Oh! What It Seemed To Be
When I used to DJ oldies dances or reunions – there was no more certain way to get the reluctant husbands up and out of their chairs – with their wives – than by spinning “Theme From a Summer Place”, or “Since I Don’t Have You” or “Where or When” (take your pick – Lettermen or Dion and the Belmonts) and add to these, a Castells’ tune – either “Oh! What It Seemed To Be” or “So Thjs Is Love”.
Beyond those two sweet and nostalgic tracks, I was (and am) a sucker for nearly any Castells’ song – “Make Believe Wedding”, “Sacred”, “Little Sad Eyes” – Just loved those Era Record releases.
The Castells were yet another California vocal group – but unlike the Cascades out of San Diego – came along just a little bit earlier – and emerged from Northern California – Santa Rosa to be precise. The Cascades came together in the U.S. Navy – and the Castells were all classmates at Santa Rosa High School.
The first group included Chuck Girard, Tom Hicks, Jeff Bush, Warren Hays and Bob Ussery. Bush was not a vocalist but played piano for the group. When they went shopping for a label – their first stop was at the Los Angeles’ based Aladdin Records. It seems the Castells fancied themselves as an r&b group. While they were awaiting a response from Aladdin (encouraged when they had been well-received) – they were offered a recording contract by Era Records – also located in the L.A. area – specifically in Hollywood.
Hays bowed promptly bowed out of the group due to still attending high school and not being able to make the move to Hollywood with the other Castells. His place was taken by Joe Kelly. Era records passed on Jeff Bush’s keyboard talents opting for a studio musician, and so he was out. There would be additional lineup changes but the core was firmly set with Girard, Kelley, Ussery and Hicks for the early recording sessions.
The first taste of success came with the release of “Little Sad Eyes” breaking onto the “Bubbling Under” charts at number 101 on February 27th, 1961 and promptly disappearing the next week.
Then in May of 1961 “Sacred” jumped onto the Hot 100 charting at number 20. That inspired Era to release eight additional singles. Three more would chart: “Make Believe Wedding” – number 98 late 1961; “So This Is Love” – number 21 April of 1962; and finally “Oh! What It Seemed To Be” – number 81 in the Summer of 1962.
After the hits dried up there would be two label changes – Warner Bros., and Decca – The group decided to say their farewells in 1965. Decca released their final single a short time later in 1966.
Chuck and Joe – Hot Rod and Surf
Bitten by the fame bug, Chuck Girard and Joe Kelly continued on, hooking up with producer/song writer Gary Usher providing them with the opportunity to pursue their desire to record rhythm and blues. Decca Records obliged them and they released four tracks in June and November of 1965.
During the same time that Chuck and Joe were recording as a duo – they recorded – also on Decca – as members of “The Devons” cutting three singles all three supported again by Gary Usher. One of the tracks offered to the “Devons” was “Honda Bike” which Chuck thought was going to come out under the “Hondells” name.
Joe Kelly and Chuck Girard also recorded as members of “The Hondells” and worked as studio singers under several other surf and hot rod group names (The Four Speeds, The Competitors, The Kickstands, The Super Stocks, The Revells and many more). All of those ‘group’ recordings were supported by the famous Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” on instruments.
The Hondells’ long play covers feature friends of band member Richie Burns who sang lead when they performed live – He was unable to pose for the studio shots which were used on the various group covers.
Other “Devons” included Scottie Jackson, Ron Wilson from the Surfaris and Jim & Ron Weiser both of “The L.A. Teens”.
The Castells Discography
Era 45 – Little Sad Eyes/Romeo – January, 1961 – Number 101
Era 45 – Sacred/I Get Dreamy – May, 1961 – Number 21
Era 45 – Make Believe Wedding/My Miracle – August, 1961 – Number 98
Era 45 – The Vision of You/Stiki De Boom Boom – November, 1961
Era 45 – So This Is Love/On the Street of Tears – March, 1962 – Number 21
Era 45 – Oh! What It Seemed To Be/Stand There, Mountain – June, 1962 – Number 91
Era 45 – Echoes In the Night/Only One – September, 1962
Era 45 – Eternal Love, Eternal Spring/Clown Prince – December, 1962
Era 45 – Initials/Little Sad Eyes – January, 1963
Era 45 – Some Enchanted Evening/What Do Little Girls Dream Of – June, 1963
Warner Bros. 45 – I Do/Teardrops – March, 1964
Warner Bros. 45 – Could This Be Magic/Shinny Up Your Own Side – June, 1964
Warner Bros. 45 – Tell Her If I Could/Love Finds A Way – November, 1964
Decca 45 – An Angel Cried/Just Walk Away – August, 1965
Decca 45 – Life Goes On/I Thought You’d Like That – May, 1966
Chuck & Joe Discography
Decca 45 – Can’t Fool Me Twice/Feel So Fine (Feel So Good) – June, 1965
Decca 45 – Harlem Shuffle/I Wish You Didn’t Treat Me So Well – November, 1965
The Devons Discography
Decca 45 – Honda Bike/Free Fall – April, 1965
Decca 45 – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue/Are You Really Real – July, 1965
Decca 45 – Come On/A Little Extra Effort – January, 1966