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Apr 23rd

Larry Braggs is the power in Tower of Power

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Larry Braggs with Sly And The Family Stone drummer Bill Lordan. Photo by Pam Soule

For thirty-nine years the band "Tower of Power" has had their fans around the world dancing in the aisles at their concerts. In the '70s Tower of Power toured with Sly Stone and Credence Clearwater. They have performed on records with Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart and Dionne Warwick. Just back from a recent concert tour in Europe and now on a nonstop U.S. Tour, Tower of Power performed at the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater on August 15. Four of the original band members are currently with the group: Emilio Castillo - Tenor Sax, Stephen Doc Kupka - Baritone Sax, David Garibaldi - Drums, and Francis Rocco Prestia - bass guitar.

Larry Braggs with Sly And The Family Stone drummer Bill Lordan. Photo by Pam Soule

For thirty-nine years the band "Tower of Power" has had their fans around the world dancing in the aisles at their concerts. In the '70s Tower of Power toured with Sly Stone and Credence Clearwater. They have performed on records with Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart and Dionne Warwick. Just back from a recent concert tour in Europe and now on a nonstop U.S. Tour, Tower of Power performed at the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater on August 15. Four of the original band members are currently with the group: Emilio Castillo - Tenor Sax, Stephen Doc Kupka - Baritone Sax, David Garibaldi - Drums, and Francis Rocco Prestia - bass guitar.

Emilio Castillo, the founder and band leader, was seventeen years old when he formed the band originally called the Motowns. In 1968 he met saxophonist Stephen "The Funky Dr." Kupka.

"We both loved soul music and we clicked immediately," says Castillo.

They changed their name to "Tower of Power" and wrote "You're Still a Young Man." In 1970 they cut their first record, "East Bay Grease." The music continued to flow with "What is Hip," "Don't Change Horses" and "Soul Vaccination."

Emilio defines their music as "Urban Soul Music," and says, "When Tower of Power starts to groove, and I mean really starts to click, we enter what I call ‘the Oakland Zone.' That's when we're really in the pocket, when our fans jump out of their seats and give us back that same high energy that we're putting out. It's almost a transcendental experience. Our music carries a lot of energy and emotion; the magic is that we can translate and share it. It's like the funk -- you just can't fake it,"

I talked with Stephen "Doc" Kupka and David Garibaldi (both sixty years old) and asked about their continuous touring schedule.

David said, "It's all just routine to me now, not grueling at all."

"Our schedule is pretty full all year but the busiest month is coming up in October; we are always on tour," says Doc.
There are currently ten band members, but over the years nearly sixty different musicians have performed as part of TOP. Former lead singer Lenny Williams, who recorded three albums with TOP between 1972 and 1974, has had a very successful solo career.

The new lead singer (for seven years now) is Larry Braggs, who feels he was born to sing. He said that in 1995 he moved to the Bay Area of California and was playing in different bands. He was working three jobs as well as trying to sing. He had a gig at the Starlight Room in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. A disc jockey told him that Tower of Power was looking for a new lead singer and said he should audition. The drummer in his band happened to be friends with David Garibaldi from TOP and he said he would give them him a call and put in a good word for him.
Says Larry, "I was up in Reno at a gig and Emilio Castillo called and left me a message. I didn't call him back, I had never heard of Emilio and I thought some of the guys in my band were playing a joke on me. Then he called again so I thought I better call him back. Emilio said, ‘How come I have never heard of you?' and I went, ‘How come I have never heard of you?' I finally auditioned and got the job."

There have been a number of great singers before him, but this young man has incredible charisma, charm and a wonderful funky voice. He is genuinely in love with singing and excited about every performance.
Larry commented, "When I joined Tower it didn't take me long to realize I was not the musician I thought I was. In every other band I was always the front ma
 

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