Images of Tommy Castro by Kurt Swanson and Soulful Impressions
R&B singer, songwriter and guitarist Tommy Castro is one of the most popular and creative roots artists to emerge in recent years.
Castro, winner of the 2008 Blues Music Award for Entertainer Of The Year, is famed not only for his hard-hitting, impassioned vocals, soaring guitar work and his blues-infused, rocking R&B sound, but also for his striking, original songwriting and exhilarating stage show. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, “Castro navigates seriously funky Southern soul, gritty big city blues and scorching rock…his silvery guitar licks simultaneously sound familiar and fresh.” Castro, booked by the famed Rosebud Agency, will be hitting the road hard — kicking off his Hard Believer tour on August 9 in Duluth at the Bayfront Blues Festival — playing festivals and clubs all across the U.S. and Canada.
Hard Believer was produced by John Porter (B.B. King, Elvis Costello, Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, The Smiths, Otis Rush, Billy Bragg, Roxy Music) and recorded in Castro’s hometown of San Rafael, CA. The album is anchored by Castro’s soul-baring songs, filled with profound emotion and fueled by Castro’s soulful vocals, powerful guitar, and propulsive rhythms. But what really drives the songs home is Castro’s telepathic interaction with his band. The group operates as a single engine, firing on all cylinders, sometimes pushing the pedal to the floor, other times slowing things down for a simmering ballad.
Born in San Jose, California in 1955, Castro first picked up a guitar at age 10. He came under the spell of Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and other blues rock players early on. As he got older, Castro moved forward by investigating the past, falling in love with the blues guitar work of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James and singers like Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. By his late 20s he was playing in a variety of San Francisco-area blues and soul bands.
Castro joined Warner Brothers artists The Dynatones in the late 1980s. The much-loved rocking soul band had a huge fan base and toured the U.S. constantly. He honed his chops with the band on the road for two years, performing live all across the country and backing major artists like Carla Thomas and Albert King. He formed The Tommy Castro Band in 1991 and won the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band in both 1993 and 1994. With his local fan base quickly expanding, he released his debut album, Exception To The Rule, in 1996 on Blind Pig. He began touring nationally with his band, picking up new fans everywhere he went. The album won the 1997 Bay Area Music Award for Outstanding Blues Album, and Castro also took the award for Outstanding Blues Musician that same year.
In the mid-1990s The Tommy Castro Band served as the house band for three seasons on NBC Television’s Comedy Showcase (airing right after Saturday Night Live), bringing him in front of millions of viewers every week. During the 1990s and into the 2000s, Castro released a series of critically acclaimed CDs for Blind Pig, Telarc and 33rd Street Records as well as one on his own Heart And Soul label. In 2001 and 2002 the legendary B.B. King asked Castro to open his summer concert tours. Castro received an open invitation to join the king of the blues on stage for the nightly finale.
Publications across the country, from The Washington Post to The San Francisco Examiner, have sung Castro’s praises. Guitar Player called Castro “the hardest working bluesman on the scene today.” The Philadelphia Inquirer declared, “Castro plays infectious, roaring roadhouse romps with incendiary licks and a touch of New Orleans soul.” Carlos Santana, with whom Castro has performed, said, “Tommy Castro has the voice and the sound to touch everybody’s heart.” With Hard Believer and plenty of high-profile tour dates to follow, believing in the prodigious talent and unbridled energy of Tommy Castro is anything but hard. ~tommycastro.com