butterfly nebula Rock Flashback: Starcastle

(NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team via Getty Images)

Yesterday’s post about [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]REO Speedwagon[/lastfm] dropped the name of Terry Luttrell, and in the Midwest, where I come from, you can’t drop the name of Terry Luttrell without thinking of the band he fronted post-REO. His group, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Starcastle[/lastfm], answers the question, “What would it have been like if [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Yes[/lastfm] had come from central Illinois?”

Several Midwestern bands of the 1970s can claim to be inspired by prog rock. In its early days, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Styx[/lastfm] was; [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Kansas[/lastfm], too. But nobody went further into space than Starcastle. On their self-titled 1975 debut, Luttrell sounds amazingly like [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jon Anderson[/lastfm] and synthesizers fly all over the place. The album produced Starcastle’s signature song, the 10-minute epic “Lady of the Lake,” and it was successful enough to vault the band from playing central Illinois bars to opening gigs on major tours.

As an example, on February 27, 1976, they played PR’s Night Out in Godfrey, Illinois; the next night they opened for the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Electric Light Orchestra[/lastfm] in Chicago. A week later they shared a bill with Kansas and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rush[/lastfm] in the Chicago suburbs; two nights later they were at the Elevator in Mattoon, Illinois. The bar gigs subsided after that, and if you bought enough concert tickets in the 1970s, you probably saw them: they opened for [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Gentle Giant[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jethro Tull[/lastfm] in ’76, had a lengthy stint with [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Boston[/lastfm] in 1977, and also played with the likes of [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Journey[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Todd Rundgren[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Gary Wright[/lastfm] and Styx.

While Starcastle was a prominent opening act, their albums Fountains of Light and Citadel had done reasonably well, but by 1979, prog was on its way out. The album Real to Reel (which the group didn’t like) bombed, and they went back to smaller arenas and bars. They played the homecoming concert at my small Wisconsin college sometime around 1980, a gig not listed on the the exhaustive and fascinating tour history page at their website.

An edition of Starcastle still exists today, but the only member from the ’70s still involved is guitarist Steven Tassler. In one of rock’s more interesting ironies, the band’s sometime keyboard player is [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Oliver Wakeman[/lastfm], whose father Rick was in Yes. Here’s a 2007 live performance of “Shine on Brightly” from Citadel. Maybe it’s the old prog rocker or Midwestern boy in me, but I think they sound mighty good yet.


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