Saturday, December 8, 2007
A Bad Night With Junior Wells Beats A Good Day At The Office
Albert Castigilia A Bad Night With Junior Wells Beats A Good Day At The Office
Article added by: Dave King
Have you experienced your first big break in your professional career? Albert Castiglia has, rather it may be said he made it himself. Imagine being invited by one of the legends of the Blues to come up on stage to perform a few numbers, this after being cautioned that if he had "sucked", he would have been told so. Well he didn't. Upon finishing a set, he was asked to accompany the same artist on a three city mini-tour, with possibly the same caution. This mini-tour extended well past the third city. Albert would accompany this Blues dignitary "to the end," as his guitarist.
This was no small feat. The legendary artist was none other than Junior Wells. Although Albert was asked to fill in for Junior's guitarist at the time, we all know who Junior had performed with for most of his professional career. None other than the legendary Bluesman Buddy Guy.
How do you prepare for a challenge such as this? Well it's said that success is a point when preparation meets opportunity. Albert Castiglia had honed his skills playing guitar evenings until he was awarded Best Guitarist by the Miami Times Magazine, while working for the state of Florida during the days. When opportunity presented itself, he knew which fork to take in his personal life. And he was prepared. He hasn't looked back. As he says, "A bad night with Junior Wells beats a good day at the office."
Since then he has performed with a host of Blues dignitaries. " After Junior passed, I stayed in Chicago and worked with a bunch of people." he recounts, " I worked with Melvin Taylor, Michael Coleman, Lurrie Bell, Charlie Love, J.W Williams and the Chi-Town Hustlers, Lindsey Alexander, Sugar Blue, Phil Guy, Zanne Mack, Little Mack Simmons, Otis Clay, Billy Boy Arnold and Matthew Skoller. Of course when you live in Chicago, you're bound to jam with just about anybody like Ronnie Baker Brooks or Pinetop Perkins."
He has recently released a new CD that has gotten rave reviews, A Stones Throw. Engineered and produced by Grammy award winners Ben Elliott and Jack Kreisberg, in the same recording where Hubert Sumlin's last CD, "About Them Shoes" was recorded Of it he says " I'm very proud of it." He has every right to be.
It was 1981 when you picked up the guitar for the first time. Who were you listening to then that inspired you to become a guitarist?
At the time, I was inspired by the music my uncle was listening to. He was also the one who taught me the basic open chords of guitar. I listened to Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk Railroad, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Stones, a lot of the classic rock guitarists like Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. Clapton was probably the most influential of those that I've mentioned.
Did you come from a musical family?
Not really. My uncle on my mother's side dabbled with guitar and taught me the basics. My grandmother on my father's side had an accordion but hasn't played it in over 70 years. However, my father's uncle was a professional musician and owned a music store in Connecticut. My father told me that he saw a lot of him in me. He passed away around the same time I picked up the guitar, so he's probably guiding my musical career from up in the clouds (lol).
What was your first exposure to the Blues?
When I was a kid, I had an Eric Clapton album called "Just One Night." It had a lot of blues covers on it. I was intrigued by the stuff on it and I started listening to the original versions of these songs. I then began listening to B.B King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells, Etc. Then I bought "Hard Again" by Muddy Waters around 1982-84. That was the album that changed my life. After listening to 'Hard Again," I knew I wanted to play blues for a living. The weird thing about that album is that Muddy didn't play guitar on it. It was all Johnny Winter and Bob Margolin. I thanked Bob numerous times for being a part of that project. It opened me up to more of Muddy's classic recordings and Chicago blues in general.
After completing your education, while working as a social service investigator for the state of Florida, you played evenings and weekends throughout south Florida honing your skills as a musician. Did these late hours as an entertainer cause any problems with your day job?
Hell yeah! It was tough playing nights and then getting up the following morning and facing the barrage of paperwork I was going to have to make sense of, or deal with angry clients and supervisors. It didn't really affect my work until near the end of my tenure with the State, but I took care of everything before I moved on to playing music full time. I will admit, I am a better musician than a social worker.
There was a moment that you had to decide between this day job and your evening gigs. Do you recall that moment? Can you describe it for us?
I had been thinking for years on how to make a living playing music and give up the day job. It wasn't easy to do in Miami. The moment I decided I was going to do it was after I was called by Junior Wells to do 3 nights with him in the Midwest. After that I decided to take a chance and try. I took a leave of absence and struggled the first month. Then Junior's road manager called me to join his band full time.
