started playing saxophone at 11 years old. I was fortunate
to be in public school when you had music classes five
days a week. I played in big bands through high school
and college and joined my first rock and roll garage band
(The Saints) at 16 and I was hooked! I knew what I wanted
to do with my life! The Beatles and Stones had just hit
the States and we immediately started learning their music
(as well as writing some of our own) and playing at the
local teen club and any Battle of the Bands we could find.
After high school I started playing in folk clubs (The
Drinking Gourd, Cedar Alley Coffee House, The Motherlode,
The Orion, The Blue Unicorn) and on strategic street corners
in San Francisco.
1966 to 1970 we somehow found our way to the original
Fantasy Records on Treat Street in San Francisco. Max
Weiss, the owner and recording engineer, would sign you
to Galaxy Records, take over your publishing, and let
you record for free. He was always looking for that big
pop single hit record. While recording and hanging out
we met The Golliwogs (later to become Creedence Clearwater
Revival), Rodger Collins (She's Lookin Good) and pianist
Vince Guaraldi. Max even arranged an opportunity for me
to sit in with Vince on night at a club called The Matrix
on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.
at the Aquarius Theater with the Lenny Williams
Click on image to enlarge
the early '70s, I joined a band named Shadowfax and moved
north just across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County.
At the time there was a great music scene there. In a
rehearsal space called The Heliport in Sausalito about
15 bands had one room studios. A lot of broke musicians
that moved there from other parts of the country lived
in them as well. There was an early Pablo Cruise and we
shared our space with Marty Balin and his band, Bodacious.
Lots of illegal substances. It was insane.
1977 I got my first job with a national touring and recording
act, Lenny Williams, who had just come from a successful
stint with Tower of Power (singing What is Hip?, So
Very Hard to Go, Don't Change Horses). He landed
his own recording contract with ABC Records and needed
a touring band. I auditioned, got the gig, and hopped
on a jet the next day. From 1977-1980 we toured constantly
with acts like Natalie Cole, Pattie Labelle, and Teddy
Pendergrass. Also during this period, we did one-nighters
with Richard Pryor, Grover Washington, The Crusaders,
and a lot of other great artists. I got to play in most
of the big venues around the country and lived in hotels
and tour buses. What an education!
the North Beach Photographic Art Fair in Fort Mason,
Click on image to enlarge
1980 the band split up and I went back to a thriving music
scene in Marin county. Between working with many local
bands, sessions at The Record Plant in Sausalito, and
a short, but exciting and lucrative tour with Tommy Johnston
from the Doobie Brothers, I was able to make a living.
One of the highlights of this period was playing a club
named The Sweetwater in Mill Valley, CA every Sunday for
three years. Lead by a great guitarist and showman, Peter
Walsh, this band backed up guests like Clarence Clemens,
Doc Kupka, Elvis Costello, and Huey Lewis. Even Herb Caen
came and played drums one night. I owe a lot to Jeannie
Patterson, owner of the Sweetwater club from the 1970s
to the 1990s, for many excellent musical experiences at
her nightclub. Twice I was invited to sit-in at John Lee
Hooker's birthday parties he held there every year (once
playing an opening set with Albert Collins, Robert Cray,
and Austin deLone). She also was one of the first people
to hire The Tommy Castro Band outside of the North Beach
Marty Balin Band at New George's in San Rafael, CA,
Keith Crossan on far left.
Click on image to enlarge.
around 1984 I auditioned for and got the gig with the
Marty Balin Band. I spent a lot of time at The Fillmore
and Avalon Ballrooms in the mid to late '60s seeing an
incredible variety of musical acts thanks to Bill Graham
and Chet Helms. One any given night you could catch a
bill like Cream, Charles Lloyd and Richie Havens. If you've
seen any of those old posters you know the diversity of
the music available those days.
KBC Band, 1987
(front row l-r) Tim Gorman, Paul Kantner, Marty
Balin and Jack Cassidy
(back row l-r) Darrel Verdusco, Slick Anguilar and
of my favorite bands was Jefferson Airplane, so I was
very excited about working with Marty. Also, Marty was
one of the old bandleaders to pay a weekly salary whether
you gigged or not. Marty owned an old church that served
as a rehearsal hall. We would rehearse 4 or 5 days a week
and knew about 150 songs. That's a lot of stuff to remember!
One day Paul Kantner and Jack Cassidy showed up and asked
Marty about putting the act back together. The band was
called the KBC Band. We made a record with Clive Davis
on Arista records, produced by the legendary Jim Gaines
(who also produced to Tommy Castro records). Some of the
highlights of that experience were being in my first MTV
video, singing harmony with Marty on the Airplane song,
Today, and creating an instrumental hook for
the Kantner song, America.
that band was disintegrating, I got a call from Bob Brown,
manager of Huey Lewis and the News, asking if I wanted
to audition for the house band of a new club in San Francisco
called Slim's. I got the job and started working with
a great singer and songwriter, Michael Duke, who wrote
Doing It All For My Baby, I Hope You Like Me Like
You Say You Do, and sang with the band Wet Willie.
I also worked with Texas guitarist Bill Cambell, who has
become a life-long friend. The band was created in the
style of Little Richard and Fats Domino (three saxes,
no brass) and named The Solid Senders. We could play every
Monday night and on the weekends to back-up great blues
and R&B touring acts. I played behind Albert Collins,
James Cotton, Big Jay McNeeley, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis,
Joe Louis Walker, Elvin Bishop, and once again, John Lee
Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen at Sully's in Detroit,
this time I got a call to play on a session for a Commander
Cody record called "Let's Rock" on Blind Pig
Records. I did the record and ended up joining the band.
For the next three years I toured with the band. Wow!
That's a whole other story I might write someday!
the '80s I had a couple of other on-going gigs that allowed
me to work with a lot of incredible artists. About 1983,
a friend of mine from the coffeehouse days, Will Porter,
asked if I wanted to work behind some soul and R&B
acts. I played with Mary Wells, Sam Moore, The Coasters,
The Drifters, The Platters, Benny King, Percy Sledge,
Leslie Gore, the Dixie Cups, Del Shannon, and Frankie
Valli. I also played and became friends with the great
rock and roll sax player Steve Douglas. This was one of
the gigs I kept working until I joined The Tommy Castro
during the '80s, every year I would play at the Bill Graham
Civic Center in the house band for the Bay Area Music
Awards. I developed a lot of the skills I would need to
use on Comedy Showcase with Tommy in the '90s. In 1990
I moved to San Francisco and started working with blues
bands in North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf. here I met
Tommy, Randy, and most importantly, my wife Marianne.
I first heard Tommy sing at a club called Lou's Pier 47
with The Dynatones and he knocked me out! So when he called
me about doing a gig with him and Randy in North Beach
I accepted and we've been working together for 15 years.
the early days, the Tommy Castro Band played almost daily.
Here to see a calendar from November and December of 1993.
Note the record release party for No Foolin!