Boomer Castleman (1945-2015) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer and inventor hailing from Texas. Oldies music fans will remember him for his lone chart hit “Judy Mae” during the mid-70s music era, leading him to become a one-hit wonder. He had also been a part of the 60s pop duo called the Lewis and Clarke Expedition. Apart from performing, Castleman was also the inventor of the palm pedal, which allows guitarists to players to form pedal steel-style string bends.
Early life and career
Pop and rock singer, songwriter, musician and inventor Boomer Castleman was born Owen Castleman in Farm Branch (or Farmers Branch), Texas, on July 18, 1945.
During his teenage years Castleman relocated to Los Angeles, California. While staying there he began to perform at several clubs including Ledbetter’s, a West L.A. club owned by singer-songwriter Randy Sparks.
As a member of The Lewis & Clarke Expedition
Castleman first tasted some commercial success when he performed under the stage name of Boomer Clarke. During the 1960s he teamed up with another singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey and together they formed a duo called The Lewis & Clarke Expedition. They were later signed to the Colgems label in 1967, and became one of the imprint’s main acts besides the popular duo The Monkees.
The Lewis & Clarke Expedition managed to churn out a Billboard Hot 100 hit with “I Feel Good (I Feel Bad),” which was one of the duo’s singles for Colgems.
As a solo artist
Castleman was a multi-talented artist who had no second thoughts of trying something new. Following the end of Lewis & Clarke Expedition, Castleman struck out on his own again, but this time he recorded for a handful of labels including GRT and Capitol.
Castleman achieved the biggest chart success of this singing career with “Judy Mae,” whose story is quite controversial: a young man and his father who marries a young woman after a year of being widowed (if you want to find out, check out the lyrics of “Judy Mae” on one of the links at the bottom of the article). It became a Top 40 hit in 1975, peaking at #33.
Even more controversial than “Judy Mae” is another song that Castleman recorded, “Hot Day in the South” which has incestuous overtones.
Boomer Castleman invented the palm pedal, a pedal which allows guitarists in executing pedal steel-style string bends. Castleman came up with the original prototype of the palm pedal in 1968, and had it patented (but it has long expired). It is now manufactured and marketed by Bigsby Palm Pedal.
He also produced the single “Telephone Man” which became a transatlantic hit for singer Meri Wilson in 1977.
Castleman founded the indie country label BNA Records in 1991; two years later he sold it to BMG Music.
He died of cancer in Nashville, Tennessee on September 1, 2015, aged 70.