News & Updates


B.B. King

1925 - 2015
May The King Of The Blues Rest In Peace

"BB King is a man who gave all of himself every night on and off the stage. He’s been my role model as an artist for nearly 50 years.

When I was 16 years old I watched him perform at Frenchy’s in Hayward, CA and after the show he spoke to a few of us for nearly 3 hours till the sun was coming up. We couldn’t believe he would take all that time to answer any question we had about music and performing.

I sent my wife and kids to see him perform last year and afterwards they went backstage and he signed my son’s guitar and albums and spoke to them for nearly 2 hours. He was one of the most generous and gifted artists that ever lived and I’m indebted to him forever.”

Emilio Castillo – Bandleader for Tower of Power

"Thank you B.B. King for all of the love and joy you have brought to millions. I never got to meet the man, but I have heard countless stories about what a fine gentleman he was to everyone he ever met. I had the pleasure of seeing B.B. King perform in the late 70's.

What I remember most about the show is hearing one of the most impressive guitar solos I have ever heard live. B.B. played a slow blues solo that completely floored me. What was so memorable about the solo, besides it being dripping with soul was that he played the same five notes within the same register on the guitar, he took his sweet time about it, and never repeated himself. Over the years I have used what I learned from witnessing and hearing that solo to teach my students about the virtues of "less is more" when improvising.

I continue to teach the lesson because I'm the one who needs it most."

Jerry Cortez - Guitarist for Tower Of Power

Above Photo, Brian Rachlin


Roger Smith and the Bump City Wine Company recently hosted the inaugural release and tasting of BUMP CITY RED


Tower of Power keyboardist Roger Smith has incorporated his lifelong passion for music and wine by celebrating with his inaugural release of BUMP CITY RED, a select RED BLEND from the premier Sonoma, California wine region.

Since 2008, Roger Smith and his longtime friend and business partner, Mike Smolich, have been making wine under the "Four Couples, Eight Friends" and "Jazz Rosco" labels. Their mutual love for sharing their wine with friends inspired them to open BUMP CITY WINE CO.

Our Sonoma County red blend seeks a harmony of varietals including  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah. Grown in Sonoma and Mendocino County from lots specifically hand-selected by our winemaker Carolyn Craig for their quality and character.

The ripened grapes were hand-picked and de-stemmed with a portion of the whole berries left intact, fermented with inoculated yeasts, and pumped over daily. After completion of fermentation, the wine received a short extended maceration and was gently pressed. Malolactic fermentation followed pressing and the wine was then transferred to French and American oak barrels for aging. The wine was then racked multiple times, yielding a delicate balance of silky fruit and oak complexity.

Bump City Wine is custom crushed at Larson Family Winery, Sonoma, CA.

This Sonoma County red is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah. Aromas of clove, cinnamon, cedar and plum give way to soft red fruit, blackberry, cherry and currants with soft tannins, dark mocha, cranberry, vanilla and hints of fresh ground black pepper. Enjoy with BBQ, pasta, and pizza.

- Roger Smith

Larson Family Winery
23355 Millerick Rd.
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-3031

Tower Of Power - Hipper Than Hip: Yesterday,Today and Tomorrow

Live on the Air and in the Studio 1974 REAL GONE

hipperFans of live bootlegs are well aware of the quality imbued within those pre-FM broadcast captures of the Ultrasonic Studios concert series for the influential Long Island rock station WLIR. And now, one of the hottest performances to emerge from those storied sessions in Hempstead, N.Y., is seeing a proper commercial release with this scorching two-disc set from the mighty Tower Of Power during their on-air appearance on May 14, 1974.

In town to support their then brand-new fourth LP Back To Oakland, this classic TOP lineup with the great Lenny Williams on lead vocals runs through their freshly streeted masterpiece with aplomb, digging into nearly half the record with fevered renditions of “Oakland Stroke,” “Squib Cakes,” “Time Will Tell” and “Man from the Past,” in addition to such choice back-catalog cuts as Bump City’s “You’re Still a Young Man,” “Soul Vaccination”—from their eponymous 1973 album—and a near 19-minute jam on “Knock Yourself Out” off their 1970 debut East Bay Grease. Hipper Than Hip is prime Tower at the peak of their powers. By Ron Hart.




One of the band's most energetic live performances is now available in a remastered double CD. This release offers modern clarity and quality well beyond that of comparable live recordings of a similar vintage. Experience the 11 piece 1974 version of Tower Of Power like you have never heard them before. "Hipper Than Hip" Now Available For Pre-Order at the TOP Online Store

Presale : Hipper Than Hip - Live on the Air & in the Studio 1974

On May 14, 1974, Tower of Power went to radio station WLIR in Hempstead, Long Island and played a live-in-the-studio show that set the station ablaze as well as the radios of any listeners that were lucky enough to hear it.

Flash forward nearly 40 years. On a whim, a tape collector sends us the show, saying that of his 10,000-plus recordings of live concerts, this set was his favorite. Well, people send us stuff all the time; but within about five minutes of listening to this show, we know we HAVE to find a way to expose the record-buying public to this performance. So, fingers crossed, we send it to the band, and much to our delight, they agree with us. In the words of Emilio Castillo, founding member and leader of Tower of Power: "We were clearly at the top of our game firing on all 10 cylinders."

