The band began life in 1969 as "St. James". Heavily influenced by the British progressive rock movement of the time, the band began writing material that would eventually appear on the first album. They also began a rigorous schedule of support gigs at clubs throughout the Midwest, honing their stage show and working in original material with covers. Despite relative success, and the release of a (now rare) single, something more was needed. Five years and a few name and line-up changes later, Starcastle was born. Work began on the band's first self-titled LP and it was released in early 1976. The response to the music of Starcastle was positive and despite some detractors' accusations that they sounded like a Yes clone, the album received heavy FM airplay throughout the US and Canada. The group began an even more intensive touring schedule including some of the biggest shows of their careers. The first album sold well, and Epic sent the band to Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec, with producer Roy Thomas Baker.
Although Roy was well known for his success with Queen, the band was not sure if it would be a good fit or not. The atmosphere and surroundings of Le Studio were idyllic, but the final product, Fountains of Light, turned out to be something other than what the band envisioned. More touring followed this time including a number of headlining shows in small halls and universities, with Journey and Foreigner supporting Starcastle on some dates. Fountains of Light garnered the band critical acclaim, and while the single "Diamond Song (Deep is the Light)" failed to chart, the album sold respectably.
Despite issues with Roy Baker’s style, the label sent Starcastle to England to record their third offering, Citadel, with Baker once again handling production. The band was under pressure at this time from their record label for a more commercial rock sound, but Starcastle kept to its progressive rock roots. After more touring, the cracks in the band were starting to show. Real to Reel was an album the band felt should have never been released, because of its pop-like sound and disappointed reception by fans. Most of the more "progressive" demos done for the record were rejected by CBS, and the band had stopped believing in what they were doing. The album was released and fell flat. During the subsequent tour, keyboardist Herb Schildt decided it was time to leave to pursue his passion – computers, and Terry, who had his eyes on producing, left after the group’s final date of the tour with Aerosmith. This, coupled with disappointing sales figures, prompted CBS to drop Starcastle from its roster.
Undeterred, Starcastle carried on. They regrouped in Champaign and in early 1979 the band began touring again this time with Steve Hagler on lead vocals and without a record contract. While this line-up worked for a while, Matt remembered a vocalist he had met and become friends with a few years earlier- Ralph Goldhiem. Ralph had toured the Midwest with another CBS/Epic group called Timberline. While the Timberline sound was more similar to that of The Eagles and Poco, it gave Ralph a taste of what he wanted to do. He moved to Los Angeles temporally joining up with former Trapeze / Deep Purple vocalist Glen Hughes in rehearsals for a possible album which never materialized. It was during this time Matt called Ralph about joining Starcastle as vocalist.
With Ralph on board in July 1979, the new Starcastle took shape. The material became more hard-edged, while still retaining the trademark Starcastle sound. Needing a change of surroundings, Starcastle moved from Champaign to Atlanta, Georgia. A spec deal was signed with producer Jeff Glixman in Atlanta who was at that time best known for his work with Kansas. Through working with Glixman on the first demo, a management deal was signed with former Queen manager Jack Nelson. Nelson was more of a "hands off" manager, but did bring both Arista and A&M’s John Kolander to the table for a possible deal. Nothing happened, but the band still held out hope that something would come along for the better. The band contemplated a name change at one point, even playing a gig as "The Pack" at Atlanta’s Agora Ballroom, but it was still Starcastle, and it was Starcastle they came to hear. In 1980 both Steve Hagler and Steve Tassler left the group. Tassler’s replacement on drums was Mauro Magellan. Rehearsals took place with Magellan, but he left a short time later to join The Georgia Satellites, a band whose multi-selling debut album would be produced by Jeff Glixman. Matt Stewart left for California and would later join Head East as guitarist in the mid-80’s. Gary and Ralph continued to write together, but eventually Gary returned to Champaign, disillusioned and looking for a fresh start.
Starcastle regrouped several times over the following decades, and gained several new members, notably Bruce Botts on guitar and Al Lewis on vocals. No new albums were produced, however, until 2007, when Song of Times was released by ProgRock Records. The album features members from all incarnations of the band, along with one track, "All for the Thunder", by the original band itself with cover art by Ed Unitsky The album was received with generally good reviews.
The band's bassist and founding member, Gary Strater, died of pancreatic cancer in 2004. His work can still be heard on Song of Times, the band's newest album, which was released posthumously.