Tower's musical 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 is available on DVD. 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. Recent releases include their 40th Anniversary Concert Blu Ray recorded at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and "Hipper Than Hip" a remstered gem that was tucked away in the Warner Brothers vault since 1974. 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 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 sound.
Growing up in Berkeley, California, he loved the Coasters’ “Searchin’” and Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light.” His dream was always to play well but to also help craft songs, like “What Is Hip?,” “Only So Much Oil,” “Recapture The Magic,” “So Very Hard To Go” and “Willing To Learn.” After meeting Emilio Castillo over the July 4th weekend in 1968, and shortly thereafter becoming a member of Tower of Power, Doc and Emilio began writing songs, performing, recording and touring the world with TOP. Some of Doc's favorite band mates have included Lenny Pickett, Chester Thompson, Mic Gillette and Greg Adams; but thinks the current line up is the best one yet! “I’d compare us to the great big bands in that we’ve got our own style, we’ve been doing it a long time and there’s no end in sight,” he says.
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.
When he’s not playing the role of “master of finger-style funk”, he can be found relaxing, taking care of himself, picking up the kids, playing golf, and reading fiction. Rocco thinks his “legend” status is flattering, but hopes that his fans will not only emulate him, but create personal music styles of their own. He encourages his fans to not only worship their music idols and reproduce their music, but to learn from it to create music that is all their own. "I love those moments on stage when we get into that "zone". Your hands are right, you’re alone, the time is yours. That’s still the biggest nut for me, and when those times happen it’s always special. That’s the beauty of being in this band -- we’re a group, and yet we’re individuals," he says.
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 today.
When he’s not grooving on stage, he likes to be at home to cook, run and stay in shape. He recently became a father again to Marco Giovanni Garibaldi , whom he says will be starting music lessons very soon. “I’m very appreciative of my gift and happy to know I’ve inspired so many people. It’s just hard for me to process. I mean, let’s face it, the story is still being written. This much I do know, the first hundred years are the toughest,” he states.
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 am home.”
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.
Born in Detroit and raised in Palo Alto, California, Tom contributes to the band's complex sound with his first tenor sax, alto sax, flute, and clarinet. Tom’s musical background and his switch from playing the clarinet to the baritone sax chair (inspired, in part, by Tower of Power’s “Squib Cakes”), set the stage for him to become the professional musician he is today. “Being in the band has definitely made me a better musician. It’s just something that happens when you’re around great musicians. It’s like a minor league ball player making it to the majors. Your game just gets better. Plus, I get a lot of creative energy from our fans. Their enthusiasm really feeds me,” he says.
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA, Adolfo has been a member of Tower Of Power since July of 2000 playing the second trumpet and flugelhorn parts. Prior to joining TOP he was a member of the famed University of North Texas One O'Clock Lab Band and also spent two years on the road touring with jazz trumpet legend Maynard Ferguson.
Jerry Cortez joined Tower of Power in January of 2010. His funky rhythm style and blazing leads are a perfect fit for TOP, and the fans are hitting the message board with many compliments.
A seasoned professional, Jerry has toured and recorded with artists including Michael McDonald, Tom Johnston, Jessie Colin Young, Buddy Miles, Alex Ligertwood, and many others.
“Tower of Power is delighted to announce Sal Cracchiolo as our newest member. Sal is a “world class” lead trumpet player. Super exciting!!! He has an incredibly high range, plays with power and finesse, his soloing technique is unparalleled, and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known. He’s a great addition to the T.O.P. family.” -Tower Of Power Band Leader Emilio Castillo.
Ray Greene replaced Larry Braggs as TOP's lead vocalist on December 31st, 2013. Ray grew up in Georgia listening to his father sing Gospel music. He was exposed to the recordings of Sam Cooke, James Brown and Otis Redding at a young age. This music would leave an indelible mark on Ray throughout his life and career as a musician. When Ray came to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music as a trombonist, one of his first exposures to performing in horn bands was getting to play a significant portion of the Tower of Power playbook.
"Needless to say, when I received the call from Mr. Castillo to join the group, I was excited, thankful and completely filled with joy. I have a profound respect and admiration for all of the great vocalists that have preceded me, especially Mr. Larry Braggs, who is the longest tenured singer ever to grace the Tower of Power stage.
I look forward to carrying on the legacy and becoming a part of the ToP family. I cannot wait to share the gift I have been given with each and every one of you!"
Larry Braggs, TOP Lead Vocalist, 2000-2013
Larry Braggs was TOP's lead vocalist from Fall of 2000 through 2013.
Visit Larry on the web at www.larrybraggsmusic.com/