Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Tower's 40 year odyssey actually began in 1968 when Emilio Castillo met Stephen "Doc" Kupka in July of that year. When Doc auditioned during a band rehearsal at Emilio's house, Emilio's father called him into the kitchen and offered the following advice: "Hire that guy, he's got something." Doc and his signature baritone sax sound were now in the band, and on August 13, 1968, Tower of Power, as we know them today, began playing gigs, and soon became very well known in the area.
Many other bands came out of the San Francisco Bay area in the late 60's. Bands like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Big Brother, Journey, Cold Blood and others all helped to define the "San Francisco Sound." Tower of Power has always claimed Oakland, California as their hometown. Playing area venues and making a name for themselves, Tower of Power's big break was just around the corner.
After playing at a Tuesday night audition at the Fillmore in 1970, Tower was signed to Bill Graham’s San Francisco records and their first album, “East Bay Grease,” was recorded. All of the compositions were original tunes written by Castillo and Kupka. Their next album, “Bump City,” was recorded on the Warner Brothers label, and this led to a string of hits and memorable albums that include many of the songs that TOP fans come out in force to hear, even to this day. Over the years, the Tower of Power Horns have recorded with hundreds of artists as diverse as Aerosmith, Elton John, Little Feat, Phish, Santana, Heart, and many others, forever infusing the radio airwaves with Tower’s musical DNA.
Since the beginning, Tower of Power has never stopped touring and recording. Always in demand, the band never fails to entertain and amaze their fans. Tower is truly blessed to have a dedicated following that often travels to see the band, and in many cases fans will plan their vacation or work schedule around an appearance of TOP.
Tower celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2008 at a very special reunion show at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. In addition to the ten current members of the band, another 20 musicians and vocalists that at one time held a position with the band appeared with them. The show was filmed and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this year. Of the ten current members, Emilio Castillo, Rocco Prestia, Stephen Kupka, and David Garibaldi are four of the band’s founding members. Their dedication to the music, their creative writing, and their original vision still guides Tower of Power.
Each year Tower of Power tours the United States, Japan and Europe, playing to sold out crowds all over the world. 2009 will see the release of the “Great American Soulbook”, a collection of classic soul tunes, and the 40th Anniversary Concert DVD. Tower has never been busier or more in demand. New generations of fans come to see the band perform as their timeless music continues to excite fans of all ages. We hope you enjoy this new website, which will be growing and evolving continually to include more band history, information on alumni members, and regular updates on Tower of Power.
Emilio Castillo plays second tenor sax, as well as providing
background and lead vocals. Emilio was born in Detroit, Michigan
on September 24, 1950 and is of Mexican and Greek parentage.
During his transition from Detroit to Fremont, California,
Emilio discovered his interest in music stemming from the likes
of Roger Collins, The Spyders, and Sly and the Family Stone -
masters of soul. In 1967, Emilio started his own group called
the Motowns which would became Tower of Power in 1968, the same
year that Emilio met the Funky Doctor (Stephen Kupka). He is a
self-proclaimed homebodyand enjoys spending his time when not
touring with TOP with his wife Suzanne and children, Christian,
Isabella, Dominic, Ariana and Katina. He spends much of the time
with his family at their local church, and makes it a habit of
telling and showing them that he loves them every day. "I’ve
learned from experience that God has a plan for me, and that
it’s better than mine! I just try to remember that, no matter
what comes down the pike," he says.
Stephen ("Doc") Kupka
Stephen "Doc" Kupka is not only a founding member of Tower of
Power, but along with Emilio Castillo has written most of the
TOP song catalog. His baritone sax is an integral part of TOP's
Francis Rocco Prestia
Francis "Rocco" Prestia, TOP's bass player, has a style that
is truly unique. It is hard to imagine Tower of Power without
Rocco's brand of funk. Since they first started working together
many years ago Rocco and drummer David Garibaldi formed the
foundation of the rhythm section that drives the band's
trademark funky groove underneath the horn section.
