Tower of Power

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This article is about the band. For other uses, see Tower of Power (disambiguation).
Tower of Power
TOP Buffalo.jpg
Tower of Power, Buffalo, New York, November 11, 2008
Background information
Origin Oakland, California, United States
Genres Soul, funk, R&B, jazz, jazz-funk
Years active 1968–present
Labels Warner Bros., Columbia, Epic, San Francisco, SPV
Associated acts Cold Blood, Sons of Champlin, Santana, Doobie Brothers, Cat Stevens
Website www.towerofpower.com
Members Emilio Castillo
Stephen 'Doc' Kupka
Francis 'Rocco' Prestia
David Garibaldi
Roger Smith
Sal Cracchiolo
Adolfo Acosta
Ray Greene
Tom Politzer
Jerry Cortez
Past members see past members

Tower of Power (or TOP for short) is an American R&B-based horn section and band, originating in Oakland, California, that has been performing since 1968.[1] There have been a number of lead vocalists, the most well-known being Lenny Williams, who fronted the band between early 1973 and late 1974, the period of their greatest commercial success. Their highest-charting songs include "You're Still a Young Man", "So Very Hard to Go", "Soul With a Capital S", "Soul Vaccination", "What Is Hip?", and "Don't Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream)".[2]

History[edit]

In the summer of 1968, tenor saxophonist/vocalist Emilio Castillo met Stephen "Doc" Kupka, who played baritone sax. Castillo had played in several bands, but Castillo's father told his son to "hire that guy" after a home audition.[3] Together, they became the backbone of Tower of Power. Within months the group, then known as The Motowns, began playing various gigs around Oakland and Berkeley, their soul sound relating to both minority and rebellious listeners.[4]

Castillo wanted to play Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, but he realized he would never get in with a name like The Motowns. The band agreed on Tower of Power and the name stuck.[5]

By 1970, the now renamed Tower of Power—now including 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—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.[4] The group was first introduced to the San Francisco Bay area by radio station KSAN, which played a variety of artists such as Cold Blood, Eric Mercury and Marvin Gaye. Dusty Street of the Flying Eye Radio Network's Fly Low show and Sirius XM radio was a DJ there in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The single "Sparkling in the Sand" received airplay on the Bay Area soul station KDIA.[citation needed]

Augmented by percussionist/conga/bongo player Brent Byars, Tower of Power was released from their San Francisco label contract and moved to Warner Bros. Records. With Rick Stevens now replacing Rufus Miller as lead singer, 1972's Bump City gave the band their first national exposure. This album included the hit single "You're Still a Young Man", which peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Steven's pinnacle vocal performance before leaving the band.[6] Emilio Castillo, who, along with Stephen Kupka, co-wrote "You're Still a Young Man," told Songfacts that the song was based on a true story concerning a former girlfriend who was six years older.[7] The single "Down to the Nightclub" received heavy airplay on West Coast FM stations and several AM stations.[citation needed]

Tower of Power, released in the spring of 1973, was the third album for the band. It featured Lenny Williams on lead vocals and Lenny Pickett on lead tenor saxophone. Bruce Conte replaced guitarist Willie Fulton and keyboardist Chester Thompson also joined the band during the recording of the album. This was the group's most successful album. It peaked at #15 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and was RIAA certified as a gold record (for sales in excess of 500,000 copies).[citation needed] The album also spawned their most-successful single "So Very Hard to Go". Although the single peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100,[6] it landed in the Top 10 on the surveys of many West Coast Top 40 radio stations, hitting #1 on many of them. The album also charted two other singles on the Billboard Hot 100, "This Time It's Real" and "What Is Hip?" [2]

1974's Back to Oakland spawned another hit, "Don't Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream)", that reached #26 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Time Will Tell", which charted at #69.[6] The funk-jazz classic instrumental "Squib Cakes" also came from this album.[8]

On Urban Renewal (1974), the band moved more toward funk than soul; however, they continued recording ballads as well. Williams left the band in late 1974, and was replaced as vocalist by Hubert Tubbs. Though the band remained popular, their days of chart radio airplay declined. During the late 1970s they briefly tried recording disco-sounding material.[4] Leader Emilio Castillo said in an interview that the band's brief foray into quasi-disco was at the request of Columbia Records, who had the band under contract at the time.[citation needed]

