2019 Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash
Tommy Castro brings
his soulful sounds to Madison
He returns to Madison Aug. 17
to headline the Blues Bash
Weekend Music Schedule
Friday, Aug. 16
(Festival Gates Open at 5 p.m.)
• 6 p.m.: Laurie Jane & the 45s
• (7 p.m.: Backyard BBQ Blast judging begins in the Brown Gym)
• 8 p.m.: Wee Willie Walker & the We “R” Band
• (9:30 p.m.: Backyard BBQ Blast amateur cooking winners announced on stage)
• 10 p.m.: Mike Zito
Saturday, Aug. 17
(9-11 a.m.: Kidz “Q” amateur cooking competition and judging)
(11 a.m.: KCBS’ first cooking entries turned in for judging at the Brown Gym)
(Festival Gates Open at 11 a.m.)
• 11:30 a.m.: Big Poppa Stampley & Voodou Gumbo
• 1:30 p.m.: The Kilborn Alley Blues Band
• (3 p.m.: “Good to the Bone” rib-eating contest in front of the stage)
• 3:30 p.m.: Shawn Pittman
• 5:30 p.m.: Altered Five Blues Band
• 7:30 p.m.: Indigenous
• 9:30 p.m.: Tommy Castro & the Painkillers with special guest Magic Dick
(Schedule subject to change.)
• Two-day pass $30 through Aug. 14 and available online or at the Lanier-Madison
Visitors Center, 601 W. First St., Madison, and at various local merchants.
• Friday at gate = $35 (good for both days)
• Saturday at gate = $35.
• Children ages 12 & under = Free.
Bring lawn chairs or blankets.
No pets, coolers, skateboards, bikes, rollerblades, umbrellas, canopies, food, beverages,
video or audio recording devices.
On Sale at the
Ribberfest T-Shirts = $15; Ribberfest Pins = $5; Ribberfest Koozies = $5
(August 2019) – Legendary blues and soul giant Tommy Castro is one of the most in-demand acts on the national and international level. His concerts rev up the crowd, raising the roof with high energy and soulful hard-rocking songs.
He has performed all over the world, earning countless fans with his own style of music, infused with qualities he picked up from watching the greats in local Bay Area, Calif., blues bars. He’s been influenced by John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, and it shows in his music.
Born in 1955 in San Jose, Calif., Castro began playing guitar at age 10 and was inspired by electric blues, Chicago blues, West Coast blues, soul music, 1960s rock and roll and southern rock. His resulting style has always been a hybrid of all his favorite genres.
Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, with special guest Magic Dick, will close out the 2019 Ribberfest Blues Bash on Saturday, Aug. 17, starting their set at 9:30 p.m. at Madison Bicentennial Park. The festival is sponsored by Koehler Tire, and the Blues Bash portion is sponsored by Craig Toyota.
Men like Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James and Freddie King have made a huge impression on Castro’s guitar playing, while he counts Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and James Brown as vocal influences. Over time he honed his guitar skills and intense vocals while learning to create his own personal sound and style.
In the 1970s Castro played professionally in Bay Area cover song bands. He spent the next decade with The Dynatones. In 1985, he was recruited to become lead singer and guitarist for the regionally popular blues band NiteCry, gigging regularly throughout northern California.
This led to the formation of the first Tommy Castro Band in 1991. It wasn’t until 1996 that he released his debut album on the Blind Pig label.
The Tommy Castro Band served as the house band for three seasons on NBC Television’s “Comedy Showcase” (airing right after “Saturday Night Live”), placing Castro in front of millions of viewers every week.
It wasn’t long before critics and fans alike where commenting on Castro’s talent. Tom Callahan of Blurt said, “Castro has a soulful voice, searing guitar and is an excellent songwriter and vocalist. If you close your eyes you will be convinced that you are listening to Otis Redding singing in 1967 – tremendous.”
He got a huge break when, in 2001 and 2002, B.B. King asked Castro to open his summer concert tours. Castro received an open invitation to join King on stage for the nightly finale.
This will not be Castro’s first time at the Madison Ribberfest, said one of the band committee organizers, Rick Burress. Dave Butler and Rocky Harrell join Burress on the band selection committee for the Blues Bash.
Photo courtesy of Victoris Smith
Pictured above is
“Tommy Castro is a favorite,” said Burress. “A number of people have requested that we bring him back.”
Burress went on to say he had seen Castro’s tours in the past, and he often has “other people with him besides his own band. It adds a little something else to the show.”
