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Giant Step President & CEO Maurice Bernstein shares some words. After the jump, you can find an autographed poster thats hangs in our office from the show we did with Jimmy in 1991, including signatures from Jimmy and the original “Bunch”. Also after the jump, you can see some YouTube clips of popular songs. Above, is a live performance of a Giant Step favorite, “It’s Just Begun.”
Maurice Bernstein Reflects on the Legacy of Jimmy Castor
As I was enjoying my favorite holiday, Martin Luther King Day, I noticed a lot of my Facebook friends were posting Jimmy Castor tracks. “That’s nice,” I thought, “maybe it’s his birthday.” When one of the posts said RIP, I realized his passing.
Jimmy Castor is a very important, underrated and truly interesting artist in our music history. I’m also proud to say that he’s someone who I actually got a chance to work with (but that will come a little later). A musical child prodigy, Castor was brought up in Harlem NY and even has his photograph on the wall at Apollo Theater. At a young age, he joined Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers and took over for Lymon, who was too strung out. After leaving the group, Castor had his first major hit, “Hey Leroy” in 1966, which was the perfect Latin soul jam. The song showed his authenticity as someone who grew up in the hood, but also was full of the wit, characters and voices that found their way into his best known works from the 1970s.
Castor was not only a song writer, vocalist but also an excellent percussionist and saxophone player. As the 1960s rolled on into 1970s, Castor moved to RCA and released his best work. 1972′s “It’s Just Begun” is, for me, one of the greatest dance tracks ever made. The characters continued with “Bertha Butt,” “Troglodyte,” and “King Kong,” alongside other great tracks he continued to release, such as “Potential,” “Space Age,” “E-Man Boogie,” “A Groove Will Make You Move,” “Maximum Stimulation,” and “E-Man Groovin’.” Despite his success and playing huge venues, Castor became dislllusioned with the music industry. He hated having accountants in the role of record label heads making creative decisions about his music. In the 1980s, Castor stopped recording to spend time with his family in New Jersey where he also enjoyed riding his beloved motor bikes.
When we started Groove Academy in 1990 (a precursor to Giant Step), the idea was to find great funk and soul artists that were sampled and forgotten. Jimmy Castor was on the top of my list! I can’t remember how I actually got his number (this was before Google), but once I did, I immediately called him. Jimmy was reluctant to come out of retirement but was flattered by our interest and then became impressed by the persistence. He finally agreed to a meeting with my partner Jonathan and I over dinner in NYC. After his stories, voices and more stories, he agreed to do a show for us at SOBs with the full and original “Jimmy Castor Bunch.”
The show was amazing and the band sounded incredible, Rock Steady Crew were in the house and of course “busted some serious moves” during the performance for “It’s Just Begun”.
Now having has sadly passed, I sincerely hope Jimmy gets his true credit for his contribution to the music we love.