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Lenny Castro is one of the world’s most in-demand percussionists, and he has done his part to inject percussion into rock and pop music.
A native of New York City, Lenny Castro moved to Los Angeles in the late 70’s where he quickly established himself as a first call percussionist in the prestigious Los Angeles studio session scene. Since then his talents have taken him to work with artists such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Nicks, Toto, Boz Scaggs, Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Mars Volta, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, OK Go, Joe Sample, John Mayall, Randy Crawford and Bette Midler to name a few.

lenny“I’ve always been into the Latin feel, because of my heritage. But I was the only kid on the block that was listening to Hendrix, classical, country and western,” he says. “Percussion can go in almost any kind of music. You have to be open-minded enough to try it.” Castro was first influenced by Armando Peraza, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, the Rascals and the Beatles. He learned by playing and watching others play at parks and beaches in New York. At the age of 15, Lenny began playing LP fiberglass congas. “Now, I gotta have wood, and I gotta have skin,” he laughs. “And the stuff that LP makes is phenomenal.” Lenny has performed recently with Little Feat, Boney James, Peter White, and on the Francis Ford Coppola film Rainmaker with Charlie Watts, Taj Mahal, and Billy Preston. On Joe Sample Trio’s Sample, he plays a kit that is part drum set and part percussion. “It’s really different, almost like having a second career,” he laughs. “I add the colors and highlights to the music, and that’s what’s fun about it.”

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Comments 43

  1. Laurent

    Dear Lenny,
    Long time no hear! Time flies! I get some news about you from Creatchy though. I hope this email finds you and your family in good health.

    1) do you get frustrated as percussion parts are generally low in the mix? One has to sometimes struggle to hear them!
    2) in your career which sessions were the most challenging in terms of playing very difficult music?
    3) in the old days, would you often discuss parts with the drummer and bass player and “arrange” the tune, or was everything written beforehand?
    4) any plan to release a solo album?

    I miss you my friend :-) certainly hope to see you again soon!

    All the very best
    Laurent

    1. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      Hello Laurent
      Long time. Sorry it took so long for me to answer. I am keeping very busy. I’m playing with a blues guitarist by the name of Joe Bonamassa.
      To answer your first question, sometimes it is a pain in the ass not to hear my percussion as loud as I would to like hear it. But that’s not my job. When I finish a session and I give them what I have it’s all up to them to do with it what they want.
      To answer your second question there have been some sessions that were more difficult than others but I love a challenge. Some are difficult because of reading somewhat difficult because you just had to play a lot of stuff but it’s all enjoyable to me
      To answer your third question usually parts would never discussed. We just seem to work things out and play. Sometimes even talk about it but not too many times unless it was something very very important that we have to work out.
      To answer your fourth question i’m still hoping to record a show album. I have a lot of songs already written I just have to set aside the time to do them. I hope I will get to it soon.
      It’s great to hear from you. I miss you too by the way I will be playing with Toto next year. I’m on the new album and it is fantastic. My love to your wife stay well my friend

  2. MHorne39

    Dear Lenny,

    You’re an awesome drummer and I had a question that you may or may not be able to help with. I live in a fairly small town in Hawaii, USA where the main music scene here is pretty much reggae. I play drums (an 8 piece double bass a the moment) and I play mostly rock and roll, a little punk, and a bit of classic rock and I’m trying to form a band. Do you have any advice on how to start getting our band’s name out there and start getting gigs? As I said before, I live in a fairly small town so there’s not too many places that have live music. The next 2 biggest towns are about 50 miles away and since I’m a sophomore ( 15 years old going to be a junior) in high school, travel is pretty tricky. Thanks in advance :)

    1. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      Hi Matt, while you’re right it’s not an easy question to answer. I’ve been to Hawaii many times to do the jazz and blues festivals there. But as far as rock gigs go you’re really in the wrong place . And you’re right you’re too young to be traveling but if and when you do you should go to places like LA or New York.in LA there’s a lot of stuff going on but there must be someplace for you guys to play in Hawaii and when and if you do find a place play there as often as possible you never know who will be there listening. You can also use YouTube. Make a video of your band and put it out there that’s a lot of people are doing now is using the Internet. Things like Facebook also you know you can put your videos on there too you never know who would watch those things. So Internet might be a good way to make connections. Or you don’t have to only do a video you could just make a recording and put it out there you never know who’s listening.

  3. Hamilton

    Hi Lenny, first of all I admire your work and all the session musicians even tough is a thing from the past now. You guys should be recognizable for your effort, knowledge and importance to the music.

    What are your most memorable sessions in the studio ? And did you know the great session percussionist Paulinho da Costa ?

    Greetings from Brasil

    1. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      Hi Hamilton, yes I do know Paulinho. We’ve done a lot of recording sessions together and we do know each other.he is a great guy and has wonderful family and is an incredible musician. As far as memorable recording sessions there are so many. It’s hard to really pick out one session that was most incredible. Every session had different musicians, different music. It was like a unique adventure every time I walked into a new studio with new musicians. I think though the most memorable one was a section that I did for Diana Ross where I met Jeff Porcaro. To me that was one of the most incredible ones not because of the music but because of the fact that when we first met it seems like we knew each other all our lives. I think we were old souls in past lives if you believe in the incarnation. Also when we recorded the song Africa that was in incredible situation. Because we were doing things without the technology that we have now without loops without sequencers and a lot of the things that we have now. It was is pretty wild.

