Mighty Joe Castro was recently invited to write an essay for American Blues Scene about the Rockabilly Against Racism sticker movement he started. You can read the full article here.
Mighty Joe Castro (of Mighty Joe Castro & the Gravamen) is seeking to inspire change with vintage sounds, not vintage values
“I first started making Rockabilly Against Racism stickers in August of 2019, shortly after hearing the news of the El Paso shooting. At the time, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it – what amount of hatred inspires someone to drive an hour away and open fire on a random assortment of unarmed strangers because of their race? It was the cold premeditatedness of the action that broke my heart.
Over the previous few years, I had watched President Trump and others continue to stoke the fires of racial hatred in America. It was divide and conquer and, like many, I felt helpless. But being an artist, I understood that you must combat negative propaganda with positive propaganda.
The idea was inspired by Joe Strummer / The Clash and, more specifically, the legendary Rock Against Racism gigs that they were a part of in the 1970s. For me, the beauty of early rock-n-roll lies in the synergy and cross-pollination of different musical styles and cultures – the twang of country music mixed with that rhythm and blues boogie, combined with the passionate fire of gospel music and the soulful harmonies of doo-wop. It’s Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. Bo Diddley and Ritchie Valens. This music helped break down the walls of segregation in the south and paved the way for the 1960s.
Our band is based in Philadelphia, where punks once referred to the rockabilly scene as the “skinhead retirement community.” It’s 2020 and, unfortunately, that scene is still littered with images of the Confederate flag. Now I’ve heard people claim the use of that flag is about southern pride and rebellion, not racism. I don’t buy it.
A real rebel doesn’t need a flag – they make their own. And that’s what the Rockabilly Against Racism sticker is for us – a new flag.
A real rebel doesn’t need a flag – they make their own. And that’s what the Rockabilly Against Racism sticker is for us – a new flag. We needed to set ourselves apart and let everyone know that while we celebrate the sound and style of the 1950s, we’re not living in the past. We’re taking that classic 1957 Chevy and putting a hybrid electric engine in it. Vintage sounds, not vintage values.
So I handed the stickers out at our shows and put the message out on social media that I’d mail a few to anyone who sent their address. Since then, I’ve distributed a few thousand all across the states as well as Europe, Australia, South America and Asia. And with every batch, I include a hand written Thank You note in an effort to personally acknowledge people and begin to build a real sense of community.
People asked for a Facebook group, so we got that going as a way for bands, promoters and fans to connect and work toward making positive change. I offered the sticker design free of charge to anyone who wanted to use it – the only stipulation being that they couldn’t make a profit off of it. Everything must be given out for free or sold for cost. A group in Germany started distributing shirts and patches all over Europe and a collective of vintage vendors began sending stickers out with every order.
People are printing stickers and buttons in Texas, Tennessee, Las Vegas and elsewhere. We had tentative plans to organize several Rockabilly Against Racism concerts to raise money for different organizations, but COVID-19 quickly hit the pause button on that. It will happen at some point though.
I am under no illusions that this effort is a miracle cure to fix a major systemic problem. My hope though, moving forward, is that when some young kid discovers this music, and starts going to shows, that they’ll see the Rockabilly Against Racism sticker on the band’s bass guitar or some patches on the jackets of audience members and realize that they are welcome. It’s an inclusive scene that we’re building. This isn’t meant to solve the problem – it’s a spark to inspire people to make a difference.”
Philly-based singer-songwriter Mighty Joe Castro would fit right in at the Twin Peaks roadhouse. His retro-rock stylings channel the uneasy underbelly of 1950s American life; think equal parts film noir and Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing,” a vibe that perfectly coalesces in his new music video for “There Are No Secrets Here.” – John Vettese, WXPN’s The Key.
We are pleased to announce the release of our brand new single, There Are No Secrets Here. It is the first song from our upcoming debut album, Come On Angels, which will drop July 31 and is available for streaming on all platforms. The song was recorded at Miner St Recordings in Philadelphia and produced by Brian McTear.
“This was filmed during the COVID19 quarantine. I went total DIY and shot the performance footage myself one night at my house with an iPhone and three flashlights, using old mic stands as tripods/light stands. I even gave myself a haircut the night before. I love old B-movies, so I incorporated scenes from two vintage films – Dementia (aka Daughter From Hell – 1958) and Carnival of Souls (1962) – both are public domain. Due to social distancing, I couldn’t film or get footage from the band (our drummer doesn’t have a cell phone or camera) so I came up with the idea of using still photos in old magazine articles. I really prefer working with limitations. It keeps you focused and forces you to get creative, where an unlimited amount of options can be a hard river to cross. I hope you dig it.”
Stay tuned for more single releases in the coming weeks. And to keep up to date, please follow Mighty Joe Castro and the Gravamen on spotify, instagram, facebook and youtube.
