Call it “urban soul”, call it funk, call it R&B, I have even heard them called jazz. Truth is they are all of that and much more. Here it is 43 plus years later, so let’s just call them an American Institution. It all started in the summer of 1968, when tenor saxophonist/vocalist Emilio Castillo met Stephen "Doc" Kupka, who played baritone sax. they became the backbone of the group. Gathering a few other players, they called themselves The Motowns and gigged around Oakland and Berkley. Their soul sound appealed to both minority and hipster rebellious listeners of the day.
By 1970, the now renamed Tower of Power, T.O.P. to fans, they now included trumpet/arranger Greg Adams, first trumpet Mic Gillette, first saxophone Skip Mesquite, Francis "Rocco" Prestia on bass, Willie Fulton on guitar, and drummer David Garibaldi. They signed a recording contract with Bill Graham's San Francisco Records and released their first album, East Bay Grease. Rufus Miller performed most of the lead vocals on this debut album. The single "Sparkling In The Sand" received airplay on Bay Area soul stations.
By ‘73, Lenny Williams had joined the group as lead vocalist and it was from then until ‘74 had the period of their greatest commercial success. Their biggest hits include "You're Still A Young Man", "So Very Hard To Go", "What Is Hip?", (Which is probably their most endearing song) and "Don't Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)." By ‘75, the band had moved more towards ‘funk’ and away from classic soul music but ballads were still a mainstay of their repertoire. By the late ‘70s, at the record company's’ request, they tried their hand at disco, but their heart, or maybe soul, wasn’t in it.
One thing’s for sure. The answer to that song above is Tower Of Power. Over the years, the Tower Of Power horn section took on a life of their own. They were always in demand to support other artists who’s sound required some soul. Amongst those was Little Feat in 1977, one of the three inaugural acts to perform at the newly-opened Rockpalast studios on the song, "Rocket in my Pocket".
Other performers supported by the Tower of Power horns include The Monkees, The Grateful Dead, Santana, Elkie Brooks, Cat Stevens (on his Foreigner Suite), Luis Miguel, Elton John, Linda Lewis, rad. (Rose Ann Dimalanta), Jermaine Jackson, John Lee Hooker, Rufus, Rod Stewart, Jefferson Starship, Mickey Hart, Heart, Damn Yankees, Huey Lewis and the News, Spyro Gyra, KMFDM, Lyle Lovett, Poison, Phish, Toto, Pharoahe Monch, Brothers Johnson, and Aerosmith, among many other acts.
This DVD features extensive interviews with over 30 present and past TOP Band Members, plus special features and a tour of Oakland with Emilio, Doc, Rocco & Dave. Also Includes footage from the band's appearance at the San Mateo Fair from August 13th, 2008. Also includes a comprehensive 24 page booklet listing details on each track and interview.
In the past 40 plus years, more than sixty musicians have joined the T.O.P. family, and when they did this album, many of the distinguished alumni from all those years gathered at the Fillmore Auditorium to celebrate “Oakland Style”.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved