Tommy Castro can’t keep a smile off of his face because he has the blues.
Albert Collins once advised him to smile if he ever makes a mistake. That way no one will notice.
“I’m always screwing up so I just keep the smile on my face just in case,” he laughed, saying his happiness is genuine. “I appreciate the fact that I am up (onstage) doing this and that keeps a smile on my face. The other thing is I want everybody in the audience to be having a good time.”
He learned that lesson from another guitar legend.
“Buddy Guy doesn’t have to play a note – he walks onstage and just look at the crowd with a big grin and they will go crazy.”
Off the stage, Castro is as accessible as any artist in the blues. He will shake hands and sign CDs with everyone, no matter how long the line. He learned this from another great, too.
“I toured all over the country a couple of times with B.B. King and I watched him do his thing,” Castro said. “Everybody loved B.B. Everybody wanted to talk to him so he’d have a big line of people every night. And he was so just so cool about it.
“He was the biggest blues star in the world and he would take the time with everybody and I just thought that was the coolest thing. That was another one of those moments when I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s that’s how I want to do it.”
With 18 album releases since 1994, Castro is a legend, too. He gave some advice to local gunslinger Jason King, with whom he will share the stage on Saturday at The Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival. The Jason King Band plays at 4 p.m. on the 3rd Street Stage, followed by Tommy Castro and The Painkillers at 6.
Castro told Jason King to always be ready to play, and this came after he challenged him in front of a packed showroom at Lake Tahoe. During a guitar solo, Castro walked up an aisle, then into a row of seats where he handed King his guitar. Startled, King tried to decline the offer, but Castro simply told him the key of the song by shaping his fingers into the letter “A” and gave him the six string. King took up the solo and marched onstage as the crowd rose for a standing ovation.
Self-deprecating until the end, Castro downplayed his role of adviser.
“There was no lesson there,” he said. “I just I just saw friend of mine in the crowd and he was a guitar player. I was wireless and I just I just handed him the guitar to have some fun. People love it when that kind of stuff happens.
“He did fine, of course. And it’s good it’s going to be good to see him in Reno. They’re going to be on just before us. He’s a good cat with a lot of talent and that should be a pretty good show. People should just hang around that stage all day.”
A lifelong Bay Area resident, Castro has built a large fan base in the Biggest Little City.
“(The Eldorado Brews & Blues Festival) is one of our all-time favorite gigs,” Castro said. “Our first time must have been more than 20 years ago, and it was always such a big party on the street. We connected with a lot of our fan base at that festival. People would see us there and then follow us around for years.
“People are walking around and in and out of the casinos and it’s a big party all over the streets of Reno and it’s a fun one. We like it.”
There will be smiles all around. Beers, too.
Coming next: Tommy Castro unveils plans for a new studio album
- The Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival
Downtown RenoFriday, June 16
4th Street Stage
3:30 pm – Jason King Band
5:30 pm – Maxx Cabello Jr.
7:30 pm – Tonic
- 3rd Street Stage
4 pm – US Air Force Mobility
6 pm – Shane Dwight
- Saturday, June 17
4th Street Stage
12:30pm – 9 Below Zero
2:30pm – US Air Force Mobility
4:30pm – Shane Dwight
6:30pm – Five for Fighting
- 3rd Street Stage
12 pm – Blue Haven Blues Band
2 pm – Prey for Son
4 pm – Jason King Band
6 pm – Tommy Castro and the Painkillers