The Castells

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The Castells
Photo of original Castells.jpg
Original recording group circa 1961 (Top left, clockwise): Ussery, Hicks, Girard, Kelly.
Background information
Origin Santa Rosa, California
Genres rock, harmony singing, jazz
Years active 1959 (1959)–1964 (1964)
Labels Era Records
Warner Bros. Records
Decca Records
Associated acts Love Song
The Hondells
Final group members, Van Krugel,Kelly,Hicks,Girard
Castells live (Van Krugel,Girard,Kelly,Hicks),

The Castells were a male vocal quartet from Santa Rosa, California best remembered for their hits "Sacred" (#20 in 1961) and "So This Is Love" (#21 in 1962), both released on Era Records.[1]

Their sound blended light rock with elements of collegiate harmony singing and jazz, and proved popular with teenagers as well as adults. The Castells was formed at Santa Rosa, CA High School, circa 1959. They were booked for a performance at a local teenage "canteen". They did not have a name, and their pianist, Jeff Bush, suggested the name. It had no meaning other than they thought that it sounded good, and the intent was to be more thoughtful and change it later. They obviously never did. Through a local Santa Rosa KJAX disc-jockey who went by the name of Dan Dillon, they got some Hollywood contacts. Girard's mother financed a demo for $100., which was recorded in a San Francisco studio. They took their demo and went door-to-door in Hollywood, first to Crystalette Records,which seemed to be defunct, Aladdin Records, and then Era Records. They were excited that Aladdin seemed interested, as they considered themselves to be R&B, but eventually it was Era who signed them. Their first release "Little Sad Eyes", went to "Bubbling Under" on the Billboard chart, then came "Sacred", which charted for them. "Make Believe Wedding" went "Bubbling Under", then "So This Is Love" again charted. They played shows for a few years, and were privileged to share the stage with many of their idols, among them Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Vee, and Brenda Lee. They never again charted, but did continue to record for a few years, first for Warner Bros. Records, and then lastly, Decca Records. They disbanded around 1964.Their original 1959 LP fetches as much as $150 in near mint condition.

Member Chuck Girard later joined the surf rock group The Hondells, and in the 1970s became a popular and pioneering CCM artist.


  • Bob Ussery
  • Tom Hicks
  • Joe Kelly
  • Chuck Girard
  • Greg Van Krugel
  • Warren Hays
  • Jeff Bush

Original members were Chuck Girard, the late Tom Hicks, Warren Hays, the late Bob Ussery, and Jeff Bush. Bush was a non-singing member,but an official accompanist, playing piano on all gigs. Hays left when the group was signed by Era Records. The group planned to move from Santa Rosa to Southern California. Hays, a minor, was not allowed to move with the boys, and his parents also objected on religious grounds. When Hays left, Joe Kelly was brought in to replace him. When the group signed with Era Records, label president Herb Newman insisted on enlisting the services of session pianists, and Jeff Bush was edged out. In 1963 Bob Ussery chose to marry, left the group and moved out of California. He was temporarily replaced by Greg Van Krugel, Chuck Girard's roommate and high school friend because he knew the material from being around the group during rehearsals. After a few live performances as a substitute, Greg was elected to permanent membership of The Castells. By late 1964, The Castells were still recording and doing public appearances but their popularity was waning. By 1965 the group members remained friends and went their separate ways for various reasons.

Most often produced by Gary Usher of surf & hot rod rock fame, Chuck and Joe went on to record as a duo under their real names, "Chuck and Joe," recording "blue-eyed soul" covers of earlier popular songs like "Harlem Shuffle" and "Feel So Fine." They recorded a few edgy pop-folk singles as "The Devons," They worked for Usher for several years and recorded a number of hot rod & surf albums under many different group identities.

Tom had begun a family with a new wife and went on to become a successful businessman in Southern California.

Greg, also had recently married. He was drafted into the US Army in 1966 and in 1968, after active duty he came home to his wife and daughter in Southern California and made his career in the defense and aerospace electronics industry.

Other performers of note with which the Castells shared the stage include Bobby Rydell, Dick and Dee Dee, Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers. The Rivingtons, Donnie Brooks, Dobie Gray, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Ted Neely and Larry Verne.

Some legendary session musicians The Castells worked with later became known collectively as "The Wrecking Crew".They included Billy Strange (guitar), Barney Kessel (guitar), Ray Pohlman (bass & arranger of one of the group's sessions), Frankie Capp (any percussion device known to humanity), Plas Johnson (saxophone), Glen Campbell (guitar), and Hal Blaine (drums).


  • A: Little Sad Eyes B: Romeo 1961
  • A: Life Goes on B: I Thought You'd Like That 1966


  1. ^ Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. 7th edn, 2000

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