Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Birthday Candle for Randy Castillo

This morning when I got up I did something I've never done before, for anyone: I lit a candle for Randy Castillo. Today would have been his birthday.

Randy Castillo was best known as the long-time drummer for Ozzy Osbourne, but, cool as that credit is, he was so much more than that. Ask anyone who was part of the L.A. music scene in the early 80's and 90's (or who grew up around it, as I did), and they'll tell you: Randy Castillo was a legend in the very best sense of the word. And people who knew him loved him, with a capital L.

Long before he joined Ozzy's band, when it came to drumming Randy Castillo was the L.A. "go-to-guy"...a fantastic drummer and true pro who was always happy to help out a friend on a session, or even a friend of a friend. Randy Castillo played on so many recordings, I'm convinced the majority of his work remains uncredited...most likely sitting in assorted boxes of long-abandoned demos and unfinished projects of various bands that never took off. Time may have altered my memory on this somewhat, but it seems like until he got sick, Randy Castillo was always either in the studio, or out on tour.

Growing up on the perimeter of the L.A. music scene, and later working in the industry, many people I knew, or their bandmates, or their friends, or their brothers, worked with Randy Castillo, but I never met him until around 1992. Ironically, it wasn't in L.A.; while I was on vacation, a friend who was going out to visit her boyfriend on an Ozzy tour called and invited me to go along, and we were on the road for two days.  I didn't know the band, so as someone who wasn't a relative, a groupie, or working with them, and was ultimately just tagging along, I was extremely conscious of intruding on the band's space. But they were all great, especially Randy Castillo, who treated me like one of the group and made me feel like a welcome little sister.

As there always is on the road, there was much hurry-up-and-wait during those two days, and during that downtime Randy and I usually sat  together, sometimes talking, but more than anything, just observing.
For the longest time I wondered why a rock star of Randy's stature would be so nice to someone who clearly wasn't a groupie. It wasn't until after he passed away that I found out he had sisters.

As a visitor to the band's home on the road, it's not my place to invade Randy's privacy, especially since he's not here any longer, so I won't. I'll only say that Randy Castillo was a true gentleman who had the respect of everyone I met in their touring party. He had amazing, positive energy--a rare combination of humble and dynamic presence rolled into one. Around the time I met him I was reading about shamanism, and as I got farther into it, I realized that's the kind of energy he had. His energy was so warm that sitting next to him literally felt like sitting in the sun, even though we were in those cold, hard folding chairs so often found in backstage areas in those days. 

Our paths never crossed again, but because we had mutual friends and later, colleagues, I just somehow thought they would. When I found out Randy passed away from cancer I felt a huge sense of loss, not only for the music community, but knowing how much he was loved by people who knew him far better than I. 

The world needs more sunny energy like Randy Castillo's. That's why I lit the candle at 7:00 this morning. I wanted it to shine brightly, so I chose a votive candle that had maybe an hour or so left on it, in a clear glass holder that would reflect light all around the room.

I lit the candle, then I used the flame to light some Nag Champa incense. I don't know if Randy Castillo was into incense, but I always think of Nag Champa as creative incense (even though it's traditionally spiritual), because it's what I often burn when I write. In addition to being a fantastic drummer, Randy was also an amazing mixed media artist, so I lit it in honor of his creative spirit.

Now here's the weird, freaky Twilight Zone part: The Nag Champa went out, unfinished, not long after I lit it.

And that candle that looked like it only had an hour or two left on it? It's just after noon as I write this, and it's still burning brightly.

Here's hoping every musician who reads this lights a candle, too.

Happy birthday, Randy Castillo, and R.I.P. . 


© 2011-2013 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.