Tower of Power has boasted a funky soul sound since its creation in 1967. The band struck out from Oakland, CA with vocalist Rufus Miller, Greg Adams and David Padron on trumpet, Emilio 'Mimi' Castillo, Steve Kupka, and Lenny Pickett on sax, Mic Gillette playing horns, Willie Fulton on guitar, bassist Fancis Prestia, and drummers Brent Byers and David Geribaldi. Though the band's name was originally Motown Soul Band, they quickly changed to Tower of Power when their heavy soul flavor began overpowering audiences with musical charms. Their first album, East Bay Grease, was released after the band gained local fame through performances at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. They began becoming more nationally known when they signed with Warner Brothers Records and released two more albums, Bump City and Tower of Power.
Hit singles on each album helped boost the band's rating, but problems with the vocalist were holding them back. Rufus Miller was first replaced by Rick Stevens, and later by Lenny Williams. The band's line-up continued to change with Chester Thompson, Skip Mesquite, Ken Balzell, and Bruce Conte passing through. The horn section stayed intact throughout the years of change. Finally, in 1974 another hit surfaced. 'Don't Change Horses' made it to the US Top 30 Singles chart. The success prompted a change in label, and Tower of Power signed with Columbia Records in 1976.
Throughout the decades, the band's sound remained tightly rooted in the soul tradition, blending in elements of jazz, funk, and rock to keep their sound contemporary with the times. In the past, Tower of Power toured with the likes of Sly Stone and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart, and Dionne Warwick also shared the spotlight with the band. They are a known influence on artists like Sting, who admitted to having a Tower of Power cover band before forming The Police. When they began headlining their own shows, tickets sold quickly, especially in their home state of California. The touring life began taking a toll, and the guys decided it was time for a break, though they never fully disbanded.
The band picked up again in the early 1990s and began touring like never before. For the major part of the year they toured worldwide. Crowds gathered across the US, Japan, and Europe to hear their soulful riffs. New lead singer Brent Carter calls their music 'old school funk with new school flavor', a sound which allows them to please both old and new fans at all of their live shows. In 1991, after signing with Epic/Sony, they released Monster on A Leash, followed by Souled Out and Rhythm & Business. With the busy touring schedule, however, they haven't had much time in the recording studio. To answer their fans demands for more albums they released a live album called Soul Vaccination: Live! And a 2-CD retrospective, What is Hip?
In the following years the bands lineup continued to change, but headman and creator Mimi Castillo has made sure the sound stayed true to the origins of the band. Tower of Power continues to tour to a diverse audience of loyal fans and those who are curious to hear the legend in action. A reviewer from the Fort Worth Star Telegram writes, 'If you see someone sitting still at a Tower of Power concert, don't bother checking their pulse'”they're already dead!'
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