Castro has released albums on several labels: Telarc, 33rd Street, Heart And Soul, Alligator and Blind Pig. His album “Guilty of Love” featured the last recording session for John Lee Hooker. In 2007, readers of BluesWax, an online magazine, voted his “Painkiller” album as BluesWax album of the year. It also won the 2008 Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.
The following year Castro released “Hard Believer,” produced by John Porter. The album was described by Billboard as “irresistibly funky… It has a street-level grit and a soulful sincerity that’s impossible to ignore.”
In May 2010, the Blues Foundation awarded Castro multiple Blues Music Award honors: Blues Male Artist of the Year, Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, and with his band, Band of the Year.
In 2011, Castro stripped down his band to the current four-piece unit called the Painkillers, including keyboards, bass and drums as well as his own guitar and vocals. The other three band members are bassist Randy McDonald, keyboard player Mike Emerson, and drummer Bowen Brown.
The 2013 The Devil You Know release included a guest appearance by Magic Dick, who will also join Castro at Ribberfest this year. Magic Dick earned a loyal following when he became a founding member of the J. Geils Blues Band in 1968.
In 1970 the J. Geils Band recorded the first of nine albums for Atlantic Records and toured incessantly, jamming with many of the blues greats including Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells and James Cotton. The band developed a reputation for their high-energy style of rhythm & blues and rock & roll. These recordings showcase Magic Dick’s innovative harmonica playing, which served as a strong distinguishing sound for the band.
Photo courtesy of Victoris Smith
Pictured above is
Subsequent to The J. Geils Band, Magic Dick performed as a guest artist harmonica soloist for Patty Smyth, Debbi Harri, Full Circle, The Del Fuegos and Ryuici Sakamota, among others.
Burress said Magic Dick and Castro “play together often and Magic Dick adds more punch to the show.”
In 2015, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers released, Method To My Madness, which debuted at number four in the Billboard Blues Albums Chart. It was followed with Stompin’ Ground in 2017. With this newer band, Castro’s critics said he had stripped his music down to its raw essence while creating a larger than life sound. Billboard remarked that the band plays “irresistible contemporary blues-rock” with “street-level grit and soul.”
His latest effort, “Killin’ It Live,” was released earlier this year and features songs from throughout Castro’s career.
To get acts like Castro for Ribberfest, “we take a lot of suggestions,” said Burress. “From there it’s a matter of elimination to end up with nine groups.”
“We have some great bands this year,” said Harrell. While not all are big name performers, some are more “mid-line and just want to be seen.” But that certainly doesn’t take away from the quality concert goers will experience, he added.
There are a lot of different styles and sounds mixed into this year’s lineup, said Burress. “It’s not just straight blues.”
He said most bands are regional, and a couple of them are Texas-based or grew up there. “Big Poppa Stampley is originally from Chicago but moved to Louisville. The Kilborn Alley Blues Band is from Champagne, Ill. Friday night’s opener, Laurie Jane and the 45s, are also from Louisville.”
“Friday night’s headliner, Mike Zito, will bring “a lot of guitar fans to Ribberfest,” said Burress. He plays rock and blues and gets the crowd excited and keeps things upbeat.” At many of the previous Ribberfests, a great guitar player like Zito will get “a lot of people to come right up to the stage to see him.”
Indigenous is included in Saturday’s lineup and “are a unique Native American band from South Dakota,” he said. “They gained quite a bit of notoriety a couple of decades ago. People have asked for them. They’ll bring a little different edge to the show. It takes some looking to find what you want.”
Regardless of the band’s level of popularity, “the bands are all really good,” said Harrell.
“There are not as many big names this year, but the talent is spread out,” said Burress.
Photo courtesy of Victoris Smith
Wee Willie Walker & the We "R" Band (above) will perform on Friday night at Ribberfest.
This will be the 18th year for Ribberfest, and Harrrell, Butler and Burress have had a hand in organizing every Blues Bash from the beginning. “At one point there were five of us, but two have since passed away,” said Burress.
He said the trio “enjoys doing it. We’ve hit a niche, like the Regatta and RiverRoots Festival. We like getting out and going to see the bands play” to choose the following year’s lineup. “Our venue is not a really large venue, but it’s got a good atmosphere.”
The Ribberfest Blues Bash has built a steady following from the get-go, said Burress. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments through social media.”
To make Ribberfest happen, “It’s a combination of a whole group of people,” he said of the many hard-working volunteers. “It all happens because of them. It’s a year-long labor of love.”
Back to August 2019 Ribberfest Articles.