Over the next weeks I am going to on occasion talk about some of my old experiences with a dear friend, and a great band, Rob Cassels, AKA Rob Castles. Rob finally has a web site up and going, along and will have in the near future some of the old songs, videos and a lot more. You can visit the official Rob Cassels site by going to http://www.robcassels.com/
Truth is, I love this guy as you can tell from the following. I am honored to call him friend, and honored to know that the band is making a comeback. For music historians this will be a big deal. Some of the old players are with Rob, and hopefully we can plug in together along the way. His music has been incredibly respected from the likes of Marshall Tucker Band, and numerous others. Read the following, then if a member of MySpace send a friends invitation to him. This is all new to Rob and he is getting things up and going.
I did the following as a tribute that was going to be a part of the re release of the 4 Albums. Not only does it say something about one of the great musicians of our time, it says something about doing things with quality. Go to the web site, listen to a sampling of music, and realize that in a few weeks you can listen and see more on the web site. Until then you can also send a friends request to www.myspace.com/robcassels While there, tell him Mike Furches sent you. You can also go to my MySpace page at www.myspace.com/mikefurches to see all of the old photos I have just posted.
Now to that tribute.
The year was 1978 and I had just become a new Christian. Life was difficult. I was living on my own and missing the old days of Rock N Roll I had grown up with. After becoming a new Christian, there wasn’t anything I was aware of that would satisfy my thirst. I had a new girlfriend and we had become aware of a festival in Myrtle Beach South Carolina called The Son Festival. It was there my life would change.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard of Christian Rock Music. My first experience was with Larry Norman, and while I loved his music it just didn’t satisfy the taste for the Southern Roots Rock I had become so accustomed to while growing up in Johnson City Tennessee. The summer of 78 would prove to be one of the most satisfying summers of my life.
I’ll never forget all of the people performing at this festival from Barry McGwire to Mickey and Becky, Christian artists abound, but I didn’t get my thirst quenched for real Southern Rock until late on a Friday evening. I’ll never forget the evening concert on that particular Friday night. Taking the stage was The Rob Cassels Band.
I can still see and envision Robs’ long dark wavy hair. He not only sounded like Leon Russell he sort of looked like him except with black hair. Rob kicked off with music from his soon to be released album Evening Pastoral and I was enthralled. The jazzy southern tunes were phenomenal and I was more than impressed with his ability not only as a musician, but also as a performer. I would return to the Son Festival again the next year, to once again be impressed by The Rob Cassels Band. To this day, after literally thousands of concerts, his concerts there are still the most memorable and touching concerts I have ever attended.
Later on in 1979 I attended Tabor College in Hillsboro Kansas. It was while there that I had begin to promote concerts across Kansas. I always knew that if given the opportunity I would bring Rob and his band to Kansas. It wasn’t long into my sophomore year that I decided to have Rob do a concert series. Not many people came but this became my first professional experience of working with Rob. The band was loud, rowdy, tight, and of all things fun. I had worked with other bands in the past but was amazed at the love for ministry these guys had. They had released their second album, Kamikaze Christian, and the professional work that had been included on the first album continued here.
Rob always had a knack of getting the best of the best on his albums. It is a shame because Rob likely had the best albums technically and from a musician’s perspective of any ever put out within the Christian Industry. His albums included members of Blackfoot, The Marshall Tucker Band, and numerous others, including according to many, the best guitar player alive, Steve Morse. Rob had developed a friendship with some of the best musicians in the business; forget about the Christian industry, these were the best in any industry. As a result, the guitar work and quality production on his albums were second to none. To this day, I still say that the greatest tragedy in the history of Christian Music Awards is that Rob was never recognized for his groundbreaking work. His records garnished the respect of top notch individuals in the music world but went largely ignored in the Christian industry. When giving a listen to the work technically on these albums one can’t but agree with the impact and quality these albums had on the music industry. It is why up until now they have sold for a small fortune on the collectors market.
It was during the second series of concerts in Kansas that Rob and David Hosler invited me to come to South Carolina and work with the band. A few months later, I would start my Christian ministry working as Rob Cassels Band, Ministry Coordinator. With the success of the second album Kamikaze Christian, we would now begin to experience success with the third album, Off The Wall. Having some of the songs chart highly we knew deep down inside that the band desired more, more than just the typical concerts at Christian venues.
At that time, the band, which is how the band would come to be known by most consisted of Rob on keyboards, piano, guitar and vocals, Kent Redd on Bass guitar and vocals, David Hosler on lead guitar and vocals. A friend of mine from college, Mark Ediger would replace long time drummer and friend Mark Childress. From 1985 until late 1988 the band would lay the ground work for what many would consider the first Christian Band to cross over into the non Christian world successfully. That didn’t come without a cost though. Early on, many in the Christian industry renounced the work the band was doing, and there would even be times that some would protest and boycott the band.
Rob Cassels Band had been playing almost non stop, but in return, just like many in the Christian industry, was playing before few non Christians, and getting paid even less. It became difficult to tour with a large truck and trailer, and a touring bus, the expenses continued to mount and after awhile, with the input from the band I recommended that we start praying about going into the non Christian market. It was here that the band would lay the foundation for many bands to come.
In the early days we agreed to play primarily non Christian venues. We still played Christian venues but the primary target area was non Christian venues. From AJ’s Rock N Roll Emporium, to The Crazy Horse Cabaret in Nova Scotia, the band played almost non stop up and down the Eastern Seaboard. In 1988 those efforts paid off. The band after working with many groups in the non Christian field began to have some success. At times the band played with the likes of The Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas, Joan Jett, Steppenwolf, and many others. The band at my suggestion changed its name from The Rob Cassels Band to Rob Castles. This was to bring an emphasis on the band as opposed to the individual but also to help break away from the association the band had with the Christian industry.
That effort didn’t take long to produce some success. It wasn’t long before such bands as The Tragically Hip, and Jackyl were opening up for Rob Castles. Rob Castles had become a staple on the weekly top grossing shows according to Performance and Poll Star Magazines. In 1988 the band had the top grossing show in North America in theaters 2,500 and under, The Judds and Black Sabbath followed respectively. Rob Castles also had three of the top 10 grossing shows in North America in that year in clubs 800 and under. From military bases to large club venues, the band was packing them into various venues.
Over the years, I have never forgotten about Rob Cassels. While the band went through several incarnations, the driving force was always Rob. Seldom has anyone ever garnished my respect as did this man. I have stated for years, and still do, that I believed in him and his ministry so much that if he ever went back on the road, I would quit what I was doing and go out and do all I could to help him. He loved God and his audience that much.
As I have become involved in various ministries and vocations over the years, I am prouder of none more than my association with Rob Cassels Band and later Rob Castles. We were way ahead of our time and it is a shame that others haven’t heard or seen this man or heard this band. Hopefully with the re-release of this material those that love Christian music and its history will get a listen to one of the true pioneers in Christian Music. If you love Southern Rock and honest content, you will love this band. Sit back, turn up the stereo and listen to the roots of Christian Rock. Not just great Christian Rock though, great music period. You’re in for a treat, I promise you that.
Now to see a song we had chart at #1 on American Rock Countdown, and go into light rotation on MTV and Heavy Rotation on other video channels back in the day, double click on the video below. If the video don't appear, just click on the link.
Off The Wall Rob Cassels Band
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