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Tommy Castro Enlivens San Francisco Blues Scene

San Francisco, California is one of America's premier rock and roll towns, once home to such legendary groups as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But, as VOA's Doug Levine tells us, the Bay Area also has a thriving blues scene, thanks in part to singer, guitarist and bandleader Tommy Castro.

Tommy Castro had become so popular in San Francisco, the city's mayor declared October 14, 2006 "Tommy Castro Day." Castro was honored for his musical achievements as well as his support of various community projects. That same year he was voted Blues Artist of 2006 by Blueswax magazine. Castro's latest album Painkiller recently reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Blues Chart.

For the 52-year-old vocalist and electric guitar virtuoso, sudden national acclaim is bittersweet. Longtime fans may remember when he was just starting out on the San Francisco blues circuit. Back then, the hours were longer and the tours more grueling. It wasn't unusual to find him playing seven nights a week, sometimes two or more shows a day. But Castro couldn't have been happier.

He once said, "When I was a kid, music was something I did for fun." He remarked that, "Later, it became obvious that music was the thing I was meant to do, so I made a decision to pursue it as a career."

Castro's career began in 1991, when he formed The Tommy Castro Band. Two years later, they were named Club Band of The Year at the Bay Area Music Awards. Castro's rise through the ranks garnered attention from such childhood heroes as Carlos Santana, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King, who each invited Castro to perform with them. He says opening for B.B. King on his 2001 concert tour was like a "dream come true."

On Painkiller, Castro revives songs by two other blues greats, Freddie King and Albert Collins. The album also features original songs blending Castro's trademark mix of electric blues, rock and soul.