Jimmy Castor dead at 71; ’70s songs became popular among sampling hip-hop artists

Jimmy Castor, a singer, saxophonist, percussionist and bandleader whose novelty songs and funk grooves brought him wide popularity in the 1970s and were later sampled for hip-hop records, died of cardiac arrest Jan. 16 in a hospital in Henderson, Nev. He was 71.

The death was confirmed by his son, Jimmy Castor Jr.

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As leader of the Jimmy Castor Bunch, the elder Castor combined funk and adolescent humor with such novelty songs as “Troglodyte (Cave Man),” a No. 6 Billboard pop hit in 1972, and “The Bertha Butt Boogie” two years later. Mr. Castor’s records featured a recurring cast of characters, including a caveman who chants the mantra “gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman,” and the irrepressible, full-figured dancer Bertha Butt.

He covered a wide range of styles during his career — doo-wop, Latin jazz, funk — and this led to his nickname, “the Everything Man.” His 1966 hit “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You” helped popularize the Latin soul sound that came from the convergence of Latin jazz and rhythm-and-blues in Harlem and came in the wake of similar hits by Joe Cuba and Ray Barretto.

Writing in the New York Times in 1988, music critic Robert Palmer said that Mr. Castor was “something of a broad humorist” in style and that his “band cooked mightily, projecting verve and style with its crisply interlocking rhythms.”

Mr. Castor’s most lasting influence was through sampling — the process, mostly in hip-hop music, where a snippet of music from one recording is featured on a later recording.

As one of the first performers to sue over the process, he pursued Beastie Boys for a sample of his “The Return of Leroy (Part One)” on their 1986 song “Hold It! Hit It!” His son said the case was settled out of court, and that Mr. Castor received a percentage on 7 million copies sold.

“It wasn’t really about the money,” said Castor Jr. “He really wanted to set some kind of principle.”

In fact, he later derived more income from the sampling of his music than from sales of his own records.

“Hip-hop has been fairly good to me,” he told the Village Voice in 2004. “In the beginning it wasn’t, when people like the Beastie Boys just raped my music. C’mon man, as L.L. Cool J said to me one day, ‘That’s like taking someone’s vintage car out of the driveway and just driving it away!’ When they pay, I love it.”

The title track of his 1972 album “It’s Just Begun,” was prolifically sampled for a dance sequence in the movie “Flashdance” (1983) and later by a range of performers including 2 Live Crew, the Spice Girls and actor Mark Wahlberg during his earlier career as Marky Mark. Other Castor records have been sampled by Kanye West and Mos Def.

James Walter Castor was born Jan. 23, 1940, in the New York City borough of Manhattan. He spent his teenage years in the Washington Heights neighborhood, where his friends included Frankie Lymon, lead singer of the doo-wop group the Teenagers. Mr. Castor had a similar, adolescent tenor voice and filled in with the group when Lymon couldn’t make engagements.

With his own group, Jimmy and the Juniors, he wrote and recorded the song “I Promise to Remember” in 1956. When a Lymon cover version of the song became a big hit, Mr. Castor used the royalties to move his family into a bigger apartment.

The Lymon connection continued later in the 1990s, when Mr. Castor briefly sang lead with a reformed Teenagers.

Survivors include his wife, Sandi Almedia of Henderson; four children; and eight grandchildren.

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