Indeed, Hipper Than Hip captures the band at their commercial peak, fresh from releasing their fourth album, Back to Oakland, and featuring such key early tracks as "You're Still a Young Man," "Down to the Nightclub," "So Very Hard to Go," "Time Will Tell" and, of course,"What Is Hip?" with Lenny Williams on vocals. What makes the recording particularly overpowering-aside from the band's performance, which is so on the money that calling it "tight" doesn't really do it justice - is that it was a live-in-the-studio session, so the fidelity is the equal of a studio recording, yet it has all the passion and immediacy of a live concert.

This release includes photos and liner notes by noted R&B producer, scholar -and long-time friend of the band-Leo Sacks. 2013 marks the 45th anniversary for Tower of Power - Hipper Than Hip (Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow - Live on the Air & in the Studio 1974 marks a major addition to the band's discography.

Greg Adams: Trumpet
Brent Byars: Congas
Emilio Castillo: Tenor Sax
Bruce Conte: Guitar
David Garibaldi: Drums
Mic Gillette: Trumpet
Stephen Kupka: Baritone Sax
Lenny Pickett: Tenor Sax
Francis Rocco Prestia: Bass
Chester Thompson: Keyboards
Lenny Williams: Vocals

Disc One
1. Intro
2. Oakland Stroke
3. Squib Cakes
4. This Time It's Real
5. Soul Vaccination
6. You're Still a Young Man
7. Clean Slate
8. So Very Hard to Go
9. Get Your Feet Back on the Ground

Disc Two
1. Intro
2. Time Will Tell
3. Man from the Past
4. Down to the Nightclub
5. Just When We Start Makin' It
6. Knock Yourself Out
7. What Is Hip

Latest Audio Interview With Emilio Discussing TOP Past And Present, And His Faith

Audio Interview With Emilio

mimi_vintage mimi

Above: Emilio talks about his Musical "DNA".

Available For Pre-Order From Larry Braggs, "My Time"



You can preorder it on Larry's new webpage,

Click on the PayPal button to preorder a personally autographed copy.


New From Hudson Music: "Drum Guru" featuring David Garibaldi

Tower Of Power's David Garibaldi is always on the cutting edge of drumming educational materials. Here is a new App available from Hudson Music on ITunes called Drum Guru.

Drum Guru is a free App that delivers instructional video with music notation for iPhone and iPad. There are two lesson packs available with David Garibaldi in the "Catalog" section of he App. It's available in the Apple App store.

Sample Screen Shot:

Check it out on ITunes: Drum Guru On ITunes




Roger Smith’s Latest CD, “360”

August 17, 2012

Roger Smith's long awaited 'best of ' album takes a look back over the past ten-plus years and 7 albums. Featuring the talents of DAVE KOZ and Motown legends THE TEMPTATIONS, not to mention the inimitable horns from TOWER OF POWER, Roger Smith - 360 spans from funky #1 hit "Off The Hook" to the rich jazz ballad "Rachael's Dream", to the upbeat and energetic Brazilian party of "Fiesta" and finishes with a soul-stirring gospel anthem "Put Your Faith In Me", penned by Ben Sidran and Ricky Peterson.

Roger Smith – 360 on I-Tunes: Roger Smith 260 On ITunes


Front Row: David Garibaldi, Adolfo Acosta, Rocco Prestia, Jerry Cortez, Emilio Castillo,
Back Row: Sal Cracchiolo, Tom Politzer, Doc Kupka, Roger Smith, Larry Braggs

On August 13, 1968, Doc played his first gig with TOP and as the band recalls when a certain young lady screamed out when Doc hit one of his signature baritone sax "scoops" Tower Of Power became a sensation, and they have never looked back. There have been many changes over the past 47 years, but the particular flavor of East Bay Soul Music that IS Tower Of Power has remained constant, and the TOP faithful are grateful for that.

The members of TOP always acknowledge that they have the greatest fans in the world. Without your fans, what would you have?

TOP is fortunate to have some of the most hardcore fans of any band out there, and have forged relationships with many of them all over the world. From "The Most Serious", Ray and Dave in the east, to Jack Silva in Boston, to Burchie in the midwest, to the legions of faithful in California, Lorenzo and the BSM Crew in Italy, many others in Europe and Japan, Raymond and Denise in Canada, and SO many others, tonight we zero in on Mr. Alan Phillips of the New York Metro area, owner of "The Jacket".

We met with Alan one more time at BB King's earlier this year and the guys renewed some of the signatures on "The Jacket" and Alan got a few new ones. Seems fitting to celebrate this occasion with some photos and a story from one of TOP's most ardent fans;

“This jacket has been around since the mid 70's, it was painted by a dear friend.
It has been in the company of many many good friends and family throughout the years. It has been present at many memorable “extremely funky” Tower of Power shows at spectacular venues from My Fathers Place all the way to BB Kings. Along the way it has also been in the company of many members of the band who were gracious enough to sign it at the bar or bring me back stage at The Bottom Line for some others of the band to see. New members had been intrigued to see their predecessors whose footsteps they followed in. I had posted it to the TOP web site where it got recognition from several fans & the administrator. Now I have been invited to accompany IT to be signed by the band when TOP plays NYC this spring. If all goes as expected everyone from TOP will embellish it with autographs simultaneously in my presence. It’s a good thing that I had outgrown it as it wouldn’t have sustained the years of proud wear it would have endured.”

