Tower of Power Biography
Tower of Power is a horn-based soul band from Oakland, California.
In the mid-1960s, 17-year-old tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo moved from Detroit, Michigan, to Fremont, California. He started a band called The Gotham City Crime Fighters  which evolved into the Motowns, specializing in soul music. In 1968, Castillo teamed up with baritone saxophonist Stephen "Doc" Kupka (aka "The Funky Doctor") and trumpet/trombone player Mic Gillette, moved to Oakland, and began writing original material. They changed the band's name to Tower of Power and began playing frequently in the Bay Area.
In 1970, Tower of Power (by then including trumpeter Greg Adams) signed a recording contract with Bill Graham's San Francisco Records and quickly released its first album, East Bay Grease. They moved to Warner Brothers records and 1972's Bump City and 1973's self-titled release were breakout albums for the band; the latter included possibly their most enduring song, What is Hip?. On some of their releases in mid-1970s, such as Urban Renewal (1974), the band moved towards funk, but always continued recording ballads as well. After vocalist Lenny Williams left the band their best days, commercially speaking, were behind. In late 1970s they moved towards disco sounds to the great disappointment of many fans. Often the albums Bump City, Tower of Power, Back to Oakland and Urban Renewal are seen as being the band's greatest achievements. These albums are also among the most classic R&B recordings of the 1970s, although the group's live album recorded in 1976, Live and in Living Colour, is also well respected.
Tower of Power has remained active throughout the 1970s, '80s, '90s, and into the 21st century, and is still touring in 2006. Personnel changes have been part of the history and evolution of the band; at least 60 musicians have performed, toured, and/or recorded with the band through the years, including Saturday Night Live musical director Lenny Pickett, drummer David Garibaldi, bassist Rocco Prestia, saxophonist Richard Elliot, and bassist and BALCO founder Victor Conte whose cousin Bruce Conte played guitar in the band as well (Bruce Conte has recently rejoined). After leaving the band, one of their original vocalists, Rick Stevens, was sentenced to life in prison on three counts of first-degree murder. The other original vocalist, Rufus Miller, performed most of the lead vocals on "East Bay Grease."
Tower of Power has released 18 albums over the years (Compilatons and regional variations not included), the latest being 2003's return to form Oakland Zone. In addition, the horn section has become well-known as a backing unit for other artists. The TOP horn section has appeared on many artist's recordings, including Little Feat, the Monkees, Santana, Elton John, Linda Lewis, John Lee Hooker, Rod Stewart, Jefferson Starship, Heart, Huey Lewis and the News, Lyle Lovett, Poison, Phish, and Aerosmith. The song, "So Very Hard To Go" was featured in the soundtrack of the film City of God.