Jimmy Castor and Johnny Otis: R.I.P. (and N.S.F.W.!)
Rough week for fans of raunchy R&B: we lost both Jimmy Castor, creator of the timeless “Troglodyte,” as well as the highly influential Johnny Otis, best known for “Willy and the Hand Jive.”
Saxophonist Jimmy Castor, who headlined the Jimmy Castor Band, and whose biggest hit, 1972′s “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” has been sampled by the likes of Madonna, Kanye West, the Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., Christina Aguilera and Blackstreet, died Monday in Las Vegas. He was 64. Castor’s songs were known for featuring a recurring cast of characters including a caveman who chants “gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman,” and the irrepressible, full-figured dancer Bertha Butt.
The title track of his 1972 album It’s Just Begun was prolifically sampled for a dance sequence in the 1983 movie Flashdance and later by a range of performers including 2 Live Crew, the Spice Girls and actor Mark Wahlberg during his earlier career as Marky Mark. Other Castor records have been sampled by Kanye West and Mos Def.
Johnny Otis was an influential, singer, writer and record producer and was known as the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues.” He died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 90. Otis wrote and performed the 1958 smash hit, “Willy and the Hand Jive.” He is credited with discovering and nurturing R&B stars such as Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Little Esther Phillips, Etta James and Hank Ballard. His son Shuggie Otis, a great guitarist, is also known for writing the 1977 hit “Strawberry Letter 23.”
Despite his mainstream success, Otis was not afraid to go “blue”: in 1969 he released an album under the name Snatch and the Poontangs filled with not for broadcast language and included songs such as “Two Girls In Love (With Each Other)” (you can guess what that’s about – despite the lack of actual lyrics) and “The Pissed Off Cowboy” about a cowboy who smells like horse shit. Of course, his classic in this genre is “The Signifying Monkey,” which is probably played nightly by some crazed, drunken bar band somewhere.