Thanks again,


Here's two more vintage photos from Alan's collection:

A Special Story For Father’s Day:  Steven Spring With Tower Of Power, Maui, 2001

June 16, 2012

Steven Spring, 12/25/79 to 1/31/2002

This is a story about a father's love, a son's tenacity and grace, and the love of music. Circumstances brought Steve Spring together with Tower Of Power for a weekend that changed his life and made a major impact on the members of Tower Of Power. It is also about a father's loss and what he did after losing his son. Please visit and read about Peter Spring's journey and the foundation he created to help other musicians and people mourning the loss of a loved one.

"The time we spent getting to know each other and the time on stage burning the house down were some of the most meaningful memories we have as a band. God was definitely amongst us that weekend and I'll never forget it." (Emilio Castillo recounting Steven's performance with Tower Of Power)

Steven Swinnerton Spring was a wonderful human being, and it showed: in the humble and respectful way that he treated everyone; in the incredible tenacity with which he pursued his dreams and fought his cancer; and, especially, in the infectiously joyous way that he made Music. I was never prouder of, and happier--both for, and with--my son than when he got to realize his dream of playing bass with Tower Of Power on October 13th, 2001 at The Four Seasons Resort in Maui. T.O.P. may have allowed him to sit in at sound check that day out of the tremendous compassion of their hearts, but they asked him to close the show that night on stage out of a genuine recognition and appreciation for his ability to ROCK THE HOUSE WITH SOUL! He truly loved their music, and played it with a depth and passion that proved it to everyone with ears.
I will be forever grateful for this indelible memory—to Rocco for stepping aside to make room for Steven and hanging out with him as a true mentor and hero; to the people at The American Cancer Society for allowing it to happen and the management and staff at the Four Seasons for making our time there so enjoyable; and to Emilio and all the guys in the band and crew for welcoming us as friends, and treating Steven as an equal. T.O.P. is THE BEST!! because they know that the only real, authentic Power IS Love, and it’s Voice is Music… PETER SPRING

From The Steven Spring Foundation Website:

The drummer clicked off the tempo and the band swung into it, filling the empty hotel ballroom with a mountainous wave of sound. The groove was positively ferocious: the horn players bobbed in time, staccato guitar chords sliced the rolling roar while the organ wail came straight from the soul, the drummer absolutely insisted that everybody GO! NOW!!, and the bass player grounded it all, keeping the flow strong, and steady, and down to earth. They'd played this song thousands of times, but it was obvious that they still loved it as much as they had when it was new, many years ago. The few of us in the audience couldn't help but tap our feet and dance in our seats.

This wasn't an ordinary sound check before a concert, though. The bass player was a new guy that the band had never heard before, and he was younger by half than most of the guys in the band. They had no idea how well he knew the tune, how good he was, or that he would even be able to keep up, much less contribute anything.

It wasn't long before they began looking around at each other, smiling. This kid HAD IT! Totally solid, hitting every kick, and throwing in killer fills of his own to boot. They relaxed and the smiles became wide grins. This gangly 21-year old with the backwards baseball cap really knew their music, and loved it as much as they did. The song was nearly a decade old when he was born, but he played it as if he'd done it forever.

The kid was surprised when they turned to him and motioned for him to take a solo. This band never had bass solos, so he wasn't prepared, but, after a moment of surprise, he got right to it: starting slowly, nothing too flashy, just a little more prominent than he'd been before. Building it bit by bit, he climbed up the neck, every lick a little bolder, stretching out his ideas and feelings and showing what he could do, but all the while never losing hold of the solid groove. He reached the climax, then took a long, smooth slide back down to the bottom of his instrument, telling everyone that he was done.

They made him do it again.

He took another solo, then the singer called for more horn solos, working to make the moment last. They finally wound it up and finished strong, with the kid stoppin' on the dime perfectly. Those of us in the audience lept screaming to our feet, clapping till our hands hurt, and, in my case, with tears of joy streaming down my face.

It was Saturday, October 13th, 2001, the place was the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Maui, the band was the legendary Oakland-based soul band "Tower Of Power," the song was their signature tune "Knock Yourself Out," and the kid was my son, Steven Swinnerton Spring. The band was there to play for an American Cancer Society benefit that night, and my son, his girlfriend, and I were there as guests of the band and hotel. Despite a rare bone cancer that had eaten away half his left shoulder, most of several vertebrae and part of his right wrist, and had engulfed his lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain, and despite the bewildering array of drugs that he felt turned him inside out, he was not only still playing, he was, as musicians say, "a monster."

After congratulations all around, Steve played on "What Is Hip," another of their hits that's famous for its tough bass part, then they broke for dinner. They had him close the show that night with "Knock Yourself Out," and gave him a bass solo in the middle of it. As they left the stage, every band member gave him a hug, a high-five, or a handshake that congratulated him and welcomed him as an equal. My wish had come true.

