Albert Castiglia: "I don't take any shit, and I owe it all to Junior Wells."

Albert Castiglia playing an electric guitar in a garden.
Albert Castiglia: road-hardened hound dog.

As well as being the highlight of his sixth album Big Dog, Get Your Ass In The Van could easily be Albert Castiglia’s mission statement. Whether cutting his teeth with legendary harp maniac Junior Wells in the 90s, or carving out his solo career in the post-millennium, the Florida bandleader’s ass has rarely been out of it. “I’m 46 years old,” he says. “I’ve been doing music a long time. It’s been a long road to the middle.”

What artists inspired this new record?

Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Luther Allison and Johnny Winter. These guys broke the rules and set the rules of what blues is, was and could be. They played it traditionally, they rocked it out and they funked it up. They could be tender and they could be tough. They played with reckless abandon. I wanted to capture that vibe.

So tell us about Get Your Ass In The Van.

We live in a very strange world today. It’s become more about being famous than about being a successful musician. I’ve come across young musicians who have only been doing it for a short time who complain about how unfair life is and how they should be rich and famous right away. But music is hard work. Get your ass in the van. Pay some dues and hit the road.

What lyrical themes came up?

I wrote Somehow with Cyril Neville. It’s about society and how we treat the homeless, the poor and the displaced. Let’s Make Love In The Morning is self explanatory. What The Hell Was I Thinking I wrote about making bad decisions, promising not to make them again and continuing to repeat them. I’m guilty as charged. My bad decisions don’t hurt anybody but me, so I can write about them with humour.

How was working with Junior Wells?

I loved every minute, the good, the bad, the ugly. The whole experience was fun, but it could be tough. There was a pecking order in the band and I was the least tenured member. A bit of hazing came along with that. I kept my mouth shut and took a bit of shit from the veteran guys, but learned a hell of a lot. Twenty years later, I don’t take shit from anybody, and I owe it to Junior.

Any favourite memories of him?

We played on a big blues cruise. At the break, Junior and I went to the bar and he talked to me about his early years playing with Muddy Waters and Earl Hooker. After that, I had to walk him back and get ready for the second set. There was a huge casino between the bar and the venue, full of lovely ladies. Junior wanted to talk to each and every one of those women.

Big Dog is out now on Ruf.