $18.00 or $16.00 for Blues Society members.
Seating is limited so advanced tickets can be purchased at Culture Clash Records or by calling Evolution at (419) 866-8977.
The new EP is a two-song single printed on money-green vinyl and will initially only be available at all of Castro’s live performances. But, both tracks will later be available as digital downloads.
The first of Castro’s two new tracks, “Greedy,” is what he calls an “anthem for the times,” driven heavily by the current economic problems facing many hard-working, middle-class Americans. Problems, he said, that are directly caused by money-hungry corporations looking to capitalize on the misfortunes of others.
“A lot of the problems that happen, all over the world, possibly wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for greedy people and greedy corporations. Greed is at the root of all of the problems we have,” Castro said. “You wouldn’t have a housing crisis if it wasn’t for greedy corporations, with Bush and all his cronies letting the guys on Wall Street do whatever the hell they wanted, all in the name of people just wanting to get rich. That’s greed.”
The second track, “That’s All I Got,” offers very simple solutions to those problems, focusing on the power of happiness and love over money and greed, he said.
The new EP marks the group’s recording debut with Chicago-based blues label, Alligator Records, and also serves as a primer for the upcoming untitled full-album from Tommy Castro & the Painkillers set to be released within the next year.
“We’re going a little more back to a grittier sound,” he said. “It’s got more blues in it and it’s more guitar-driven. We got about half the material pretty much done and the other half we’re deciding what to do next. We’re doing more writing and picking a few choice songs out of the list. The new album won’t be exactly like what’s on the 45. Turns out those two songs are very similar; they have a similar texture to them. I hope to do some different types of sounds.”
Castro said the new album will feature 10 all-new recordings as well as the two tracks from the single.
Heavily influenced by soul and blues greats like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Ray Charles, Castro has been playing his brand of rock-inspired blues for over 25 years. Born in San Jose, California in 1955, Castro said he first picked up a guitar when he was 10 years old after watching his older brother play in a rock and roll band for many years.
He never thought his part-time hobby would lead to a full-time job.
“I came from a working class neighborhood and most of the people I knew had jobs they hated. I figured that was how it was going to go for me,” he said. “I played music for fun. That was what I did for enjoyment. My brother started playing before I did. I used to go watch him rehearse in the basement of my mother’s house. I loved it from the start but I just thought of it as something I’d do for fun.”
Castro started his adult life “lost,” working different jobs just to get by and make a living. While playing in various bands the whole time throughout the Bay Area, he said it only made sense to give it a shot as a career.
“One day it hit me, I’ve been playing in bands all along, why not just do it. I was getting a lot more gigs, working three, four nights as a musician, and the day job I had was getting in the way of that,” he said. “I had a hard time getting up in the morning. I loved playing and I hated my job. Playing was the only thing I had any passion for so I said to myself, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”
In his mid-20s, Castro made the “risky decision” and began performing professionally, moving from San Jose to San Francisco, playing countless concert halls and blues clubs as a solo artist. In the late 1980s, he joined the soul-blues group, The Dynatones, headed up by Toledo-native Walter Shufflesworth. It was then when he met the bass player for his future solo efforts.
“I was in the group almost 10 years when Tommy joined and I had already made up my mind to leave the band,” McDonald said. “I mentioned that it might be a good idea for us to stay in touch. And, maybe seven or eight months later, he called me and we started the band together. We started trying out other members, finding out who was available, filling in the drum spot or the fourth chair and just kept rotating people in until we found the right guys. Once that sort of solidified, we all started to drop other commitments and focus on Tommy’s band. Before we knew it, in our first year, our calendar was filled up with 20-30 gigs a month and it was all California stuff.”
The Tommy Castro Band played extensively throughout the 1990s, releasing a series of albums with Blind Pig Records and even serving as the house band for three seasons of NBC’s “Comedy Showcase.”
After nearly 15 years of playing together, Castro said McDonald left the group due to family issues. Though, the two would reunite years later and reform the original group with a much different sound, removing the traditional horns and instead focusing on a stripped-down, gritty blues sound.
“He said when he was ready to play again, the first call he’d make would be to me,” Castro said. “At the time, I had a great bass player. But the problem was, he lived in Des Moines, Iowa and we lived in California, and it caused problems, making it difficult for us to get together. I was starting to think about replacing him for that reason and Randy calls and said he wanted to come back. When Randy came back, and him and I put our heads together, we came up with an idea for a new direction of the group and we decided it was going to be so different that we would come up with a new name for the band so people would know it wasn’t just Tommy Castro without horns, It was Tommy Castro and the Painkillers.”
The group consists of Castro, McDonald, Byron Cage (drums) and James Pace (keyboards).
Club Evolution is located at 519 N. Reynolds Rd. For more information on the show, visit Club Evolution’s website at www.clubevolutiontol.com.