So here we are getting used to our early  two-thousand-and-twelve status; remembering the greats we lost in the double-oh-eleven [‘011], when the news arrives that Jimmy Castor had aged to the number seventy-one , and passed away on Monday, January 13, 2012 which was, coincidentally, Martin Luther King Day, 2012. I think Jimmy would like that synergy! This post could be sub-titled, “The First Times” and here we go: the first album with the Jimmy Castor Bunch on it was, very coincidentally entitled, “Keep The Dream Alive” [RCA], a 1973 tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr! Oh wow! I always say that ‘timing is everything in life’, and at the time of that recording, the wound of King’s assassination was still very fresh and so in my mind’s eye, you can understand that Castor passing away on the day he did has some strange magic surround it.
Also on that album is the only rendition I have of Castor’s prowess on the saxophone portraying the best instrumental version ever of the Ewan MacColl composition and Roberta Flack super hit, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. The effort and feeling that he put forth, in such moving, classic, partially frenetic and grand style! It was a sexy and thoughtful sax interpretation was THAT powerful and yet so graceful simultaneously.
But wait a minute! The first time I heard Jimmy Castor was on a funny NewYorican soul jam played on New York City radio (and probably not many other markets in the USA) called “Hey Leroy!” Do you remember that side?
“Hey Leroy, Your Mama, she’s calling you man! HaHahahaahahaaa” and then the Latin beat kicked-in? Remember that? At first I thought that song was by somebody like Joe Cuba or Joe Bataan! It played often on New York City’s AM super-soul radio station, WWRL, and definitely made it to the top ten, if not number one briefly. [Correct me in the comments section if I am wrong, ok?]
The next of my vinyl Jimmy Castor Bunch introduced the “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” concept on 1972’s “It’s Just Begun”. The Lp begins very dramatically with a movie score type theme, “Creation (Prologue)” before breaking into serious jammin’ funk that I remember mixing into as a DJ at parties! Jimmy Castor was a very unabashedly imaginative and creative musician who would portray on-stage what some others might only do in studio production, and make it sound the same or better! This was on-display for the first time with his almost cartoon character “Cave Man” that never detracted from the groove.
He carried that theme into his next of my vinyl albums by the Jimmy Castor Bunch, 1974’s “Butt Of Course…” which debuted the next in his comic superhero creations, “The Everything Man”. Again the vivid imagination put-to-music, this was the his first time on Atlantic Records vinyl. As I play it again now for the first time as I write this I remember like yesterday’s memories flooding back the best dance cut on this album, “Potential”, or as we used to kiddingly pronounce it back then, “P’Tencha!” LOL He also did a nice instrumental version of Elton John’s “Daniel” followed by the smooth “Party Now”. This was the first of his albums to come complete with a storyboard comic strip on the back cover!
Next in my Castor collection is 1975’s “Supersound” which continued on Jimmy’s imagining himself as a superhero series. “The Everything Man” (no he didn’t have an ‘ego’ did he?) returned as “super musician/super performer” via self-described “molecular changes”. My favorite cut on this one is “A Groove Will Make You Move”, which had the same beat and mixed well with the previous album’s “Potential”. In 1976, The JCB was “E-Man Groovin'” on the last vinyl LP that I own and continued with Atlantic. He’d kept the “bunch” together for another project, this time without the comic strip, but still with the imagination as he tried to delve into the supernatural realm of horror with his concept of “Dracula” parts I and II. They bombed; maybe he should have collaborated with William Marshall and Vonetta McGee of “Blackula” fame; it was the first time jimmy’s gimmick game showed lame. This album did manage another top-twenty on the Black music charts however, with the jointsky, “Space Age”! This floor-filler featured a solid beat by Ellwood Henderson and far-out synthesizer proton lasers by Gerry Thomas.
The last of my Jimmy Castor vinyls is a nice disco 12-inch single called “Party People” which is complete with female chorus vocals, a string-like orchestral feel and beat break as he would compete for the dance floor dollars up-for-grabs back at the height of that music era in 1979.
I do not remember ever meeting Mr. Castor in-person, or emceeing a show he was a part of back during my radio personality days. I could be that it got lost in the purple haze within my brain through the years. I’m sure that I didn’t miss him by much at any of those shows and that he would have been another one of the “fellas” had we ever made such acquaintance. There is some discrepancy as to just what his real age was at the time of his death; some articles had him as young as sixty-four; which I think is a fitting mystery climax for this talent who would enjoy the fantasy crusader speculation. Why not add to the conundrum with a comment?