Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Primal Sounds of Jimmy Castor

Listening to the Jimmy Castor Bunch feels a bit transgressive today. The New York City vocalist/saxophonist Castor's first charting hit was the 1966 boogaloo Top 40 party track "Hey, Leroy, Your Mama's Callin' You," featuring an African-American taking on a Puerto Rican accent. His 1972 "Troglodyte (Cave Man)" told the story of a neanderthal who growls "gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman" before grabbing the hair of a female named "Bertha Butt" ("one of the Butt sisters"), who, after lying there "frightened and cold," comes around and says "I'll sock it to ya, Daddy!"

This was the stuff of Top Ten hits in 1972. A huge-selling novelty "break in" track called "Convention '72" confirmed this. Recorded by a a Pittsburgh DJ named Bob DeCarlo who called himself "The Delegates," it relied on "Troglodyte" as its central gag. When Castor's follow up single, "Luther The Anthropoid (Ape Man)," conked out at #105, it indicated that he perhaps misunderstood his previous hit's appeal. His 1975 Top Twenty hit "The Bertha Butt Boogie - Part 1," though, showed him in a state of comprehension concerning the profitable (aka "lascivious") side of primal.

Aside from all of this novelty song talk is the fact that Jimmy Castor - who wrote Frankie Lymon and the  Teenagers' "I Promise to Remember" and would often stand in for Lymon in the fifties - was an extraordinary entertainer, sax player, and vocalist who could lay down a monstrous groove with that band of his. You can see what I'm talking about if you watch this whole clip from a 1973 appearance on the SOUL! TV show. Here he leads his six-piece combo through the oft-sampled "It's Just Begun," "Hey Leroy," a savory instrumental version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," "Troglodyte," a timely investigation of the preteen condition called "I'm Not a Child Anymore," and a scorching "Foxy Lady."

Also worth checking out: "King Kong - Pt. 1," a 1975 Rufus Thomas evocation that followed up "Bertha Butt Boogie" and likely electrified dance floors in its day. By 1977, Castor's Hot 100 days were over, although his back catalog proved to be a borrower's wonderland.

Jimmy Castor Bunch - "Troglodyte (Cave Man)" (Billboard #6, entered 5/13/72). Written by Castor Bunch. Produced by Castor-Pruitt Productions. 45: "Troglodyte (Cave Man)"/"I Promise to Remember" (RCA Victor 1972). LP: It's Just Begun (RCA Victor 1972).

The picture sleeve to Side A misspelled it as "Troglodite." Side B contains an updated version of Castor's "I Promise to Remember," the 1956 #10 hit he'd written for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

Jimmy Castor Bunch - "Luther the Anthropoid (Ape Man)" (Billboard #105, entered 8/5/72). Written by Jimmy Castor, Gerry Thomas, and John Pruitt. Produced by Castor-Pruitt Productions. 45: "Luther the Anthropoid (Ape Man)"/"Party Life" (RCA Victor 1972). LP: Phase II (RCA Victor 1972).

Power to the peephole.

The Delegates - "Convention '72" (Billboard #8, entered 10/21/72), Written by Nick Cenci and Nick Kouselaneos. Produced by Nik-Nik Productions. 45: "Convention '72"/"Funky Butt" (Mainstream 1972). LP: The Delegates (Mainstream 1972).

Side B is a non-album piece of organ-rock instrumental music, the kind teenagers would play at parties on early seventies TV shows.

Jimmy Castor Bunch - "The Bertha Butt Boogie - Pt. I" (Billboard #16, entered 2/22/75). Written by Jimmy Castor and John Pruitt. Produced by Castor-Pruitt Productions. 45: "The Bertha Butt Boogie - Part I"/"The Bertha Butt Boogie - Part II" (Atlantic 1974). LP: The Jimmy Castor Bunch Featuring the Everything Man: Butt of Course... (Atlantic 1974).

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