Limin’, jammin’ an’ talkin’ shit

Castro gone through.
Gerald Irish, best known by all of us as Castro, passed away last night. This will come as very sad news indeed to all those who knew him and those who knew him in the pan world will be hurting this morning.
Because Castro was a ‘character’ and so damn unique.
Playing congas and bass pan in my father’s band he’s been a family friend from my youth, and he would have sussed me out very early on as a very suitable candidate for his particular brand of corruption. And so I was. In 1977 and still a teenager, I found myself sharing a cabin with Castro- a man my father’s age- on a Caribbean cruise gig. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun rooming with another musician since, to be honest. The late night drinking, the cabin partying- need I say more?
I’ve toured with him several times since and the pattern was all too familiar. Wherever his room was, that was the room to go to after the gig. There would always be rum and wine and music and if there was a kitchen in the vicinity he would cook for you. And boy- as a cook, his hand was sweet!
Back home in his yard in Hendon he was exactly the same man. His house was always open and all his ‘pardners’ (and we were many!) had a free pass to come over at any time to lime and to drink- or ‘fire one!’ as he used to put it. Then after you’d fixed your drink (he never poured one for you- that would be rude in his eyes because he would then be the one dictating the measure!), you might have a little jam. With a tenor pan permanently set up in his living room, all the brightest and best tenor players like Rudi, Anise and Miguel would regularly ‘take a knock’ at Castro’s. And with the drinking and sometimes the jamming there was the inevitable shit talk. ‘Stro was a master of it. He often played devil’s advocate and I rarely knew 100% whether he was being serious or not when making his more outrageous contributions. He did so love what Brits would call a ‘wind up’.
Then having got everyone drinking and talking nonsense he would cook for you- no matter that you had just turned up on his doorstep and he might not have shopped recently. Whatever he had in the kitchen- even a tin of sardines- he would prepare and cook up something very ‘soulful’ for you. And you were always encouraged to have seconds. ‘Go on, man. Tighten up!’, he would say. On my personal favourite occasion he prepared a delicious roast bake at four in the morning. He was simply the best host. Ever.
He’s been bravely fighting serious illness for at least 2 years now and as the unofficial social secretary of Pan Nectar and the gigging pan fraternity, he’s been less able to fulfil his duties. But I last saw him a week ago and I had a drink in my hand, which is how I think he would have liked to see me for the final time.
Castro gone tru. And I’m damn jealous of the panmen on the other side.

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