Schubert: Albert Castiglia coming to WP
May 26, 2016
Albert Castiglia grew up in Coral Gables, Florida, a suburb of Miami. It was his uncle who first introduced him to live music.
"I was 12 years-old," Castiglia said. "He taught me three chords on the guitar: G, D and C. You can play a million songs with those chords. He gave me a Bob Dylan songbook with chord charts in the back of the book."
He pauses, then laughs. "I think half of Dylan's repertoire involves those chords."
Those three simple chords opened up a whole new world for young Albert.
“Right before I got on stage, his road manager told me, ‘you better be good.’ I was thinking, well, a bad night with Junior Wells is better than a good day at work. I got up there, played six tunes with him. I could have died. It was such a highlight.”
"It made me want to learn more about the instrument. It became a bit of an obsession."
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He played several different sports, but little by little, they took a backseat to the music. Four years later, at age 16, Castiglia was listening to Eric Clapton's album "Just One Night" when he heard a new, captivating sound.
"There were a lot of blues covers on that album," Castiglia said. "I started buying blues albums, listening to artists like B.B. King."
But it was the great Muddy Waters, and his 1977 album "Hard Again," that changed Castiglia's life.
"It was the most intense thing I'd ever heard," he said. "I grew up in the 1980's, and there wasn't much music of substance. There was a lot of hair metal stuff going on, and it was real sugary garbage that never appealed to me. Muddy Waters was old Chicago blues. It was so raw and intense, and I figured out right away that I wanted to do that."
Castiglia loved music, but wasn't sure he could ever make it as a musician. He went to college, majoring in Liberal Arts at the University of Central Florida. In 1992, he took a job at the welfare office in Florida.
"Hurricane Andrew had just wiped out the southern part of Dade County," he said. "There was a big demand for case workers. I stayed there for four years and hated every minute of it."
He never lost his passion for music, but it took a back seat to his job in the real world. Then, in 1996, Castiglia received a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"It all happened at a show in Miami on New Year's Eve," he said. "A friend invited me and introduced me to a blues man out of Chicago, Junior Wells, and convinced him to pull me up on stage."
Castiglia brought his guitar that night, but never expected to play.
"Right before I got on stage, his road manager told me, 'you better be good,'" Castiglia remembers. "I was thinking, well, a bad night with Junior Wells is better than a good day at work. I got up there, played six tunes with him. I could have died. It was such a highlight."
He didn't think much of it, and went back to work. A couple of months later, that same road manager called, asking Castiglia to fill in on some tour dates. He took a week off work and traveled to Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit.
Those performances gave him the confidence he needed to pursue music as a full-time career. But it wasn't easy.
"I took a leave of absence from work and tried to line up some gigs," Castiglia said. "It didn't work out. I was face down on my couch in April when I got a call from the road manager to play with Junior. He said, 'can you be in Chicago in three days?'"
Castiglia packed his bags and never looked back.
"My life totally changed in April of 1997," he said. "I never went back to that day job. I called them to tell them I wasn't coming back."
The rest, as they say, is history.
Albert Castiglia and his three-piece band will travel to Colorado at the end of June to take part in the 14th Annual Blues From the Top Festival. He's looking forward to seeing the mountains again.
"Nestled in the Rockies, man, it's one of the most beautiful venues," he said. "A little hard to get used to the altitude. One year, halfway up the mountain to Winter Park, I threw up."
"It's a lot of fun," he said. "John Catt knows how to put a festival on. It'll be a big old reunion."
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