Touring[edit]

Tower of Power still tours extensively today, although there have been many changes in personnel over the years. At least 60 musicians have toured or recorded with the band over their 40-plus-year existence. These include current Saturday Night Live musical director/saxophonist Lenny Pickett, drummer David Garibaldi, bassist Francis "Rocco" Prestia, organ master Chester Thompson, saxophonists Richard Elliot and Euge Groove, and guitarist Bruce Conte. Conte's cousin, BALCO founder Victor Conte, also played bass guitar in the band from 1976 until 1979 when he was replaced by Vito San Filippo (later of the Joe Cocker band). Former lead vocalist Rick Stevens (real name Donald Stevenson) was sentenced to life in prison on three counts of first-degree murder for crimes committed after leaving the band. Stevens was paroled on July 20, 2012 after 36 years in prison.[9] Bruce Conte rejoined the band in 2006, replacing veteran guitarist Jeff Tamelier. He departed after slightly more than a year, citing personal recording projects and health issues. Following Conte as guitarist was Charles Spikes (while auditions for a permanent player were held), then Mark Harper. The band's current guitarist is Jerry Cortez.

Horn section collaborations[edit]

The Tower of Power horn section has appeared on a number of other artists' recordings, such as Otis Redding, Aaron Neville, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, David Sanborn, Elton John, Huey Lewis, Little Feat, Michelle Shocked, Paula Abdul and Santana[4]

Other performers supported by the Tower of Power horns include electric slap bass guitarist Larry Graham's Graham Central Station, The Monkees, Grateful Dead, Santana, Journey, Elkie Brooks, Cat Stevens (on his Foreigner Suite), Luis Miguel, Linda Lewis, rad. (Rose Ann Dimalanta), Jermaine Jackson, John Lee Hooker, Helen Reddy, Rufus, Rod Stewart, Jefferson Starship, Mickey Hart, Heart, Damn Yankees, Huey Lewis and the News, Frankie Valli, Spyro Gyra, KMFDM,[10] Lyle Lovett, Poison, Phish, Toto, Pharoahe Monch, Brothers Johnson, and Sam The Band, among many other acts.[4] "So Very Hard To Go" was featured in the soundtrack of the 2002 film City of God, as well as Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro.

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

  • Emilio Castillo - tenor and alto saxophones, backing and occasional lead vocals
  • Stephen 'Doc' Kupka - baritone saxophone, backing vocals, oboe
  • Francis 'Rocco' Prestia - bass
  • David Garibaldi - drums, occasional backing vocals, percussion
  • Roger Smith - keyboards, backing vocals
  • Sal Cracchiolo - trumpet
  • Adolfo Acosta - trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Marcus Scott - lead vocals
  • Tom Politzer - tenor saxophone
  • Jerry Cortez - guitar, backing vocals[3]

Past members[edit]