The dream had been born in the summer, on the way to a brain tumor radiation treatment. Steven needed more sophisticated equipment than was available to us in southern Oregon, so we made an appointment at Emmanuel Legacy Hospital in Portland. While listening to our local public radio station a couple days before the trip, I had heard that the day before our appointment Tower Of Power was playing a free concert in Roseburg, which was right on our way. Steve, his girlfriend Teddi and I put a futon mattress in the back of my old Volvo wagon, and off we went to see Tower Of Power.

The concert was in a bandshell with lawn seating, and by the time we arrived all the best places had been taken, so we got as close as we could and settled in. While we were waiting, Steve told us about the last time that he'd heard the band, when they'd played at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival in Portland. Steven had been studying bass at Mt. Hood Community College when his cancer was discovered, and he regaled Teddi and me with the story of how he had been thrown out of the stagefront area at the festival three times by the same security guard because he wanted to dance right in front of the band, which was not what the people in the cordoned-off, high-priced seating area wanted. Finally, the security people gave up and let the crowd of young gate-crashers have their way, with Steven right in front. After all, this is a band whose leader is known to announce over the microphone "We're here to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable!..."

When the band began, I noticed that Steve recognized every song as soon as they played the first note, and knew them all by heart. He and Teddi moved closer to the stage, but I stayed back, listening to a voice in my head that said "Do something good here, this is a real opportunity..."

I went around to the back of the backstage area, got right across the fence from the local security people, and froze. I wanted this so much that I didn't know what to say, so I just stood there. Finally, I got the nearest person's attention and made my request: "My son is a big fan, he's on his way to cancer treatments, and it would mean so much to him to just meet the band for a minute and get a picture, please..." I choked on the words, unable to hold the tears in.

The local security people had strict orders from the band not to let anyone backstage, and they did their job. I dried my eyes and went back to find Steve and Teddi, who by that time had become part of the dancing mass in front of the stage. I watched them till the show ended, then we headed for Portland. I didn't say anything about my failed attempt to help him meet his musical heroes.

When we got back home after the radiation treatment, the thought about how great it would be to get this crazy idea to happen just wouldn't leave me alone. I went to the band's website and sent them an email about Steven, and how much it would mean to us if they would just meet him, and let him sit in at a rehearsal for a few minutes. Anyplace, anytime, with no trouble to them other than a little bit of their time.

Weeks went by with no response, so I sent another email and waited patiently. Still no answer. Finally, my good friend Jennifer Schloming talked to her friend Herman Edel, who had retired to southern Oregon after a very successful career in the music business in Los Angeles. Jennifer had lost her husband, Gordon, to cancer in 1994, and Herman had experienced the tragic loss of his daughter, Margo, so they both wanted to help. Jennifer and Herman know each other through Temple Emek Shalom, one of our local Jewish synagogues. One of the deepest and strongest tenets of the Jewish faith is the doing of "mitzvot," or good works, particularly without thought of reward other than the goodness of the act itself, and they did a huge mitzvah for Steven and me.

As did Herman's son Scott, an entertainment lawyer in LA. He approached the band's agent, Guy Richard, who in turn called their manager, Michelle Zarin. After discovering that she and Scott were neighbors, they got together to talk about it. They hit it off, and she looked in her calendar for possible dates.

"I turned the page and there it was," she recalled. "We had a benefit we were doing for the American Cancer Society. It was just meant to be. I felt like an opportunity to bless someone had just been dropped in my lap."

Sometimes everything falls into place, and we are lucky enough to see for a moment the hand of the Divine at work in the world, and to feel that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. Because the owner of the 4 Seasons Hotel chain had lost his 17-year old son to cancer, once a year every hotel in the chain hosts a cancer benefit, and Tower Of Power had been booked to play for their flagship resort in Maui. They were scheduled to fly over on a Thursday, play Saturday night, and leave Monday evening. Since this was a relatively long stay at a premier resort, many of the band members were bringing their wives, and some were bringing their children, too. I will be forever grateful to Guy Richard and Michelle Zarin for giving us their tickets, and to the Four Seasons for giving Steven and Teddi an ocean-view room. We were given the same generous meal allowance as the band members, and were treated wonderfully by everyone. The time we spent there was, and always will be, one of the most treasured memories of my life.

There are even deeper levels to this story, though. Francis Rocco Prestia, TOP's long-time bass player, had collapsed on stage during a show in Bend, Oregon the year before, and had been rushed to the hospital. Near death from liver failure and without insurance, he hadn't known how he would be able to pay for treatment, but the doctors told him not to worry, that he would be treated anyway.

"You just don't find people like that anymore," Michelle said. "They were so amazing. So Oregon has been in the back of my mind since that happened, and I'm so glad that we can do something good for someone from Oregon. And he's even a bass player!"

The whole trip was amazing. We met the band at the San Francisco airport, and even though they had gotten just a couple hours' sleep after playing late and travelling, they were gracious and welcoming to us. As we got to know them better, many of them shared with us how cancer and other tragedies had touched their lives, and how glad they were to have us there. The guys in the band and crew are deep, real, and genuine people, and we are truly privileged to know them as friends.