“Come On Angels” we chanted and, in the end, we got lucky. After spending the winter months recording our new album, trying our best to ignore the pandemic slowly blossoming over our shoulders, we strolled out of Miner St Recording, final mixes in hand, two days before the quarantine was declared.
So we are pleased to announce that we will be releasing our debut record Come On Angels! on July 31st on vinyl, CD and all streaming platforms.
The 10 new tracks were recorded at Miner St Recording in Philadelphia, PA and produced by Brian McTear (Sharon Van Etten, Dr. Dog, War on Drugs, Dead Milkmen). The band is really proud of this record and we can’t wait for you to hear it.
The track listing for the album:
There Are No Secrets Here
Come On Angels!
Cold and Bitter Tears
Whispering Hell (The Finish Line)
For Every Setting Sun
June (90 Degrees)
Why Not Just Give In This Time
Better Hold Tight
You’ve Got It All (So What Are You Looking For?)
We’ll be dropping singles from the album over the coming weeks so please do us a solid and follow the band on Spotify.
Happy New Year friends. Thanks for all your support this past year. 2020 is ours for the taking so let’s make things happen.
The band has just started working on our debut full length album at Miner St. Recording in Philadelphia. It will be produced by Brian McTear (Sharon Van Etten, Dr. Dog, War on Drugs, Dead Milkmen). If all goes well, the 10 song record should be released this summer on vinyl, CD and all streaming platforms. Stay tuned for more information, including new music videos.
We are happy to announce that Mighty Joe Castro and the Gravamen will be performing at the 7th Annual Rockabillaque Festival . More info below:
Announcing the 7th Annual Rockabillaque on Saturday, November 9, 2019. This free to attend, action-packed day of Classic Cars, Vintage Bikes, Live Music, Pin-Up’s, Tattoo’s, Cocktails, Brews, Contests, Block Party and more has become the biggest event of its kind in the Carolina’s!
This year brings an epic Classic Car & Vintage Bike Show (over 300 Cars & Bikes (expanded for more vehicles), Even more Live Music with over 35 national, regional and international bands, over Six Outdoor Music Stages, Contests including Pin-Up, Beard & Mustache, Mr. Man, Tattoo, Doggie & Me and more, an Expanded Schedule including more event the week of and a Headliners Showcase on Sunday, November 10th, a bigger Merchant Market with more Vendors than ever before, a Kid’s Section with activities, contests and performers, a Beer Pairing Garden! Plus more to be announced in next couple of months!
We have another new sticker available – Rockabilly Against Racism. Grab one from the band at any of our upcoming shows. Or send us an email and Mighty Joe will drop one in the mail for you free of charge. Please help spread the message!
And please follow Mighty Joe Castro and the Gravaem on all our social media platform:
Doors at the Ardmore Music Hall open at 7:30pm. The Gravamen hit the stage at 8:00 PM sharp.
The Squirrel Nut Zippers began their musical journey in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the mid 1990’s, as a musician’s escape from the cookie cutter world of modern rock radio at the time. Jimbo Mathus along with drummer/percussionist Chris Phillips formed the band as a casual musical foray among friends and family in the area. It wasn’t long before the band’s quirky mix of Jazz chords, Folk music, and Punk Rock leanings spread out of the region and attracted a national audience.
Between 1995-2000 the Squirrel Nut Zippers sold over three million albums. Their watershed album, Hot (1996) was recorded in the heat of New Orleans, fueled by a smoldering mix of booze and a youthful hunger to unlock the secrets of old world jazz. This passion mixed with Klezmer, Blues, Americana and random bits of contemporary music became the bands signature style. At the time, there were few other bands inhabiting this space. The album would eventually break free of any “jazz” stereotypes and land on commercial radio, taking the band to remarkable heights for what was essentially an anti-establishment sound.
Years later and through chronicles of every kind, the band has emerged from a lengthy recording hiatus, reinvigorated, reinvested, and rejuvenated. “It’s not a reunion, it’s a revival” has been the battle cry for Mathus since reforming the group in 2016. With an all star cast of New Orleans musicians, the band breathed new life in to the old material, and inspired Mathus to return to the studio to reignite the band’s unique, enigmatic sound.
The result, is the first Squirrel Nut Zippers studio album in eighteen years titled Beasts of Burgundy. A return to form, the album embraces the city that first inspired the group. Enlisting Mike Napolitano — who recorded all the bands previous albums — was a magical first step in the process. “Nappys Dugout,” located in the Marigny, resembled the original style and feel of Kingsway, the now gone studio where the Zippers recorded much of their catalog. The Dugout, located in the home of Mike Napolitano and Ani DiFranco, created the perfect environment to inspire the original feeling that so excited Mathus at the very beginning of the Zippers long career.
HPUSA presents Koffin Kats at Bar XIII
Bar XIII1706 Philadelphia Pike WIlmington, DE19809
w/ The Krank Daddies + Mighty Joe Castro and the Gravamen