  • Al Chez - trumpet , flugelhorn , backing vocals
  • Greg Adams - trumpet, backing vocals, flugelhorn, French horn, piano, percussion
  • Ken Balzell - trumpet
  • David Bartlett - drums
  • Ron E. Beck - drums, backing vocals, percussion
  • Michael Bogart
  • Tom Bowes - lead vocals
  • Larry Braggs - lead vocals
  • Michael Bryant - Trumpet, backing vocals
  • Brent Byars - percussion, backing vocals
  • Brent Carter - lead and backing vocals
  • Bill Churchville - trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone
  • Bruce Conte - guitar, backing and occasional lead vocals
  • Victor Conte - bass
  • John Creech - alto, tenor, baritone sax
  • Barry Danielian - trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Richard Elliot - alto and tenor saxophones, lyricon
  • Brandon Fields - saxophones
  • Willie Fulton - guitars, backing and occasional lead vocals
  • Mic Gillette - trumpet, backing vocals, tenor and bass trombones, flugelhorn, baritone horn
  • Carmen Grillo - guitar, backing and occasional lead vocals
  • Steven Grove - alto and tenor saxophones
  • Ellis Hall Jr. - lead vocals, keyboards, guitar
  • Mark Harper
  • Danny Hoefer - guitar
  • Derick Hughes
  • Michael Jeffries - lead and backing vocals
  • Lenny Lee Goldsmith
  • Louie King
  • David Mann
  • Herman Matthews - drums, percussion
  • Dave Mathews
  • William Edward McGee - lead vocals
  • Jesse McGuire
  • Russ McKinnon - drums, percussion
  • Mick Mestek - drums
  • Skip Mesquite - tenor saxophone, backing and occasional lead vocals, flute
  • Rufus Miller - lead vocals
  • Nick Milo - keyboards, backing vocals
  • David Padron - trumpet
  • Paul Perez
  • Lenny Pickett - tenor, soprano, alto and bass saxophones, backing vocals, alto and bass clarinets, alto, tenor and piccolo flutes, lyricon
  • Vito San Filippo - bass, backing vocals
  • Mark Sanders
  • Jay Spell - acoustic piano
  • Norbert Stachel - tenor and alto saxophones, flute, percussion, arranging
  • Rick Stevens - backing and occasional lead vocals
  • Jeff Tamelier
  • Chester Thompson - organ, backing vocals, electric and acoustic pianos, clavinet, bass pedals
  • Lee Thornburg - trumpet, backing and occasional lead vocals, flugelhorn
  • Hubert Tubbs
  • Bobby Vega
  • Lenny Williams - lead vocals[4]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • 1976: Live And In Living Color
  • 1981: Direct (Studio Live)
  • 1997: Direct Plus (reissue of Direct with alternate takes)
  • 1999: Soul Vaccination: Live
  • 2008: East Bay Archive Volume 1 (recorded at K-K-K-Katy's, Boston, MA; April 1973)
  • 2011: 40th Anniversary (Live)
  • 2014: Hipper Than Hip (recorded 1974)[11]

Compilations[edit]

  • 1974: Funkland
  • 1999: What is Hip?: The Tower of Power Anthology
  • 2001: The Very Best of Tower of Power: The Warner Years
  • 2002: Soul With a Capital "S": The Best of Tower of Power
  • 2003: Havin' Fun
  • 2003: What is Hip & Other Hits[11]

Singles[edit]

  • 1972: "You're Still a Young Man", No. 29 (The Billboard Hot 100) (R&B No. 24)
  • 1972: "Down to the Nightclub", No. 66
  • 1973: "So Very Hard to Go", No. 17 (R&B No. 11)
  • 1973: "This Time It's Real", No. 65 (R&B No. 27)
  • 1974: "What Is Hip?", No. 91 (R&B No. 39)
  • 1974: "Time Will Tell", No. 69 (R&B No. 27)
  • 1974: "Don't Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream)", No. 26 (R&B No. 22)
  • 1976: "You Ought to Be Havin' Fun", No. 68 (R&B No. 62)[11]

Videos and DVDs[edit]

  • 1986: Credit (The band's only music video, to date)
  • 2003: Tower of Power in Concert (1998, Live at Ohne Filter, after return of Garibaldi)
  • 2007: Live from Leverkusen (2005 November Show)
  • 2011: 40th Anniversary (Live)[12]

Note: Over the years, there also have been many television performances of ToP aired though not released for sale. One worthy of mention took place in 1991, also part of the German TV live performance series Ohne Filter, Musik Pur, which included Tom Bowes (lead vocals) and the other then-current members. In 2011, Time Life released their November 10, 1973 Soul Train performance of "What is Hip?" on the CD The Best of Soul Train Live.[13][14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tower of Power Home". Tower of Power. 1968–2009. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Tower of Power: Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Tower of Power–Band Profile". towerofpower.com. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Prato, Greg. "Tower of Power". Biography. AllMusic. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Lacy-Thompson, Tony. "Tower Of Power Still Bringing It". www.RegardingArts.com. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "Tower of Power". Chart History: Hot 100. Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "You're Still a Young Man". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  8. ^ "Tower of Power: Back to Oakland". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  9. ^ "Rick Stevens, Early Tower of Power Lead Singer, Has Been Released on Parole | This Black Sista's Page". Thisblksistaspage.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  10. ^ Fortunato, John (1996). "KMFDM Ready to 'Xtort'". The Aquarian Weekly. Arts Weekly, Inc. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Tower of Power:Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 May 2016. 
  12. ^ "Discography". Tower of Power. Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  13. ^ '"The Best of Soul Train Live at AllMusic
  14. ^ The Best of Soul Train Live (booklet). Time Life. 2011. 

External links[edit]