About Tommy Castro
Tommy Castro is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, and bandleader. His muscular brand of roots music indulges electric and jump blues, funky R&B-inflected rockers, and searing soul-drenched ballads. An incendiary lead guitarist and showman, he often plays more than 200 dates a year. After signing to Blind Pig Records he released No Exceptions in 1996 and Can't Keep a Good Man Down in 1997. Both received universal critical acclaim warranting two world tours. 2001's Guilty of Love landed inside the Top Five, prompting industry talk of crossover success. Hard Believer, his 2009 Alligator debut, hit number two and netted four Blues Music Awards -- including the coveted B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award. 2012's raw, wooly, stripped-down The Devil You Know marked the first outing by his new band the Painkillers and spent 23 weeks on the charts. 2017's Stompin' Ground peaked at number two. In 2021, Tommy Castro Presents: A Bluesman Came to Town, a 13-song blues concept album, was co-written with producer Tom Hambridge.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Castro started playing guitar at the tender age of ten. Initially inspired by Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, and Elvin Bishop, he started the inevitable journey into the roots of his heroes and discovered and quickly became enamored of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and Freddie King. His vocal styling came from constant listening to Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and Otis Redding. After honing his chops playing with numerous Bay Area groups, Castro landed a gig playing guitar for the San Francisco band the Dynatones, who were then signed to Warner Bros. The two-year stint augured well for Castro, as he played to the biggest crowds he had seen up to that point and had backing artists as diverse as Carla Thomas and Albert King.
Returning to San Francisco, Castro formed his own group and in 1993 released his first self-produced album, No Foolin', on the dime-sized Saloon label. That same year also saw him winning the Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band, an honor he also accepted the following year. In 1997, he won Bammies for Outstanding Blues Musician and for Outstanding Blues Album for his debut release on Blind Pig Records, Exception to the Rule. Also in 1997, Castro and his band began a three-year stint working as the house band on NBC's Comedy Showcase, which aired after Saturday Night Live.
Live at the Fillmore was released in early 2000, and with everyone from industry insiders to B.B. King singing his praises, Castro appeared to be headed for bigger and better things. It was not to be, however, as in 2001 he left Blind Pig Records and recorded Guilty of Love for the small 33rd Street label. Blind Pig released the career retrospective The Essential Tommy Castro in 2001. Gratitude appeared from Heart and Soul in 2003, followed by Triple Trouble (with Jimmy Hall and Lloyd Jones) later that same year from Telarc. In 2005, Castro returned to Blind Pig for the release of Soul Shaker, followed by Painkiller in 2007.
The relatively smooth and polished Hard Believer appeared from Alligator Records in 2009, followed in 2011 by The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue: Live!, a collection of highlights from Castro's recent live performances, also on Alligator. The Devil You Know, which featured Castro's stripped-down new touring band the Pain Killers and a host of guest artists, appeared early in 2014. Working at Laughing Tiger Studio in San Rafael, California, Castro used a more skeletal approach for 2015's Method to My Madness. It was the first time the bandleader acted as his own producer and, as such, the feeling of the record, which was cut live from the floor, best reflected the group's concert performances. It was released in late October of that year and debuted on top of the Billboard Blues Albums Chart.
In 2017, Castro returned with Stompin' Ground. It featured originals as well as covers of some favorites from his formative years in San Jose. Included on the album were guest spots from Charlie Musselwhite, Mike Zito, Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, and Danielle Nicole. February 2019 saw Castro issue Killin' It Live. It peaked at number three and spent 18 weeks on the blues album charts.
Like other touring musicians, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers were sidelined during 2020 due to the global pandemic. He spent his time writing with Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, and bluesman Tom Hambridge. In 2021, the 13-song Tommy Castro Presents: A Bluesman Came to Town appeared from Alligator. A conceptual song-cycle and allegory, it told the tale of a young guitar slinger who leaves the family farm to seek fame and fortune on the road, only to make a startling discovery. ~ Cub Koda & Thom Jurek
HOMETOWNSan Jose, CA