Jimmy Castor 1940–2012

Last week was a sad one for music. Not only were there the deaths of Etta James and Johnny Otis, but also I just found out that on January 16th the great songwriter and saxophonist Jimmy Castor died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Henderson, Nev. He was 71 years old. James Walter Castor was born Jan. 23, 1940, in New York City and grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. Castor began his career in doo-wop and replaced childhood friend Frankie Lymon as lead singer of The Teenagers (McArdle, 2012).

His music developed to encompass a wide range of styles: from doo-wop to Latin jazz to funk to disco. Castor’s wit and way with an infectious groove has caused his music to have been heavily sampled by numerous hip-hop artists including Eric B. and Rakim, The Ultramagnetic MCs, N.W.A., Kanye West, 2 Live Crew, and The Beastie Boys.

—Find out why for yourself—

Off of his 1968 solo debut, Hey Leroy (althoughI believe it was first issued as the B-side to the 1966 single “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You”) Here’s the feel-good Latin groove of “Ham Hocks Español.”


Saxophone – Jimmy Castor

Bass – Paul Martinez

                   Congas – Martin Charles, Richard Landrum

Drums – Reginald Barnes

Guitar – Hillard Gibson

Piano – Ken Mills

Like it? Buy it.

I might be mistaken, but I believe “Ham Hocks Español” was used as the musical template for “A Gun On His Hip And A Rose On His Chest” by the humorously creative side project formed in 2008 by Devendra Banhart and Gregory Rogove (of Priestbird and Tarantula A.D.) under the moniker of Megapuss. To my ears it seems that they merely squeezed it dry of the Latin grease and fuzzed it up for a surf sound. Regardless, Megapuss certainly shares Castor’s sense of fun, and these two songs will always walk hand-in-hand in my head.


Like it? Buy it.

Well, I could not end this post without featuring one of Jimmy Castor’s best-known works, the hilarious “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” which he and his group—The Jimmy Castor Bunch—put out on 1972’s It’s Just Begun. This song particularly resonates with me as I was once an employee of The American Museum of Natural History and would hear this constantly in my head while standing in the Hall of Human Origins. Watch the video below: featuring a caveman that has just gotta find a woman, and does when he encounters Bertha Butt of the Butt sisters.


———————————————–Bobby Calero


Banhart, D. & Rogove, G. (2008). A Gun On His Hip And A Rose On His Chest [recorded by Megapuss] On Surfing [CD] Vapor Records. (2008)

Castor, J. (1966). Ham Hocks Español. [recorded by Jimmy Castor] On Hey Leroy. [Vinyl]. Smash Records. (1968)

McArdle, T. (2012, January 19th.). Jimmy Castor dead at 71. The Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2012 from

The Jimmy Castor Bunch (1972) (Creators). Ghoulardi (Poster) (2006, July 25). Jimmy Castor Bunch – Troglodyte [Video] Retrieved from


  1. Kelvin Sueso

    Any man who gives props to Mr. Castor and adresses the growing drums from “Trogolodyte” in my head while I read this article is a-ok in my good. Yer a good egg, Spider-Man.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s