The Four Seasons Maui has been rated among the world's top resorts, and I can't help but agree. The setting was spectacular, the weather perfect, the food incredible, and the service flawless. David Reaves, the manager of the benefit, made sure that we were well taken care of, and the video tape of Steven playing with the band that was made by the house audio-visual staff is priceless to me. Steven and Teddi even ran into one of their old high school friends who worked at the hotel, which made us feel even more that we were in the right place.

We closed down the after-gig backstage party. Emilio Castillo, one of the founders and leader of the band, told Steven that he was welcome to sit in with them anyplace, anytime. Before the sound check, Steve had somewhat anxiously asked me if I thought that they would let him play with them that night. I'd told him "You just be yourself and play the way you play, and everything will take care of itself just fine," and he had relaxed. It felt so good to be able to give him some comfort and hope, and to feel his trust and faith in me.

When Monday afternoon came we didn't want to leave. Everything was so warm--the water, the breeze, the sun and sand, the people at the hotel, the band members and their families--and going back to Oregon and the coming winter seemed cruel and unfair. I had gotten all that I really wanted out of the trip during the sound check, when the guys in the band had recognized my son for the tremendous musician that he was, but the rest of that particular piece of paradise had been pretty easy to take, too, and getting back to real life just didn't hold much appeal for any of us. Reluctantly, we left the island and went home.

We were deeply touched when we got emails from some of the guys telling us how impressed they were by Steven's playing, and, more importantly, by his character. Baritone saxophonist "Doc" Kupka and guitarist Jeff Tamelier wanted to hire him to play on a project for their Strokeland Records label, and the band invited him to play with them at the legendary Fillmore in San Francisco for Christmas and again for New Years in Lake Tahoe, but he couldn't take the travel. He kept on playing as much as he could, but only locally.

He played with his own band on January 4th in our home town of Ashland, and if you didn't notice that he rested the head of the bass on the back of a chair you wouldn't have known that anything was wrong. During the entire course of his illness, no one -- not family member, friend, doctor, nurse, or stranger -- ever heard him complain, or call attention to himself, or ask for pity or sympathy. Once, when he was considering giving up chemotherapy, I asked him what treatment he would do instead. After a long, deep pause he looked me in the eyes and said "Play as much music as possible." He gave me an example of courage and determination that will inspire me for the rest of my life.

We were with him at home on January 31st, 2002 when his spirit went Home. He had done a lot in his 22 years, and i will be forever thankful that he had pursued exactly what he'd wanted to do with a single-minded passion, and that i had helped and supported him in the best way that i knew how. He had made no enemies, he'd been a joy to all who knew him, he was truly fortunate to have known real love, and he'd lived his life without doubt, fear, or regret.

When I called the guys in the band to tell them, they told me that they had been talking about him that very day because they were in the middle of auditioning bass players. Frank needed a liver transplant and was nearing the top of the waiting list, so they were trying out substitutes, and the guy that day had played all the right notes but just didn't have the feel they wanted. Half the band thought he was perfectly adequate as a sub and argued for him, and half the band thought that "perfectly adequate" wasn't good enough for TOP, and was adamantly opposed to him. During a very pregnant pause, someone finally summed it all up by saying "We need somebody who plays like Steve." Emilio told me that if Steven had been available they'd have given him an audition--and i know in my heart that he'd have had the job--and they sent yellow roses to the memorial service with a note declaring that he was "an official Tower Of Power alumnus." TOP is a class act all the way. They truly know in their souls that, among the many joys and powers of music, the deepest one is the power to heal.

After a tremendous outpouring of support from their fans, Frank got his transplant and is healthy and back with the band. He spent a lot of time with Steve and Teddi that weekend, and the picture on my refrigerator of Steven and him smiling and mugging for the camera never fails to make me smile, too. And in June of 2002, the band happened to play at the Britt Festival here in southern Oregon, just when our family from around the country was "coincidentally" holding a reunion! It was a wonderful blessing for us to be able to give them our appreciation and thanks in person.

Steven was so fortunate to have gotten to know the guys in Tower Of Power as both musicians and people, and they were lucky to have known him. I will be forever grateful to have been a part of it, and, through sharing this story, to keep alive the memory of my beloved son, and a truly magical moment of music, and joy, and love, and healing.

Tower Of Power in 2001 in no particular order:
Emilio Castillo
Doc Kupka
Norbert Stachel
Larry Braggs
"Iron" Mike Bogart
Adolfo Acosta
Rocco Prestia
David Garibaldi
Roger Smith
Jeff Tamelier

Spotlight On Adolfo Acosta

June 15, 2012

Tower Of Power Horn Player Feeling Like He Won The Lotto

By Rich Freedman

It wasn't long into his pinch-me-I'm-dreaming career with Tower of Power when trumpet player Adolfo Acosta noticed he was wearing the same colored shirt as band leader Emilio Castillo.
"I was trying to get to know him so I said, 'Emilio, I like your shirt,'" Acosta recalled. "He smiled. 'Adolfo, don't worry about it. You got the gig.'"

And here Acosta is, 12 years after debuting with Tower, still hard at work as second trumpet. Never, he said, does he take it for granted.
"I still treat it as if I'm on my probationary period," Acosta said, laughing that "I'm still subbing. I'm still paying to play." Not really. He's proven himself, which isn't easy to do in veteran band with East Bay roots that's been in the trenches for 44 years. And the Santa Barbara native isn't about to toss this chunk of gold back into the stream.

"It's just as much fun as when I started," Acosta said.
As usual, he's talking from the road. Rarely is TOP not in four or five cities -- or states or countries -- in a given week.
Saturday, the funksters are at Rodney King Winery in Healdsburg. On Wednesday, it's the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton. After spending most of July on the East Coast, Tower returns with a show Aug. 3 at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo.

Though Acosta is the often-invisible guy behind Castillo and Tower's co-founder, Doc Kupka, he's had three major assignments that other horn players would give their lips for (if only temporarily) to get:
The One O'Clock Lab, an acclaimed band at the University of North Texas, the Maynard Ferguson Band, and TOP.

For a horn player, working with the late Ferguson is like a young artist watching Picasso on a nightly basis. "With Maynard, every gig was a big gig. He gave it all every night," Acosto said. "And he wasn't a diva. He was one of the most fair and balanced people I had known." Ferguson died in 2006 at 78, and Acosta is eternally grateful for the two-year experience. "He was a class act," Acosta said. "And such a nice guy. I never thought I'd get a chance to play with one of my heroes. He was one of the guys that got me into the trumpet when I was really young. I never dreamt I'd be playing with Maynard. That was next to impossible." Castillo dedicated "You're Still a Young Man" at a Tower show to Ferguson immediately after his passing, which linked Acosta even more with his past, present and, so far, future, though he said he doesn't think about where he'll be in five or 10 years. "I think of playing now in the present and enjoying it," he said.

After 12 years, Acosta is far from feeling like the new kid on the block. "It is even more enjoyable now. The guys seem like my family," he said. "Now I can look at the them on a more down-to-Earth level than looking at them like they're stars." The acclaimed Tower horn section is superb, said Acosta, "for one thing, good players. The guys learn their parts really well. It all stems with the rhythm section, their pulse and the horns feed off of that. The sound is unique." Though Tower has a couple of handfuls of recognizable tunes -- "What is Hip," "Diggin' on James Brown," "Down to the NIghtclub," et al -- there's something special about playing a new tune for the first time in public, Acosta said.

"First of all, I'm really nervous," he said. "But it is a lot of fun. It's like getting a new car. You like to see the reaction from the audience."
Even though Acosta's played many of the songs "a hundred times," he said all the timing and teamwork that goes into making it work keeps it interesting.
"And, the thing is, I like the music," he said. "It doesn't get old. I don't get tired of playing it."

Though some musicians may have trouble ever parting with their instrument, Acosta realizes it's merely how he earns a living. His trumpet doesn't have a name. And never sits next to Acosta at the bar. "In goes the dummy, back in the case. Like a ventriloquist," Acosta laughed. And he'll do it as long as he can. First with North Texas, than Ferguson, and now Tower.

"It's liking winning the lottery for a trumpet player," Acosta said.

Article reprinted courtesy of Times Herald Online and Rich Freedman
Original Web Post Here: Adolfo Acosta Feature


What: Tower of Power

Where/when: Rodney Strong Winery, Healdsburg, Saturday; Alameda County Fair, Pleasanton,

Wednesday; Solano County Fair, Vallejo, Aug. 3.


New Music From Nick Milo, Former TOP Keyboardist.

June 04, 2012

Fans of TOP will certainly know the name Nick Milo. Nick was a member of Tower Of Power for many years, handling keyboard duties for the band from 1988 to 1999. In addition to touring with Tower for many years and recording several albums with the band, Nick was also a big part of the 40th Anniversary TOP show at the Fillmore in October, 2008 and was featured on many of the songs on the DVD available from that event.

Nick is currently the music director and keyboardist for Joe Cocker, who he has been working with since 2001. He will be on tour in the States this July and August with Cocker and Huey Lewis and the News.
Rocky Maffit is a composer/percussionist/singer and published author ("Rhythm and Beauty", published by Billboard). He was one of the original members of the band Champaign, a hit makers from the early eighties, when he was three years old!

We are happy to announce a new collaborative effort from Nick Milo and Rocky Maffit entitled "All The Lost Angels".

Much more information on Nick's new release is available here:

Review Of The Ronnie Scott’s Shows

March 26, 2012

Tower of Power
Ronnie Scott's, March 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. All Rights Reserved. © 2012.

Tower of Power
(Ronnie Scott's, Friday 9 March, first house; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Tower of Power, the ten-piece soul-jazz outfit from Oakland, California play as tight as a chain-link fence, with not a weak link in sight. These shows had sold out months ago, the atmosphere was sizzling, the sense of enjoyment communicated from the stand was infectious. On the opening night of their European tour they just blew Ronnie's away.

Bandleader Emilio Castillo, the band's co-founder with Stephen 'Doc' Kupka, one of the band's four original members onstage, had fulsome praise for the successful turn-round at Ronnie's. "On our last visit, nobody showed up!"

