Tuesday, January 17, 2012
RIP Jimmy Castor (1947 - 2012)
Castor is far from a household name but the singer, saxophonist and percussionist had a career spanning 3 decades and encompassing a wide variety of genres.
His best known track is probably It's Just Begun from 1972 (as The Jimmy Castor Bunch), which was never a hit at the time but later became a favourite of breakdancers who love its timbale breakdown and sheer kinetic energy. I still remember the first time I heard the song's distinctive saxophone hook; I was at a house party and I had to immediately seek out whoever owned the CD to find out what the hell was this cracking groove I was listening to.
That was the title track from his second album, yet Castor's musical career started way back in 1957 as a 10 year-old. He replaced Frankie Lymon in The Teenagers and cut the fun doo-wop track I Promise. Soon after he took up the saxophone, and found a home in New York's boogaloo scene, which brought together elements of American R&B with Cuban son and mambo. One of Castor's best-known hits - Hey Leroy, Your Mama's Callin' You - comes from this era, and was a minor chart hit in 1966.
Castor's light-hearted approach to music continued into the 70s, as he became known for what could be termed novelty hits. His biggest hit, Troglodyte, features no singing, only Castor telling a story about a funky caveman trying to get some action over a stomping groove, and also features the sampled-to-death introductory line, "What we gonna do right here is go back...wayyy back... back into time."
A character introduced in that song later became the basis for The Jimmy Castor Bunch's other major hit, The Bertha Butt Boogie. Again, its lyrics are incredibly silly, but the groove is absolutely unstoppable.
With other song titles like King Kong and Hey Leroy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is Your Father, you get a sense that Castor had a fairly light-hearted approach to his job.
More obituaries: Gil Scott-Heron, Guru, Manute Bol, Amy Winehouse.