Johnny Yu

Bass & Vocals


        Hawaiian native Johnny Yu picked up his first guitar at the age of 13. Playing music with his friends and copying the Motown and R&B hits of the time, each person would pick a part; one guy would play the lead, one the rhythm and one the bass. “Nobody would play the bass part, so I did it myself.”

Learning by studying records, Johnny got his first paying gig at 14. Two years later, he was playing all over Hawaii, for parties, in teen clubs, in military base bars and in the seedy strip clubs of old downtown Honolulu.


        Moving to San Francisco’s North Beach in the late 1970’s, he joined his first regular working band with the blues/folk singer Lisa Kindred. Playing with many bands and singers in San Francisco helped Johnny develop as a well-rounded bass player. He could play with ease in different musical settings, and the demands of playing with many different bands stretched him as a player. “There [in San Francisco] for the first time, I was playing so much original music, often with the artist that created it. I learned a ton.”


        Johnny’s first experience working on an album was in 1973, when he recorded with Cheryl Ernst, and had the opportunity to work with some of LA’s top studio musicians including Hal Blain, Larry Bunker, and jazz pianist Art Lande. It was through Art that Johnny became a member of the rock-fusion band Lightyear. Later, Johnny joined local band Starbaby, reuniting with now current Daniel Castro Band drummer David Perper. Johnny and David had worked together both on stage and in the studio in a few different musical settings, and Starbaby’s music, in the rock-fusion vein, allowed them to build a strong and punchy rhythm section. David left the band early in its history, but Starbaby stayed together for several years and played throughout California and toured in Asia.


        Johnny played for 12 years with the late, great Stu Blank, playing on two albums with Stu Blank and his Nasty Habits. The recordings featured many well-known musicians including Kenny Dale Johnson (Chris Isaak), Jim Pugh (Robert Cray Band), and Doyle Bramhall Jr. Johnny also played gigs with legendary greats Mary Wells and Eric Burden and was a member of Nitecry, a popular blues-based band that played clubs, concerts, and festivals throughout the west. He recorded three albums over several years with Nitecry.


       Having played with Daniel Castro many years earlier, Johnny met up again with Daniel in 2011. “Daniel called me up and said, I’ve got some originals I’ve been working on and why don’t you come over and let’s see what we come up with. We started working in the rehearsal studio, just the two of us and a drum machine for hours at a time. We took Daniel’s rough tunes and developed the grooves, arrangements, and vocals. It was harmony from the start and a new close alliance evolved.” When Johnny and David Perper reunited socially, David expressed interest in the project and Johnny introduced him to Daniel. Once the three started running through the original songs, it became obvious that David and Johnny still had that chemistry and that it complemented and supported Daniel and his material. “Together we have something that is rare—we listen, we try to give each song its due, and we play with soul and intensity. We bring our various influences and musical backgrounds together onto the same page.”



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