R.I.P Jimmy Castor: We're Gonna Go Back, Way Back

The funk legend and lover of big butts and bouncing beats passed away earlier this week having never truly had the recognition he deserved...
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The funk legend and lover of big butts and bouncing beats passed away earlier this week having never truly had the recognition he deserved...

What we gonna do here is go back, way back, back into time…

So states the introduction to Troglodyte and 101 mixtapes- and those words were my introduction to Jimmy Castor. Hip hop taught me about all kinds of music as I dug deeper into its culture and origins- both of style and culture. Castor has been sampled by almost every producer worthy of a spin-back; Kool Moe Dee, Eric B, DJ Shadow, Kanye, Madonna- they´ve all had a pop, and via this route, as with so many great artists, I found Jimmy.

Once I got to university and shared housing, I soon converted the boys I was living with to the ways of the Jimmy Castor Bunch and his 70´s work as the E-Man (Everything Man). Troglodyte, E-Man Grooving, It´s Just Begun, King Kong, Dracula, Bertha Big Butt Boogie;  our man just had the crazy, funny, funky, funky, funky shit on lockdown.

It´s Just Begun is the Jimmy classic that every B-Boy knows inside out, possibly the ultimate break of all breaks, as immortalized in Flash Dance. Anyone of a certain age knows that the only reason anyone went to see Flash Dance was to see the scene with Frosty Freeze (RIP) and the boys breaking in the park. For most of the world that was the first contact with b-boy’ing, and Jimmy Castor´s It´s Just Begun provided it´s soundtrack. Hip Hop history right there dawg. And in true old skool style- Jimmy got stiffed, RCA refused to release his version and it had to be re-recorded by another party for the 20 million-units-selling soundtrack.

Our man just had the crazy, funny, funky, funky, funky shit on lockdown

But Jimmy´s story goes back way further than futuristic 70´s funk. He penned his first million seller in 1956 while still in high school;  I Promise To Remember, for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. He was paid $2,500 for that record, at a time when his family´s rent was $40 a month and from that moment the 10 year olds future was set.

In 1966 he came to public prominence again with his second million selling single, Hey Leroy Ya Mamma´s Calling You, but it was not until 1972 that he formed his group The Jimmy Castor Bunch with whom he would make the truly funky stuff that was so popular with me and the chaps at Malpas Road, New Cross circa 1996.

The first LP by Jimmy and The Bunch heralded the arrival of the magnificent cover art that so aided his popularity amongst my cohorts and me. It´s Just Begun became a hip-hop-holy-grail with its classic, poppy funk grooves and afro-centric fantasy cover, and of course, THAT BREAK. His LP´s that followed also included some ace cover art; check out Butt Of Course, Maximum Stimulation and E-Man Groovin´ for examples.

It´s Just Begun became a hop-hop-holy-grail

I heard an interview with Jimmy recently and it was unfortunate to hear that he felt he had never really been recognized for his contribution to music, in particular not being included in MTV´s 100 greatest dance songs; it´s certainly one of the sadder legacies of hip-hop. Jimmy continued making music long after the 70´s, but with the exception of a small hit in 1988 with Love Makes a Woman, the public had lost interest.

It is a little strange in these days of more hip hop vox pop documentaries that you can shake a shitty stick at, that no-one ever thought to include the inventor of the greatest b-boy break. I´m sure there´s a few producers out there kicking themselves right now because the chance has  gone,  now that the E-Man has died, aged 64 in his beloved New York City on January 16th 2012.

We all loved Jimmy on Malpas Road in 1996, but I was the one who discovered him, and always felt that I was the closest to him. After all, I was the one who grew an E-man tribute afro. Check out the photo of me in the gallery from the 1996 Notting Hill Carnival; hopefully it can serve as a personal tribute to a man who taught how much fun funk could be.

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