Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Tower's 40 year 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 will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this year. 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. 2009 will see the release of the “Great American Soulbook”, a collection of classic soul tunes, and the 40th Anniversary Concert DVD. 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 new website, which will be growing and evolving continually to include more band history, information on alumni members, and regular updates on Tower of Power.

The Band

Emilio Castillo

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.

For Emilio's complete biography, please click here.

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.

For Doc's complete biography, please click here.

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.

For Rocco's complete biography, please click here.

David Garibaldi

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.

For David's complete biography, please click here.

Larry Braggs

Larry Braggs is TOP's lead vocalist. "LB" is referred to by Emilio Castillo as "Pound for pound, the baddest cat in the land". Larry's high energy vocals are nothing short of astounding. His vocal range allows the band to pull virtually 40 years of songs out of their "trick bag". Larry puts it all out there and leaves nothing on the table, night after night.

“I was born to sing, I knew it in the second grade,” says the band’s lead and background vocal artist. Larry Braggs auditioned for the part of "The Voice" at Reno, Nevada in 1999 and was soon offered the gig, to which he responded, “thanks, but no thanks.” He was kidding of course, but that set the stage for the challenge of making “the group forget every singer they ever had,” as he says. “I want to be The Voice who drives them to the next level. And I can do that because I’m five years younger than my birth certificate says I am! I’m the lizard who keeps shedding his skin; I’m just catching up to where my talent is. Which ensures I always have someplace new to go.”

For Larry's complete biography, please click here.

Roger Smith

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.”

For Roger's complete biography, please click here.

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.

For Tom's complete biography, please click here.

Adolfo Acosta

Trumpeter, Adolfo Acosta, began playing with Tower Of Power during the Summer of 2000 after leaving a band led by the legendary trumpet virtuoso and jazz musician, Maynard Ferguson. Prior to starting to tour on the road, Adolfo spent his youth playing in the public school music program of his hometown, Santa Barbara, California, while studying privately with Jeff Elliott and then later with Bobby Shew. Little by little, Adolfo started working a variety of gigs and gained valuable experience before making his move to Denton, Texas to play in the bands of The University Of North Texas where he became a member of the famed One O'Clock and Two O'Clock Lab Bands while studying privately with Jay Saunders. "It seems like only yesterday when I did my first gig with Tower Of Power in Croydon, England. That evening is still very clear in my memory and I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling I had when I heard the sound of the band in full motion on stage and the roar of the crowd. I was in complete awe. Today It's just as fun and challenging as my first night with the band. For me, playing with TOP is no waltz in the park." Adolfo currently spends his downtime in sunny Los Angeles.

For Adolfo's complete biography, please click here.

Michael (Iron Mike) Bogart

The band’s lead trumpet, trombone and flugelhorn guru got his start with music scholarships to Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Miami. This led him to spend 10 years as a working musician in the Navy where he polished his skills on the bass and trombone. Before joining the legendary T.O.P, Bogart was a member of the Maynard Ferguson Big Band. “I believe in my heart that music makes people heal, that it’s a universal language. I’m extremely blessed, and grateful, that God has given me this talent, to participate in a process that spreads so much positive mental and spiritual energy. I believe I was called to make music, to be on stage, to make people happy,” he says.

For Mike's complete biography, please click here.

Mark Harper

Mark Harper has been a member of Tower of Power since October 2007. Prior to joining Tower of Power, Mark was a member of Smooth Jazz Bassist of the Year, Wayman Tisdale’s band, having toured with him for seven years. Mark still tours and records with Wayman when not working with TOP. Mark, a Multi Platinum Award Winner himself, has toured and recorded with artists such as: Dave Koz, Paul Jackson Jr, Y&P, Glen Jones, Jonathon Butler, Yolanda Adams, Phyllis Hyman, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Blair, Mac Band, Joe McBride, Tom Braxton, Ronnie Laws, Kirk Franklin, Bebe Winans, and host of others. Between touring with TOP, Wayman Tisdale & fronting his own bands The Mark Harper Project and The Mark Harper Acoustic Band, Mark still finds time to write, produce, and perform with other well known artists.

For Mark's complete biography, please click here