Nancy Louise Castleberry was her real name when she was born to
Paul and Georgia Mae Castleberry in Greenville, Texas in 1941. Her
father was a musician, playing guitar, mandolin, banjo and even
bass fiddle with various bands in northeast Texas. Early on, she
began to sing to her dad's accompaniment.
A feature story in "The Paris News" in October 1956 told us that
she began singing when she was just four years old. She won many
a title in talent contests throughout the Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana
She began to appear wherever they asked her to in Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and
Louisiana. She even appeared in Mexico once. She also won numerous
talent shows that got her spots on larger shows, too. She appeared
regularly on KFTV and KPLT in Paris, Texas. She had her own radio show
on KSST in Sulphur Springs, Texas that had been on at least three years
in 1957, called simply, the "Nan Castle Show" (the newspaper article
said it was the "Nancy Castleberry Show").
She got noticed when she was appearing over KRLD-TV in Dallas with the Belew
Twins, Bobby and Benny by John Harper and Ed Watt, who then signed her
to appear regularly on the Big D Jamboree. She appeared in front of
nationwide audiences on the CBS show, "Saturday Night Country Style".
Nan also appeared a couple of times on the "Video Varieties" show over
KCMC-TV out of Texarkana, Texas with Haskell Jones.
Then, Nancy made her first trip to Nashville with her dad. They did this
without any contacts in Nashville and against the wishes of others back in
their home town. But Paul felt his daughter had talent. They somehow managed
to meet Jim Denny who was manager of the WSM Artist Bureau at the time. He agreed
to listen to her sing a few tunes. Mr. Denny must have liked her "big, unusual
voice and impressive style of delivery" - he called Chet Atkins to come in
and listen to her. Chet then told them, "We'd like to record your daughter,
She got a contract with RCA Victor records as well as
an appearance on both the WSM Grand Ole Opry and Ernest Tubb's Midnight
Jamboree. But they also decided to shorten her name then, so they named
her Nan Castle, the name that appeared on her first release, Run Along, Junior"
and "Take My Love". Her second session included "Starlight" and "Angel With Horns",
"I'm So Ashamed" and "Flame In My Heart". On that last session, the Escorts, a vocal
group backed her up.
In 1957, as a young sixteen year old star, Nan was noted as the headliner
on The Red River Jamboree as well as the two-hour remote "prevue" show out of Paris, Texas on KFTV radio. She had appeared
on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout TV Show on June 24th of that year.
She had a record back then that was being played, "Starlight, Starbright"
and also "I'm Not Ashamed". The Red River Jamboree shows were being produced
by Roy Glenn and Pee Wee Reid.
But although much of this was happening to Nan as a teenager, she
still attended Cooper High School and was a part of the high school band.
She was all of five-feet tall at the time. And when she had a spare moment
or two, she would sometimes draw and design her costumes.
When you look at the photos of Nan performing, you can see that she had a stage presence
of a veteran even though she was only a teenager at the time.
Credits & Sources
- The Paris News; "Cooper Singer 'Show Stopper';
October 16, 1956; Paris, Texas; article courtesy of Johnny Case
- Cowboy Songs Vol. 6, No. 54, December 1957;
American Folk Publications.
- Country Song Roundup No. 52; October 1957; American Folk
Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT.