Tower of Power

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Tower of Power in performance at the 2013 Clearwater Jazz Holiday
By Hampton Allen
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Tower of Power in performance at the 2013 Clearwater Jazz Holiday
By Hampton Allen

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Tower of Power has been considered the definitive R&B horn section for 40 years. The genesis of the group can be found in tenor-saxophonist Emilio Castillo’s career. A fan of soul music and R&B horn players, Castillo formed the Gotham City Crime Fighters in Fremont, California in the mid-1960s. The group, which soon changed its name to the Motowns, already included bassist Francis “Rocco” Prestia and baritonist Stephen “Doc” Kupka (both of whom are still with the band) in its early stages. In 1968 Castillo and the band moved to Oakland, where they were renamed Tower of Power. Very popular in the San Francisco Bay area, Tower of Power had its recording debut in 1970. In 1973 they recorded their biggest hit, “What Is Hip.” Other hits followed including “You’re Still a Young Man,” “So Very Hard To Go,” “This Time It’s Real,” “Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)” and “Time Will Tell.” In addition to their own recordings, Tower of Power’s horn section appeared on a countless number of records behind other stars, including Huey Lewis and the News, Santana, Elton John, Little Feat, John Lee Hooker, Rod Stewart, Heart, Jefferson Starship, Linda Lewis, Lyle Lovett, Poison, Spyro Gyra, Toto, Aerosmith, the Eurythmics, Phish, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton and even the Monkees. While Tower of Power sometimes had a lower profile in the 1980s and ’90s, they remained active and along the way featured such members as singer Lenny Williams, saxophonists Lenny Pickett, Richard Elliot and Euge Groove and organist Chester Thompson. Now celebrating their 40th anniversary, Tower of Power has been enjoying a renaissance.

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