Early Springsteen Bandmate, George Theiss, Dies

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The Castiles in 1966 (l. to r.): Frank Marziotti, Bruce Springsteen, George Theiss, Paul Popkin and Vinnie Manniello

George Theiss, a bandmate of Bruce Springsteen in the late 1960s when both were teenagers in the New Jersey band the Castiles, has died at 68. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016 and died in Salisbury, N.C., where he had moved from New Jersey several years ago. Theiss’ survivors include his wife, Diana, whom he married at age 20.

The Castiles were in need of a lead guitarist and their lead vocalist, Theiss, had been dating “Ginny” Springsteen. He ultimately reached out to her brother, and fellow Freehold, N.J., resident, and the future classic rock star filled the role for the five member band.

Springsteen recalled the occasion in his 2016 memoir, Born to Run: “I was sitting in my South Street home one afternoon when a knock came at our front door. It was George Theiss, a local guitarist and singer who’d heard through my sister that I played the guitar. I’d seen George around the Elks. He told me there was a band forming and they were looking for a lead guitarist. While I hesitated to call myself a lead guitarist, I had been hard at it for a while and worked up some very rudimentary ‘chops.’”

Two recordings made by the Castiles were included on Springsteen’s 2016 album Chapter and Verse, the audio companion to the Born to Run autobiography. One of them, “Baby I,” was written by Springsteen and Theiss.

Listen to “Baby I”

Related: The song is included in our feature, Before They Were Stars: Rockers’ Early Days

Theiss and Springsteen’s relationship soured and the pair grew apart. Theiss ultimately worked as a carpenter though he continued to perform with other bands.

He and Springsteen reconciled years later, and the Theisses were Springsteen’s guests at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

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