Monday, 9 November 2009


Jan 56 (BMI clearance on 10th February 1956)
45-538-A - Wanderlust
(Jack Rhodes)   (Starrite BMI)
45-538-B - I've Done More Accidently
(J Rhodes / F Franks)   (Starrite BMI)
Possibly one of the great unknown Rock-A-Billy discs in the Starday Custom catalogue. Jack Rhodes (more on him later on Starday 560/561) had set up a small recording / demo studio at the back of a hotel he owned in Mineola, TX where artists could come along and record demos, especially ones that Jack had written. The unknown Tommy Castle probably cut this Rhodes-penned disc at the hotel with (possibly) Freddy Franks (bs) and Al Petty (st gtr) and an unknown guitar player who hops all over the disc like a man possessed. The A side is a great shuffling, two-chord ditty with Tommy claiming to suffer from “Wanderlust” - an inability to settle down in one place. This song that could’ve gone onto greater things if picked up by a seasoned country star (Hank Williams, had he lived long enough would have been a good bet), or perhaps even Luke McDaniels. The flipside is a great bopper with a super, finger-picked guitar solo (he also cuts loose whilst Tommy is singing too; almost threatening to take over on occasions). This side was co written by Freddy Franks. A fab-tastic 45rpm! According to Tom Lincoln, Castle is Tommy Cassel (of Cassel Records), although at least one other collector says they are two different artists. Anybody got any ideas?(MC/Neil Scott/Tom Lincoln/ Joe Watson)

Update 4th Jan 2011
Regarding Tommy Castle (Starday 538). Five collectors have contacted me all stating that Tommy Castle and Tommy Cassel are NOT the same artist. Almost all have offered proof (although none have been forthcoming with the info), but it's safe to say the link between the two artists are tenuous at best.

Update 8th March 2011

Andrew Brown Wrote:

I recently confirmed that Tommy Castle was from the Big Spring, Texas (West Texas) area.

Update 17th July 2013

Source: Tommy Castle

Tommy was born in Knott, TX - some 35 miles outside Big Spring. Lived on his parents farm - which he eventually took over. Mother liked writing lyrics and music whilst his father was an accomplished fiddle player.
Encouraged by his mothers praise for his own lyrics, she bought him a Gibson acoustic in 1949 (pictured with Tommy) and Tommy started writing songs and playing locally once his farm chores were over. Tommy recorded 4 self-penned songs at the Jim Beck Studio (1101 Ross Ave, Dallas, TX) under the name of TJ Castle. As far as Tommy knows, they were never issued. He recorded them in the hope he could place them with other artists. Faron Young was interested in a gospel song but wanted to change some of the words. Tommy never replied to him regarding this. Tommy remembered that the group that were recording before him at Becks studio was Leon McAuliffe who cut "Blacksmith Blues" that day. Leon wanted an actual anvil to be hit on the song which delayed Tommy's recording so he was late getting hime. The date of this recording was 28th January 1952 (Tommy stated it was 1951). I include Leons session details here.

28 January 1952 [20:00-23:00] Jim Beck Studio, 1101 Ross Ave., Dallas, TX - Leon McAuliffe (Billy Walker [*vcl],Robert Kiser [gt], Ted Adams [bass], Dave Coleman [drums], Bobby Bruce [fiddle], Jimmy Hall [fiddle], Madge Suttee [piano], Buddy Griffin [percusion]. Producer: Don Law)
054 CO 47645/JB 85/ZSP-9186 STOLEN LOVE* 4-21020/CCD 295
055 CO 47646/JB 86/ZSP-9187 I’M GOING BACK TO BIRMINGHAM 4-20907/LP 5100 CCD 295
056 CO 47647/JB 87/ZSP-9188 WHO TOOK MY RING FROM YOUR FINGER* 4-20952/LP 5100 CCD 295
057 CO 47648/JB 88/ZSP-9189 BLACKSMITH BLUES 4-20907/LP 5100 CCD 295 BCD 16987
058 CO 47649/JB 89/ZSP-9190 THIS SIDE OF TOWN 4-20952/LP 5100 CCD 295 BCD 16987

Tommy had also gotten married and was still gigging locally and occasionally touring (He toured West Texas with Billy Walker at one point). Tommy mainly played in bars around Big Spring. Occasionally George Jones would come to the gig after his own had finished and dance the night away along to Tommy's band. Occasionally George would get up and let Tommy have a dance or two. The backing bands were recruited from the local air force base where a lot of good musicians were based. He was also friendly with Arlie Duff, Hank Thompson and Webb Pierce.

