For well close to five decades, Tower of Power has delivered the best in Rhythm and Blues music. But, as group co-founder Emilio Castillo says, they could have had a much different name.
“We were a Soul band called The Motowns.” he recalls. “Rocco Prestia was the bass player, I was in there, and my brother was the drummer. I met Doc Kupka at the Alameda County Fair over the Fourth of July weekend back in 1968, and gave him an audition. He came in the band, and we eventually changed our name to the Tower of Power.”
“As it turned out, Bill Graham and David Rubinson – the producer for his new label, San Francisco Records – liked the band because we were soulful. Everyone had grown out of the whole psychedelic thing. Bands like Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead had been happening for about three years. The collective ear of the Bay Area was ready for something soulful. That’s right when we came along.”
Their first record, East Bay Grease, helped to define the East Bay sound, and did well enough to warrant a recording contract with Warner Brothers. Bump City, their 1972 debut for the label, was a hit on both the Billboard 200 and the chart’s R&B Albums chart, and netted them the hits “You’re Still A Young Man” and “Down To The Nightclub.” The decade of the 1970s were a boom period for the group, who hit with radio classics like “So Very Hard To Go” and “What Is Hip?”.
“I still love it as much as ever. We’re not a smooth jazz band, or a retro band…we don’t follow trends, we just make our music exactly the way we want it to be. We noticed years ago that when we did that, the fans liked it. We stay true to that, and that makes it easy to go to work on a daily basis.”