The day Emilio Castillo met and hired Stephen “Doc” Kupka to join his band, he thought he was merely adding a baritone sax to his band’s line-up. He had no idea he had just formed a partnership that would serve as the foundation of an enduring sound and launch a musical odyssey that has lasted more than four decades and still keeps fans bumping to the beat.
From their early days in Oakland, Tower of Power has laid claim to a sound that mixes soul and funk and is uniquely their own. The 10-member band is bringing their one-of-a-kind stage show to the Stanislaus County Fair and bandleader Castillo promises it will be a show to remember.
“We’re going to give them some of our classic numbers and some obscure songs we don’t usually do,” Castillo said. “There will be some high energy beats and some heart-aching soul. There will be a little bit of everything and they’re going to love it.”
Formed in 1968, Tower of Power has been recording and touring since landing their big break during an audition at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1970. All the compositions on the band’s first album, “East Bay Grease” were original tunes written by Castillo and Kupka.
“The Bay Area has produced some great songs and great singers,” Castillo said. “It has always been music that inspires me.”
Their next album, “Bump City,” was recorded on the Warner Brothers label, and led to a string of hits and memorable albums defined by the band’s powerhouse line-up of horn players. 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.
Each year Tower of Power tours the United States, Japan and Europe. Recent releases include “Great American Soulbook,” a collection of classic soul tunes, and the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD that captured the band’s special reunion show at the Fillmore in 2008.
Now, in their 45th year as a band, Tower of Power is putting together a new album that Castillo says will “push the envelope” and be the record of his career.
“We’re selfish in that we make music to please ourselves,” Castillo said. “We learned not to follow what some record company wants, but to make music that we like. That’s the way we’ve been doing it and the fans love it, so we will keep doing what we do best.”
Tower of Power will take to the Budweiser Variety Free Stage at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the fairgrounds. Admission is included in the fair admission price of $12 for adults; $5 for seniors 65 and older and children 7 to 12 years. Children under 6 years are free.