WANT TO GO?
Brews, Blues & BBQ
WHERE: University of Charleston riverfront lawn
WHEN: 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. Friday
TICKETS: Advance $18, at the gate $20
INFO: 304-345-0775 or www.fundfortheartswv.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Put a guitar in his hands, and Tommy Castro turns into the blues rocker everybody wants him to be. On stage, the 57-year-old Blues Music Award winner is the life of the party, singing songs about fast times and love gone wrong.
Get him home, and the blues man disappears behind the handlebars of a mountain bike. He turns into a father of two and a guy more likely to reach for the salad dressing than another helping of barbecued ribs.
Castro, who performs with his band, The Painkillers, at Friday's Blues, Brews & BBQ, laughed about it.
"Oh, I had my years of debauchery -- and there were a lot of them -- but we've got a demanding job. We do a high energy show, and you better be ready for it, or it will kick your ass."
The life of a professional blues musician may be a bit easier than it used to be, but it's still a lot of weeks living on a bus, a lot of late nights and a lot of greasy take-out meals.
"We'll play three weeks in a row without a night off," Castro said. "It happens. So when you're out you try to eat right, try to get some rest."
And when you get home, you get on your bike and ride.
Castro has been at the blues for a long time, and he knows what works for him. Like a lot of musicians, he grew up listening to the radio and trying to figure out notes on a guitar. Eventually, he found a couple of friends and joined a band or two.
"I started out being a guitar player and wound up being a singer," he said. "The bands I was in, hometown bands, they didn't have anybody to sing."
He wanted to play, so he had to sing. And like he did with the guitar, Castro taught himself, sometimes practicing while he drove a delivery truck during the day.
"Friends of mine would give me tapes of singers," he said. "These were people whose songs we were going to do. But I was listening to everybody: Ray Charles, Buddy Guy, Little Richard, Elmore James."
He copied everybody, then mixed them all together and came up with his own take on how the blues was supposed to sound.
"I'd say I'm a pretty good singer and a pretty good guitar player," Castro said. "I'm not great at either, but I'm also a good songwriter -- not a great songwriter, but a good songwriter."