The Castelles have been admired for years as the originators and the epitome of the “Philadelphia Sound”, which features a high tenor lead, a bass, a seemingly endless supply of tenors in strong harmony, and minimal instrumentation. Listen for it not only in the Castelles, but in those other two contemporary Philadelphia groups, the Dreamers and George Tindley and the Dreams. In spite of its popularity with collectors, however, groups with the “Philadelphia Sound” only managed to have regional hits, not national ones.
We all know that George Grant, lead of the Castelles, was one of the first examples of the very young high tenor sound, that would culminate with Frankie Lymon and his hundreds of imitators. Well, not exactly. Everyone thinks that George was extremely young at the time of the recordings (as did George himself), but when he and I worked it out, he was actually 16 when his first record was cut. This was probably the average age for R&B singers at that time. It wasn't the age of the voices that made the Castelles memorable, it was the quality.
The Castelles story goes back to around 1949, and the choir at Sulzberger Junior High School in West Philadelphia. Overseen by Miss Joy Goings, it was your average, everyday choir, containing, among others, George Grant (Castelles), Billy Taylor (Castelles), Octavius Anthony (Castelles), Sonny Gordon (Angels), George Tindley (Dreams), George Pounds (Cherokees), Karl English (Cherokees), Melvin Story (Cherokees), and Solomon Burke.
The original members of the Castelles were: George “Pepi” Grant (lead tenor), Octavius Anthony (first tenor), Billy Taylor (first tenor, second tenor, baritone), and Clarence Dunlap (bass). They first called themselves the “Royal Castelles”, a name that George just thought up (“I liked the name”). George's nickname of “Pepi” was given to him years later by denizens of the poolhall he frequented; everyone got a nickname, and, because, with his straightened hair, he looked Spanish, he became “Crosstown Pepi”.
- Biography of the Castelles