LifeNotes: Singer-songwriter Owens “Boomer” Castleman Dies

Owens "Boomer" Castleman. Photo: Family of Owens "Boomer" Castleman

Owens “Boomer” Castleman. Photo: Family of Owens “Boomer” Castleman

Singer-songwriter Boomer Castleman died of cancer on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at age 70.

Best known as the co-writer of several songs with Michael Martin Murphey, Castleman also made his mark as a producer, guitar innovator and record-label entrepreneur.

He was born Owens Boomer Castleman in Los Angeles in 1945, but was raised in Texas. His musical career began in high school. His first collaborator was the then-unknown John Denver, with whom he toured on the folk circuit. In Los Angeles, he formed a band called The Survivors with future Monkees star Michael Nesmith.

After The Monkees became a sensation in 1966, Castleman teamed up with Murphey as the folk-pop duo The Lewis & Clarke Expedition and signed with The Monkees’ label, Colgems Records. The Lewis & Clarke Expedition charted briefly with their co-written “I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)” in 1967.

The Monkees recorded the duo’s “(What Am I Doin’) Hangin’ Round” and featured it on three of their TV show’s episodes in 1967-68. Castleman and Murphey co-starred in their own TV pilot titled The Kowboys in 1969, but a series was not put into production.

Castleman became widely known in instrumental circles for inventing the Palm Pedal in 1968. This device allows guitar players to emulate steel-guitar sounds. It is now marketed as the Bigsby Palm Pedal.

After their breakup as a singing duo, Boomer Castleman and Michael Martin Murphey continued to collaborate as writers. They co-wrote several of the songs on Murphey’s 1972 LP Geronimo’s Cadillac, including “Boy From the Country,” “You Can Only Say So Much” and “Blood Brothers.”

Their “Ft. Worth, I Love You” became a regional hit in its namesake city and inspired t-shirts, hats and coffee mugs bearing its title. “Texas Morning” and “West Texas Highway” both also became favorites in the Lone Star State. Their songs have been recorded by such Texas artists as Lyle Lovett, B.W. Stevenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Rusty Weir.

$(KGrHqF,!ocE9eGelY)JBPYzj5LzhQ--60_35In 1975, Boomer Castleman scored a mid-sized pop hit with his self-composed “Judy Mae.” Two years later, he co-produced the Meri Wilson novelty hit “Telephone Man,” and cowrote most of the songs on her subsequent album.

He relocated to Nashville in the 1970s. As a guitarist, he has backed Tammy Wynette, David Alan Coe, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, George Hamilton IV, Roy Clark, Mel Tillis, Dave Dudley, Big Al Downing, Johnny Rodriguez and Tom Jones, either on stage or in recording sessions. He also recorded as a studio backup vocalist.

As a record producer, Boomer Castleman worked with Ronnie Prophet, Mike Alan Ward, Bobby David, Kim Morrison, Rodney Lay and others. Also in Music City, he formed BNA Records and recorded a 1981 revival of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” for the imprint in 1981. Alan Jackson topped the charts with the song in 1994. Castleman sold BNA to BMG/RCA in 1993.

Other labels he headed included Legend, DeltaDisc and Amria. His other Nashville solo singles included “Holes in His Hands” and ”Personal Notes.” Personable and outgoing, he continued to perform and tour as an artist even after his cancer diagnosis. He was particularly popular as an entertainer in Texas.

Boomer Castleman is survived by daughters Anne Marie Castleman Middleton and Breck Castleman, by two granddaughters, four sisters and brother and his loyal friend Lois Hess.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. at the Grand Ole RV Resort, 708 N. Main St., Goodlettsville, Tenn. Memorial donations can be made to: Gift Processing Vanderbilt University, PMB 407727, Nashville, TN 37240-7727 or to the charity of your choice in the name of Owens Boomer Castleman.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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