The Jamboree Tommy Regularly Performed on

During one of the regular "Jam Sessions" that was always happening around Big Spring, Tommy duetted with Gloria Henson for a few songs. Jack Rhodes heard them and was eager to record them as a duo. But Gloria was signed to capitol (or was just about to be) and was cool on a duet recording. She went off to Hollywood to try and make it as a singer and Tommy lost contact with her. (Anybody knows if she is still alive and her whereabouts, please contact me so I can forward the details to Tommy).

As for the famous recording - Jack approached Tommy to sing at a session at his little recording studio at the Trail 80 Motel in Mineola, TX. Tommy brought along some songs he wrote that he would like to record only to find that Jack had already selected two songs for him to sing - one a self penned number and the other co-written with Freddie Franks. Freddie, who was a close friend of Tommy's played bass. He couldn't really recall the other musicians. They all stood around the one microphone and kept shuffling around until Jack could get a good level for all the musicians and then they cut the two songs. Tommy got 300 copies pressed by Starday through Jack Rhodes and hoped for the best. Locally it sold slowly, although Jack (possibly true but also could be a case of "Artistic Hyperbole" said it was selling well on the East Coast - which suggests he must have had some to ship out even if the story was an exaggeration.) Tommy reckons this was recorded in Jan or Feb 1956 - as BMI cleared the songs early Feb I suggest january would be a better bet for the recording date.

Tommy and his wife Loudale had been married 11 years by this time and Tommy promised that if they ever had a child, he would forsake trying for a musical career. Loudale discovered she was pregnant around the times of the recording and Sheldon was born in August 1956. Tommy kept his promise and although he occasionally  played locally, gave up any attempt at touring or performing far from home. The Starday is his only (known) released recording.
As an aside, Sheldon became a great guitar player before tragically passing away in the 1990's.

Tommy and Sheldon Castle 1959

Another artist who played with Tommy was Jimmy Seals. Jimmy played fiddle from an early age and played in and around Big Spring. His father used to bring him to town every Saturday to play from their hometown of Sidney, TX. Jimmy also played drums and played guitar for Dean Beard and this Crew Cats. He also played with the Champs before joining Glen Campbell. He eventually performed with Darrel Crofts as Seals and Crofts. Last heard, Jimmy was living on a ranch in Costa Rica. Jimmy also played fiddle for Gene Autrey for a while whilst in California.

Jimmy recorded for Slim Willet on his Winston Label. Slim was a 300lbs MC / comedian and label owner (he owned Winston and Edmoral amongst others.). Slim wrote the classic "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" after taking some fresh air whilst performing at the Hadocal Corner Club and seeing all the thousand of stars twinkling at night. Tommy said Slim was a very friendly guy who was well though of.

Tommy also mentions artists being discovered in Big Spring. Jeannie C Riley used to perform at weekends as a young girl before being discovered by a talent scout. her auntie used to drive her up every weekend to get her some exposure in front of the public and Big Spring were always a friendly crowd to play in front of. Also Waylon Jennings made some early appearances around the town . Tommy says that after awhile Waylon grew his hair long, grew a moustache and became famous! Oddly enough, Tommy doesn't recall Hank Harral and his Caprock label out of Big Spring, but by the time Hank was releasing Caprock records, Sheldon was born so perhaps Tommy missed them.

Tommy also met Elvis Presley in a music shop in Midland, TX. Elvis was just beginning to become a sensation - although it took a while for Texas to appreciate his new music style and gyrations. He said he was in Levi jeans and tennis shoes and was very friendly and courteous to everybody. he also met Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings a little later on at the same place.

And finally, we can 100% scotch the rumour that Tommy Cassel is Tommy Castle.

Many thanks to Tommy Castle who put up with my endless questions over Skype in early July 2013 and to Tess Rain who arranged for us to connect over Skype. Feel free to leave any messages you wish to pass onto Tommy here and I'll make sure he gets to read them all.

Label Shots: Phil Tricker

Email me!


  1. Great rundown on this "mystery" artist. I had a copy of the 45 once, but returned it because it skipped. Be careful because these early Starday microgroove singles will do that with a standard needle. You need to use different needles to play them.

  2. Gloria Henson is still alive and I recently found her a copy of her Capitol 45 and gave it to her via her grandson, she had lost her copy and I even got a photo with her holding the record.

  3. Just got the Custom Series box. I really love the B side of this! Quite a catchy little tune, it really gets stuck in your head.

    1. Yeah it's a wonderful song from a great artist who should have recorded more records. Interviewing him was amazing - such a nice guy!!!