    2. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      Part two to your question there are still some recording sessions that are still happening not as many as there used to be in the old days but there are still some recording sessions that are going on.

      1. Hamilton

        Thanks for your reply Lenny ! And yes I do believe in after life/reincarnation, we are much more than flesh and blood haha. Do you recall the name of the Diana Ross album you and Jeff played on ?

        Cheers

        1. Hamilton

          I would like to add one more question to the previous one : I recently listened to Leo Sayer’s Thunder In My Heart album, simply amazing …and you played on that one ! Anyway do you recall those sessions ?

          All the best

          1. Lenny Castro
            Lenny Castro

            I don’t remember too much about the sessions. It was a long time ago. I remember the studio Studio 55. And I think it was me and Jeff Porcaro playng. I don’t remember too much else sorry

        2. Lenny Castro
    1. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      It’s definitely not the water. I am a second-generation musician so I got my talent some of my talent from my dad. He was a keyboard player in the salsa circuit. I have been playing since I was three years old I guess you can call me a natural am I understand grooves a lot better than most people do it’s really weird. So playing with Jeff Porcaro was an easy thing because both of us were natural musicians and second-generation musicians. I think you know that Jeff’s dad is a drummer still playing and a wonderful guy. I’ll tell you a little story about how Jeff and I met. I was doing a Diana Ross recording session and he was on it. And when we first met we looked at each other and it was like we knew each other all our lives even though we had just met this very strange and at that point at the end of the session he asked me if I wanted a gig. And I said sure who’s wit. And he said it was with Boz Scaggs. I didn’t know who that was. And it was funny cause Steve Lukather and I both join the band at the same time. We went to audition for what we thought was an audition and we set up our equipment and we played and then Boz left and Lukather and I looked at each other and asked Jeff do we get the job. And he said you had a gig before you even came in today and he laughed. I miss Jeff a lot. We became very close not only musically but personally we kind of ran together for a long time he was coolest. Playing with him live and in the studio was always a lot of fun we had a bond that went beyond any kind of verbal talking we could look at each other I know exactly what we were thinking it was kind of scary and away.

    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      Good question Tim. As a matter fact I just finished doing perc overdubs on the first batch of tunes for the new Toto CD about a week ago. The new stuff sounds great. getting to your question, Luke and I are talking about me going out with them next year. Trying to do both gigs, Toto and Joe Bonamassa. We are working it out.

    2. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      Hi Tim, it looks like I will be playing with toto next year. I just got contacted by their management and it looking pretty good. I just have to find a substitute for the Joe Bonnamassa gig that I’ve been doing all year. I don’t want to lose that gig because it’s a great gig. I love the way he plays guitar.he is a great guy too

  4. Rhinosaurus_Rex

    Hi again!

    First of all I had to ask how the tour’s going? No explosions or lights going off I hope?!

    Anyways, what I really meant to ask was what can I do to improve as a musician?

    Are you into people contacting you about opportunities, gigs, promoting, soliciting and just letting you check out their things?

    If someone came up to you and asked for ONE PIECE of advice about the music world, what would you say?

    And sorry for all the questions, but if you could write your 16 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

    1. Lenny Castro
      Lenny Castro

      I would say play play play as much as possible practice practice practice listen to a lot of music different style. There was so much available right now the Internet insane. Insane in a good way.

  5. Ray Stewart

    Lenny, don’t know if you remember me, but I came out to LA a few years ago and worked personally with you in a studio there. I have been doing good, and had an opportunity to record with Oleta Adam here in Kansas City. I just wanted to check on you, see how life was in your world. I hope all is well with you.

    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      RAY, wow, great to hear from you bro. Its great to hear you’re doing so good.That is so cool you got to play with Oleta. Her and her husband are such beautiful people. You’re a lucky guy. Oleta is one incredible singer and piano player too. Not to mention beautiful. I’m proud of ya. I hope the short time we spent together helped you in your playing. Let me know if you need any other tips. I’m very happy you contacted me. I am currently playing with a blues guitarist by the name of Joe Bonamassa. He is great. So right now I’m in Germany starting a European tour here. We might be coming your way later this year. If we do, we have to hook up and get some BBQ and come to the gig if you are available. I will let you know. Stay cool brother. Much love to you and your family. Stay in touch. You know where to find me.

