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If it came down to deciding who were some of the greatest R&B, soul, and funk bands of all time , at the “TOP” is where you would find the Tower of Power –formerly known as The Motowns. They have been performing since 1968 and hailed straight out of Oakland, California. What sets them apart from other bands is that they are solely based on a mean-sounding horn section.
This musical group began in the summer of 1968 when tenor saxophonist and vocalist Emilia Castillo auditioned Stephen “doc” Kupka, a baritone sax player in his home. The famous story is that after hearing Doc play, Castillo’s father said, “Hire that guy, he’s got something.” A few months later they started traveling as a group and playing various gigs and adding more musicians to the band along the way. For example, Lenny Williams was the lead vocalist for the band from early 1973 to late 1974, which was the period the band experienced their greatest commercial success.
Their big break came in 1970 after a Tuesday night audition in Fillmore of which they were signed by Bill Graham’s San Francisco records and recorded their first album, East Bay Grease. Both Castillo and Kupka wrote a lot of original material for that album. Then the group recorded their second album Bump City under the Warner Brother’s label. That led to many song charting hits and albums. Some of the hits you may know them for are “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)”.
Their success has also allowed them to work with many other music legends such as Aerosmith, Santana, and Elton John. In 2008 they celebrated their 40th anniversary with shows throughout the bay area, one of the most important being at the Fillmore in San Francisco on October 18, 2008. The Fillmore was the venue where they were discovered and got their first record deal. That night was memorable because they had former members make on stage appearances.
Tower of Power has been touring and recording continuously since the late ’60s and still maintains a busy tour calendar. They are in constant demand by fans who cannot seem to get enough of them. They are one of the only surviving bands from the ’6os who are still together and are still successful at their craft. For more updates on what the band is up to visit their website here.
Listen to the Secret Spot Boston’s home for R&B, soul, and slow jams every weekend from eight to midnight to hear more of the music from the artist we highlight on our “Where Are They Now?’ feature.