David Garibaldi is TOP's drummer. "DG" was selected as the
Modern Drummer Reader’s Roll 2007 – Best Traditional R&B
Drummer. He started playing drums in the Pleasanton Elementary
School band, then, during his senior year of high school, he
joined the Sid Reis Big Band, his first “pro” gig. His journey
with TOP started in 1970, in Lake Tahoe, California. He credits
James Campana, Eugene Graves, Chuck Brown, Murray Spivack and
Sandy Feldstein for helping him to become the person he is
Larry Braggs is TOP's lead vocalist. "LB" is referred to by
Emilio Castillo as "Pound for pound, the baddest cat in the
land". Larry's high energy vocals are nothing short of
astounding. His vocal range allows the band to pull virtually 40
years of songs out of their "trick bag". Larry puts it all out
there and leaves nothing on the table, night after night.
Roger Smith is the keyboard player for TOP, and covers
background vocals as well. Whether the song calls for piano,
clavinet, strings, a synth sound, whatever, Roger is right
there. He especially shines on the organ parts that are such an
important part of TOP's past and present sound. Roger is in a
select group of true Hammond B-3 artists, and his solo work is
always superb. As an accomplished artist of his own, Roger's
album, My Colors, was nominated for two Jazz Grammies and “Off
the Hook,” a single from his follow-up album topped the jazz
charts. Even with his own personal success the band's background
vocal artist and keyboardist still manages to be blown away by
the history and complexity of a band like T.O.P. "I am stoked to
be a member of Tower of Power! To formulate your groove within a
group like this is a unique challenge because this group has its
roots every where, from jazz to pop to soul to blues," he says.
“Being in Tower of Power has been a dream come true for me, the
realization of something I've always hoped for. I have other
interests, as we all do, and a life outside the band. But in
Tower of Power I can truly say I am free to be who I am. And I
Tom E. Politzer
Tom E. Politzer is TOP's lead tenor sax player. Tommy fills
that role totally, not only as an outstanding soloist, but also
as a part of the five piece Tower of Power horn section.
Trumpeter, Adolfo Acosta, began playing with Tower Of Power
during the Summer of 2000 after leaving a band led by the
legendary trumpet virtuoso and jazz musician, Maynard Ferguson.
Prior to starting to tour on the road, Adolfo spent his youth
playing in the public school music program of his hometown,
Santa Barbara, California, while studying privately with Jeff
Elliott and then later with Bobby Shew. Little by little, Adolfo
started working a variety of gigs and gained valuable experience
before making his move to Denton, Texas to play in the bands of
The University Of North Texas where he became a member of the
famed One O'Clock and Two O'Clock Lab Bands while studying
privately with Jay Saunders. "It seems like only yesterday when
I did my first gig with Tower Of Power in Croydon, England. That
evening is still very clear in my memory and I don't think I'll
ever forget the feeling I had when I heard the sound of the band
in full motion on stage and the roar of the crowd. I was in
complete awe. Today It's just as fun and challenging as my first
night with the band. For me, playing with TOP is no waltz in the
park." Adolfo currently spends his downtime in sunny Los
Michael (Iron Mike) Bogart
The band’s lead trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn guru got his
start with music scholarships to Interlochen Arts Academy and
the University of Miami. This led him to spend 10 years as a
working musician in the Navy where he polished his skills on the
bass and trombone. Before joining the legendary T.O.P, Bogart
was a member of the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. “I believe in my
heart that music makes people heal, that it’s a universal
language. I’m extremely blessed, and grateful, that God has
given me this talent, to participate in a process that spreads
so much positive mental and spiritual energy. I believe I was
called to make music, to be on stage, to make people happy,” he
Mark Harper has been a member of Tower of
Power since October 2007. Prior to joining Tower of Power, Mark
was a member of Smooth Jazz Bassist of the Year, Wayman
Tisdale’s band, having toured with him for seven years. Mark
still tours and records with Wayman when not working with TOP.
Mark, a Multi Platinum Award Winner himself, has toured and
recorded with artists such as: Dave Koz, Paul Jackson Jr, Y&P,
Glen Jones, Jonathon Butler, Yolanda Adams, Phyllis Hyman,
Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Blair, Mac Band, Joe McBride, Tom
Braxton, Ronnie Laws, Kirk Franklin, Bebe Winans, and host of
others. Between touring with TOP, Wayman Tisdale & fronting his
own bands The Mark Harper Project and The Mark Harper Acoustic
Band, Mark still finds time to write, produce, and perform with
other well known artists.