  6. Santts

    Hi Lenny,

    This is Santts,27, singer piano player from Salvador Brazil! It is so cool to pass by and ask question … I was in Paris 4 years ago, and one of the nights I was reading my set list of songs, and when I looked around there was Charlie Walts, Ben waters a boogie piano player from London, and Axel a german piano player, they were doing the ABC of boogie woogie! I had a chance to catch few word on the elevator of the hotel in Paris! Next day Ben Waters day, Ben and Axel came to see me perform, and I did a song with them both, charlie wasnt there!
    Lenny, passing by to ask if perheps it is cool to leave a link for you of one of my videos! To me id be great to hear from ya, always nice! Please let me know, the link is bellow! All the best

    Santts video > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2DuF3XfaKw

    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      Hi Santts27
      Wow, yu were lucky to had some heavy hitters at your gig. I’m in Germany right now so the link you sent me won’t work. I’ll check it out when I get back stateside on Mar.11th. I’m on the road right now with Joe Bonamassa in Europe. Thanks for sending it. Its nice to know that the art of boogie piano style is being kept alive. I will contact you when I see the video. Stay well. Contact me anytime.

      1. Santts

        Hello Lenny,

        Thank you very much for answering, Im Santts, 27 is my age ahha! Ohhh how bad, I know the links to my videos on youtube do not work on Germany! I will write you back on March 11th! For me Itd be a great pleasure to hear ur thoughts on the videos!
        All the best from Brazil,

        Santts,

        1. Lenny
          Lenny

          Hey Santts
          Its my pleasure to answer any thing you have. The point of this website is to encourage and inspire. Aww I remember being 27. Good times for me. I am looking forward to seeing your video. I have a little secret to share with you……. I have never been to Brazil or south America for that matter. I would love to go there some day to do some clinics and experience South America specially Brazil. Take care and we will talk soon. Abrazos!!!

          1. Santts

            Ohhhh how nice,

            You gotta come to Brazil!! Im sure you’ll fell like home here! I must say Brazilian people education is like Europian, american, I mean the bases, except that we much less formal, there for when you meet the people it gives you a instant contact with them, that makes feel very confortable! Being in Brazil, specially im Salvador, Bahia is all about puting ur box swimmers on, go to the beach, and listen to some great music!
            27 for me is the age of my first CD! ehahah! Came out 10 days ago, with a bit of modern jazz influence, R&B and rock, and ofcourse Brazilian music! Basicaly saying, im showing my face to the world ehah! And I’m already happy for being so far but at the same time so close by exchanging messages with ya,
            I’ve have managed to send you a link you can hear the audio Lenny! Soundcloud is available to see in germany! So here it is … this is a Bob Marley song you might know, I put on my cd, we change the string arrange for a more african beat! Let me know if you can see it, its bellow this message!
            All the best, and I keep in touch,
            Santts Bob song > https://soundcloud.com/santts/redemption-song-bob-marley

            Santts,

          2. Lenny
            Lenny

            Hey Santts Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I just listened to the song on the link you sent me. Very nice my Brother! It is a great song to cover and you do it very well. I like the interplay between the perc and the drums. Thank you for sending me that link. You have a great voice too. Good luck with your first CD. Continue on. Maybe someday I will be playing with you. I hope to get to South America soon. Specially Brazil. One of my favorite dishes is Fagoada. I hope I spelled it right. Take care and we will talk soon. Much Love.

    2. Lenny Castro
    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      The Stones are a great bunch. I’m very proud to know them and play with them. They are not snobbish or stuck up. Mick always has a thousand questions about the different percussion thing I us. He played a lot of maracas and tamb on his recording so he is a bit of a percussionist himself. Keith and Charlie are gentlemen and very funny guys.They all are regular guys to me.

      1. Rhinosaurus_Rex

        Thanks Lenny! Are you aware of the Otis Redding version of Satisfaction? It’s the best. Neither I nor you play trumpet (I’m a piano-player, though that’s a broad term) but the rhythm section is HARD!

        Also any ideas on Davey? I’ve been asking around since Davey hasn’t been answering very much recently/quickly as before. Maybe someone’s on tour…

        1. Lenny
          Lenny

          Hey RR
          I think I remember Davy saying something about getting ready to tour. I know how that can be. Always before a tour you have to do a million things. It gets real hectic. The family wants time with you, the dog wants time with you. I know my dog does. so please forgive Davy if he does not answer quickly, he will soon.
          As for Otis, well, you had to have a strong rhythm section to support a voice like his. And his energy too He was NOT mess’in around. Take care!!

  7. Michael

    Hi Lenny, when and where are you playing in Southern California? Are you playing the watermark anytime soon?
    My lady and I had a great time seeing you at cafe cordial a last year and we look forward to seeing you again.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Michael

    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      I will be at Cafe Codiale again this Fri. nite playing with Robin DiMaggio and a singer named Tyra. I also will be on the Grammys playing with Ringo. That is quite an honor for me. I will be doing the Watermark possible next week and Feb.

        1. Lenny
    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      It was ground breaking for me. I had never seen that type of thing done in a studio like we did.I just followed what the guys were doing. I never thought it would have turned into such a global anthem. AND NOW to see machines that do that with the touch of a few buttons is wild to think about. I did know it was special but how special, I could not even guess.

    1. Lenny
    1. Lenny
      Lenny

      One of the funniest moments was Toto at Octoberfest in Munchen. WOW, very funny. Lots of beer and rides. Everytime we went on a ride it would almost come to a halt but then startup again and the announcer would say” one more time for TOTo” Me and Jeff got sick one one ride that we thought would never stop. And I think my guys will call me for there next CD.

    2. Lenny Castro

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