After performing for seven years with the Miami Blues Authority and being awarded Best Blues Guitarist for 1997 by the Miami Times Magazine, you were introduced to Blues great Junior Wells, with whom you were originally going to perform a 3 city mini tour. Tell us about this introduction.
I first met Junior Wells at The Back Room in Delray Beach, Florida on 12-31-96. He was playing a New Year's Eve Show. We had a mutual friend, Gloria Pierce. Gloria persuaded Junior to let me up and play with him at some point in the night. Junior's road manager, Michael Blakemore, told me I'd better be good because if I wasn't Junior was going to let me know it. I told him "a bad night with Junior Wells beats a good day at the office" and that I was up for the challenge. I got up and did a couple of songs with the band, then Junior came up and we did a couple of more songs, 'Messin With The Kid" & "Little Red Rooster". I was walking on air after that night. Junior needed me to fill in for one of his guitarists, Andy Walo, for a 3 day trip to Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. The following month Andy left and I replaced him. I was with Junior until the end.
What was it like working with this legend of the Blues?
It was an incredible experience on so many levels. For someone who just the month before was working in a welfare office to touring with, in my opinion, the greatest harmonica player ever, it was a dream. It wasn't always pleasant but it was always an adventure. He was nurturing when he had to be and he put his foot in your ass when he had to.
Was there any one thing that you recall learning from Junior? What was it?
I learned a lot about performing from Junior, how he opened himself to his audience, how he related to them. That's what it was all about. It wasn't just about playing an instrument and singing. It was about making the audience feel like they were a part of the show and that's what he did.
You have since gone on to perform with other Blues legends. Who have you performed with?
After Junior passed, I stayed in Chicago and worked with a bunch of people. I was always everybody's last resort in terms of getting called for work. It was a lot of freelance work, usually to fill in for someone's regular guy. I worked with Melvin Taylor, Michael Coleman, Lurrie Bell, Charlie Love, J.W Williams and the Chi-Town Hustlers, Lindsey Alexander, Sugar Blue, Phil Guy, Zanne Mack, Little Mack Simmons, Otis Clay, Billy Boy Arnold and Matthew Skoller. Of course when you live in Chicago, you're bound to jam with just about anybody like Ronnie Baker Brooks or Pinetop Perkins.
“The fact that you toured and played with some of the heaviest cats in Chicago means nothing when you break out on your own. You have to prove yourself as a frontman, not a sideman”
After Junior's passing you hooked up with the "Empress of the Blues" Sandra Hall. Was this an adjustment?
Not really. I think it was a bigger adjustment going from playing in a local band in Miami to playing with Junior Wells. It took a month or two to get used to touring. Playing with Junior and living in Chicago working with other players made working with Sandra into an easy transition. It helped that she was a great artist in her own right.
You have gone on to perform with other Blues dignitaries. Who?
During my time with Sandra Hall, I didn't work with too many artists. On occasion, I did do freelance work with Stacy Mitchart's band out of Nashville, which I had the honor of backing Rufus Thomas with. I also did some work with Mitch Woods after I left Sandra. While I was with Sandra, players like Bernard Allison, Joe Louis Walker, Pinetop, Susan Tedeschi and Jimmy Vivino jammed with us. I've jammed with so many people, I know I'm leaving some people out. The jams probably meant more to me than they did the big names we jammed with.
How long did you tour with her before you would break out on your own?
I was with Sandra Hall over 3 years.
Since, how many CDs have you released?
I have 3 released CDs : "Burn,"" The Bittersweet Sessions w/Graham Drout," and" A Stone's Throw."
Most recently you have released a new CD for which you have received rave reviews. Tell us about this.
My latest release is "A Stone's Throw." It's on Blues Leaf Records. It was recorded at Showplace Studios in Dover, New Jersey. Hubert Sumlin's last CD, "About Them Shoes" was recorded there. I'm very proud of it. We recorded it in three days. We had Grammy winners engineering and producing with Ben Elliott and Jack Kreisberg.
What other big things do you see for yourself and your band this coming year?
I'm currently working on material for a new album this year. I hope to extend my touring territory further west and get my music out to more people, a manifest destiny of sorts.
I hope this is enough info. Let me know if you need anything else. Thanks Dave.
Posted by rickny at 5:50 AM