Tower of Power started out in 1968 with their roots in the 50s and 60s soul they grew up with, and the driving funk of James Brown and Sly Stone ("Me and Rocco would sneak into Frenchie’s and stay for six sets a night. No one could match Sly’s craft and substance ...," recounts Castillo.) They dropped in and out of the Fillmore scene, have issued over 20 albums, and have endured, through music's passing fads and fashions, to brightly burn the flame for their eye-wateringly tight arrangements, meticulous timing, and classy songwriting. They tell their story HERE.

This incarnation of the band is rammed with seasoned musicians keeping the flame burning with verve, passion and fluency. 'Doc' Kupka, who provides the throaty baritone in the chunky, thudding bass strata that underpins the whole show, reckons it's one of their best ever.

They make the old songs sound as though they were written just yesterday. Over the years the band has perfected the dynamics of the horn and rhythm sections with vocals, guitar and keyboards riding in and out of that fast-flowing river of funk. They never sit back on a riff or an overlong solo. As Larry Braggs, their lead vocalist for 12 years puts it, "... it’s like a freight train out there. If you don’t keep up, you’re gonna get run over!"

They hit the groove running with 'Oakland Stroke', filling Ronnie's with pin-sharp sound balance and perfect pitch - a searing wall of brass, crisp backing vocals with a touch of falsetto, nifty dance steps thrown in.

Segueing into 'There Ain't Nothin' Stoppin’ Us Now', Tom Politzer stepped forward to take a blistering sax solo before they generously sampled 'You Ought to be Having Fun' and 'Only so Much OIl in the Ground', all contributing to a rich helping of classics which they dipped into with great finesse all evening.

Roger Smith kept an ideal balance between his B3 Hammond and the full band with chunky, syncopated chord work, drizzled with flowing groove licks. And once Jerry Cortez was allowed to stretch out, he delivered a crunching, crawling solo - as Braggs said, "guitar players do what they want to do ... that's why we keep them in the band!" Acosta and Cracchiolo flew on trumpets, cutting the high registers with razor sharp precision.

They wound the pace down for a couple of numbers, Castillo's thoughtful ballad, 'Remember Love', early on, and the mellow ' Below us All the City Lights', which had Smith shifting to Yamaha electric piano in its softly crafted soul mood.

Castillo's smile said it all as Prestia and Garibaldi ratcheted it up with a mesh of pummelling bass and claggy drum beats, Cortez threw in another grinding electric solo, and the three saxes blazed away in unison on 'Walking Up Hip Street', before all but guitar and drum were left onstage for Smith's scintillating Hammond solo.

"The eternal question ... What ... Is ... Hip?", Tower’s anthemic anchor number, got a fresh, trumpet focus and glowing vocal harmonies; the debt to James Brown was acknowledged as "Soul Power ... gotta have it!" rang out, loud and proud, and the frontmen dropped to their knees, raising the roof, just for a few bars, with a breezy, sugary Chi-Lites sound on 'You're Still a Young Man'.

Is there a more finely honed soul section out there than Tower of Power? James Brown has said of them, "There's no black group that plays my stuff as good as them."

As opening support, the Ronnie Scott's All-Stars for the night, Natalie Williams, Phil Robson, Pedro Segundo and Sam Burgess had a collective, bright spring in their step, as they settled the Friday night audience into the right frame of mind, and set in place ideal foundations and preparations for the Tower.

Emilio Castillo - bandleader, 2nd tenor sax, vocals
Stephen "Doc" Kupka - baritone sax
Rocco Prestia - bass
David Garibaldi - drums
Larry Braggs - lead vocalist
Roger Smith - keyboards
Tom Politzer - lead tenor sax
Adolfo Acosta - trumpet
Jerry Cortez - guitar
Sal Cracchiolo - trumpet & trombone

In Loving Memory, John David Crockett, 1947 - 2011

December 02, 2011

John David Crockett passed away on November 21st. "Davy Crockett" was Tower Of Power's first crew member and was an important part of the band's early years.

Above photos were taken at the TOP 40th Anniversary show at the Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Friend Dave Crockett:

Dave was Tower of Power’s first road crew. He, all by himself, was actually our whole crew. He was known by all to be a hard worker with a great sense of humor and a loving heart, who lit up the room whenever he walked in. When God made him he broke the mold, truly one of a kind, and he’ll be sorely missed. He was one of the absolute best in the business.

We love you Dave and we’ll never forget you.

God bless you!!! Emilio Castillo and the Tower of Power family

Complete Obituary Details Are Available Here: John David Crockett, 1947 - 2011

Check Out

November 27, 2011

Musical Director for Saturday Night Live and TOP Alum Lenny Pickett has a very interesting new website.

Check it out at:

Lenny Pickett sitting in with Tower Of Power at the City Winery in NYC, 2009

Filmore 40th Anniversary DVD Review

May 12, 2011

Tower of Power “40th Anniversary” DVD & CD, TOP Records
“Still Hip, with Tons of Soul with a Capital ‘S’ ” Rating: 8

Bob Putignano

It took a while for Tower of Power to release this “40th Anniversary” two disc set (DVD & CD.) Recorded nearly three years ago at the Fillmore Auditorium on October 18th, 2008, the almost three year wait was worth it. TOP pulled out the stops for this special evening utilizing their current band lineup plus they brought back alumni members: Chester Thompson, Mic Gillette, Greg Adams, Richard Elliot, plus non-alum Sam Moore is fabulously featured performing stunning versions of the Hayes-Porter “I Thank You,” and the Otis Redding-Steve Cropper “Mr. Pitiful.” But these two Moore covers are only available on the DVD, and did not make it to the CD.

The DVD three part bonus segments starts out with current original members Emilio Castillo, Doc Kupka, Rocco Prestia, and David Garibaldi revisiting their Bay area haunts telling stories about how they met Bill Graham, got signed by his label, and eventually went on to fame. One of the Castillo comments about saxophonist Lenny Pickett struck me odd, “Lenny Pickett was King Curtis, Maceo Parker, and Jr. Walker all in one package - times ten,” Come on, Pickett’s great but lets be serious. By the way, Pickett only partially performs on bonus segments, not on the main portions, nor on the CD. Other bonus segments only include snippets of the band playing, and are mainly interviews of the guys hanging out telling somewhat interesting stories of the bands legacy, very informal and genuine. Although brief, it was cool to see Bruce Conte’s recent and memorable guitar solo on “What Is Hip?” Unfortunately Conte’s also absent during the DVD’s full concert performance.

The main performance DVD is done like a documentary, starts with a previously recorded introduction by Bill Graham that I thought was a very classy touch, then wham the band slams into the appropriately titled “We Came To Play,” then with precision craftsmanship shifts to “Soul With a Capital ‘S,’” , with additional comps from “Oakland Stroke,” whew! Other highlights: by track five there’s now a huge amount of guest artists on-stage, the massive horn section’s on fire especially with the additions of Mic Gillette and Greg Adams. Vocalist Ellis Hall joins the fray on a thumping “You Got to Funkifize,” further fueled by Chester Thompson’s B3 and keyboards, who is also interviewed with Bruce Conte. Richard Elliot leads the band on his instrumental “Boys From the Bay” and soars, Greg Adams trumpet solo is also captivating and trades hot licks with Elliot, to take this ultra funky track out, unfortunately this track does not make it’s way to CD. Band member kudos for baritone player Doc Kupka calling him the bottom sound of the band, and the perfect counterpoint, then Ellis Hall leads the band with a very up-tempo version of “This Time Is Real.” A real soul man is called for when Sam Moore makes one of his two appearances starting with “I Thank You.” Sam’s walking a little slow these days, but vocally he sounds strong and he’s very inspired here. Moore’s coaxed on for another and delivers a passionate “Mr. Pitiful.” “Only So Much Oil In The Ground” has Ellis Hall back in front with at least six pieces of horns, where Richard Elliot is given space to blast off, calls for CT are answered when Chester Thompson explodes with his B3 solo. Current band members extol the qualities of vocalist Larry Braggs who takes us on a simmering version of “A Little Knowledge (Is a Dangerous Thing.” Braggs asks the crowd “What Is Hip?” and rolls, Greg Adams trumpet is dead-on as he buzzes and dances around the horn section, guitar solos by Mark Harper, Jeff Tamelier, and Carmen Grillo are also fiery. But from a entertainment vantage the edited interviews during this performance broke the mood, and weren’t welcomed, fortunately on the CD, these interviews were edited out. I loved the group shot of all the guests with the current lineup near the end of the show, there was no way for me to count the amount of players on-stage, but it was impressive. Also impressive was the way that no one bumped into each others playing, and flowed, true pros, all of them. Sadly, it’s almost over with “You’re Still a Young Man” Braggs sounds like he’s been singing this song like he’s been in the band for all of their forty years, it’s all very, very soulful. The finale was kind of anticlimactic for me “Knock Yourself Out” is performed well, but not one of TOP’s most remembered tunes, so this felt odd, but the band fires, Chester Thompson in particular, but there’s more interruptions with interviews, which truly kill the moment on the DVD. These interviews could have and should have ran during the closing credits. Of note, conspicuously missing was, and what could have been the closing number, “Squib Cakes,” (a term Mic Gillette used to describe the backsides of lovely ladies) was a long time favorite of late-night FM radio, exciting, and a tune they still regularly perform, it’s also a great workout for all the members of the band, don’t why it wasn’t performed and/or not added to this otherwise fine set.

In summary, this package is a delight that will further secure Tower of Power’s already potent legacy. I make it a point to see them live at least once a year; they always pack a venue, and will have you leaving the gig with big smile. Now that’s it’s only about seven years from their (hard to believe) fiftieth anniversary, here’s to looking forward to their next anniversary celebration, as well as lots of other good music till 2018, they’ve still got it. Need further evidence? Get a copy of this two disc set, you won’t be disappointed. Last but not least, and once again classy is the very well laid out liners, complete with song by song musician credits, soloists, et all, and for the page dedicated to original member Steven “Skip” Mesquite, who performs here, but has since passed.

Bob Putignano

© 1968-2012 Tower of Power