Tommy Castro and Painkillers headlines at Blues fest |

Tommy Castro and Painkillers headlines at Blues fest

Elizabeth Schubert
Special to the Sky-Hi
Tommy Castro
Lewis MacDonald |

Blues from the Top

Castro and his new band, The Painkillers, will bring their unique blend of rhythm and blues to Grand County on Sunday, June 29, during the annual “Blues from the Top” Festival. For more information about Blues from the Top, head to

When Tommy Castro performs with his band, The Painkillers, people in the audience can’t help but move to the beat. And that’s exactly what he likes to see.

“I want my audience to feel happy and free of pain,” Castro said.

He started playing the guitar at age 10, finding inspiration in artists like Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. But as he grew older and immersed himself in different types of music, Castro found he just couldn’t shake the blues.

“I moved forward by investigating the past,” said Castro. “I just fell in love with the Blues guitar work of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and singers like Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett.”

He followed his passion, and by the time he reached his late 20s, he was playing with blues and soul bands throughout the San Francisco bay area.

“I usually work with bands,” Castro said. “I can play solo acoustic, but I don’t do that much in a performance setting.”

He was 30 years old when he decided to turn his passion into a career. In the late 1980’s he joined a group of Warner Bros. artists called The Dynatones. The band had a huge fan base, and Castro spent the next two years performing live in cities across the country. In 1991, he formed the Tommy Castro Band, winning the “Bay Area Music Award for Best Club Band” in 1993 and 1994. He picked up more awards with his first album, released in 1996, and began touring nationally.

His hard work paid off in the mid-1990’s, when The Tommy Castro Band was asked to perform as the house band on NBC’s Comedy Showcase, which aired after Saturday Night Live. That gig lasted for three seasons. In 2001 and 2002, he opened for B.B. King at the blues legend’s summer tours. As a guitar player, vocalist and songwriter, Castro pulls his inspiration from the world around him.

“I love listening to music and just living life,” he said. “I take notes, and usually start writing with an idea for a story or a title.”

Castro is looking forward to the performance at the annual Blues from the Top in Winter Park.

“I’ve had the pleasure of playing this very cool festival several times,” he said. “I love it. John Catt and the Grand County Blues Society are a class act. People come from all over the country for this festival. The vibes are very good all around.”

Castro can’t wait for fans in Winter Park to hear music from his newest release, “The Devil You Know.” The album features performances from Joe Bonamassa, Tab Benoit and Marcia Ball, just to name a few.

“I challenged myself to add different sounds and new rhythms to my style while remaining true to my roots,” Castro said. “I wrote using ideas for songs and ideas for sounds together in a way I’d never done before. “I’m using drum rhythms to drive the lyrics.”

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