Remembering the music of Jimmy Castor on his passing is a personal recollection of Brooklyn “summer’s in the city”, gushing “johnny pumps” (no sprinkler caps, thank you), stickball and handball games, and local percussion players using the shelter of the Gowannus Expressway as a reverb chamber. It was part of the street soundtrack that became my musical DNA.
During the spring and summer months truck mounted kiddie rides traversed the city streets. A variety of possibilities might turn your corner on any given day. “The Whip”, a lilliputian Ferris Wheel, or the swinging “Half Moon”. Along with the clarion call of the “Mr. Softee” theme, you always listened for their approach. These trucks invariably had huge amusement park grade loud speakers mounted above their cabs and were always tuned to a top 40 station, usually WMCA and it’s “Good Guy” disc jockeys. The latest pop tunes could be heard reverberating off buildings from blocks away, and you knew “the rides” were coming. You could hear Joe Cuba’s “Bang Bang” coming out of anyone’s apartment window at any time, but something as indigenously urban as Castor’s mix of funk, Latin and afro-beat coming over mainstream radio was a revelation.
Tu Mama Te Llama
In particular it was Castor’s late sixties eminently re-playable 2’30 of proto-rap “Hey Leroy, Your Mamma’s Calling You”, that is burned in my brain for eternity. Its infectiously taunting “go to your Mamma” refrain made it kid friendly in all the worst ways. God forbid you were the one who’s folks called you to dinner out the window.
It was only later, after The Jimmy Castor Bunch hits of “Troglodyte (Caveman)” and “Bertha Butt Boogie”, that I learned Castor’s musical lineage went back to doo-wop days with Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers, as well as a stint playing saxophone with organist Dave “Baby” Cortez, whose “Happy Organ” still gets mega-playtime at my house. As you likely know many of Castor’s grooves were discovered in the cutout bins early in the days of hip-hop culture.
The “Hey Leroy” album is a great place to sample full the range of Castor’s styles and talents and any Jimmy Castor Bunch greatest hits package will fill in the 70’s monster funk tunes. If you’re on MOG, you can listen instantly.