Back in 1964, George Theiss was watching The Ed Sullivan Show when The Beatles made their first American TV appearance. It was a life-changing moment for Theiss, who decided to form his own band, The Castiles, and who, on learning that his friend, Bruce Springsteen, played the guitar, asked the young musician to join his band. Here, we’ve uncovered a fantastic live recording of some of the covers Bruce Springsteen’s early group performed between 1964 and 1968, including inventive renditions of ‘Eleonor Rigby’ by The Beatles, ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix and ‘Suzanne’ by Leonard Cohen.
Although The Castiles are often described as Springsteen’s first proper band, that’s technically not the case. That title, if we’re being pedantic, belongs to The Rogues – a short-lived group that played a few shows and then dissolved. After the breakup, Springsteen joined the Castiles after George Theiss, who was romantically interested in Springsteen’s sister, visited his home and found him strumming an acoustic guitar in his bedroom. This recording, which features the luke-warm applause of a small but clearly dedicated audience, was recorded live at The Left Foot venue in New Jersey.
The Castiles, who took their name from a popular shampoo brand, was originally comprised of Paul Popkin on guitar and vocals, George Theiss (also on guitar and vocals), Frank Marziotti on bass, and Bart Haynes on drums. Bruce joined in early 1967, shortly after Bart Haynes joined the army and was drafted to Vietnam, where he was killed in action on October 22nd, 1967 in Quang Tri.
The Castiles were managed by Tex Vineyard, a local man who bought the group equipment and let them rehearse in his living room. He also acted as the band’s booking agent, finding them gigs at local benefits and high school graduation dances, such as Bruce’s own Class of ’67 dance on June 9th, 1967. That same year, however, The Castiles performed a series of gigs at New York’s iconic Cafe Wha? Vineyard’s work with The Castiles also led to Bruce Springsteen’s first studio recording session on May 18th, 1966.
The Castiles bagged an hour of recording time at ‘Mr. Music Inc’ in Bricktown, New Jersey, which they used to record two songs: ‘Baby I’ and ‘That’s What You Got’. Unfortunately, neither of these tracks feature on The Castiles Live at The Left Foot. Indeed, only a few copies were ever pressed and only four are known to exist today. However, thanks to some industrious bootleggers in the 1990s, they were eventually released on The Bruce Springsteen Story Vol. 2.
Make sure you check out The Castiles Live at The Left Foot below.