Over 50 years ago, Tommy Castro was just a young boy teaching himself how to play the guitar.
Now, he’s a nationally recognized blues sensation that has shared the stage with legendary guitarists Carlos Santana and B.B. King.
Receiving his first guitar when he was ten years old, Castro credits blues-rockers Taj Mahal, Elvin Bishop, the Rolling Stones, and B.B. King for teaching him the way.
“I spent all of my free time as a young boy listening to their records and trying to figure out how to play their songs on my guitar,” Castro said. “I wasn’t very good at sports, and I wasn’t a particularly good student, but I was catching on to music and it was something that I really enjoyed.”
Mixing the blues-rock he loved and the soulful influences from B.B. King Castro started creating his own personal sound and style, and eventually went on to play with bands around the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Music really became my sport, and one day the lightbulb went off in my head, ‘wouldn’t it be great if I did something that I loved?’” he said. “I decided I owed it to myself to take a shot and venture out into the music scene.”
He says playing in San Francisco really helped him launch his career.
“Playing in the San Francisco music scene really taught me how to capture an audience. It was highly competitive, so I had to figure out how to make myself stand out from other musicians. I have a wide range of musical influences so I started channeling them all.”
Continuing to evolve his sound, Castro’s musical journey came full circle when, in 2001 his idol B.B. King asked him to join him on tour.
“Back in 2000, the band I was playing with at the time was invited to go on tour with B.B. for a couple of months. It was crazy because we were actually playing a show with him in our home turf, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Carlos Santana showed up. So I thought ‘well, he’s certainly not going to ask me to sit in tonight since Carlos is here,’ but, B.B. said to me ‘this is your neck of the woods, you gonna come up and play with me tonight?’ So I got to play with him and Carlos that night. It was surreal.”
As a singer and songwriter who incorporates a wide-range of styles into his sound, Castro said his music doesn’t really fit into one genre.
“I don’t see myself as a rock-blues artist, a traditional blues artist, or a soul artist,” he said. “I just kinda feel like all of those things are in me, and often my songs are a combination of those things. And as a songwriter, I really just write about life as I see it.”
Castro formed the Painkillers in 2012 and in addition to Castro, the current line-up includes bassist Randy McDonald, drummer Bowen Brown, and keyboardist Michael Emerson. They released their latest album “A Bluesman Came to Town” this past year.
Tommy Castro and his band the Painkillers will perform at Victory North on Thurs., Oct. 21. Doors open at 7 p.m. Click HERE for more information.