December 16, Arts and Entertainment Source: Tower of Power back for 54th year with new vocalist – Vallejo Times-Herald

For some bands, the lead vocalist is the engine. If he or she’s out, it’s time to call Uber.
Then there’s Tower of Band, a band with a dozen Top 100 R&B tunes. Started 54 years ago by Emilio Castillo and Doc Kupka, Tower is complemented by longtime colleagues who have helped anchor the R&B funk band at least 10 years — Adolfo Acosta on trumpet, drummer Dave Garibaldi, keyboardist Roger Smith, lead tenor sax Tom Politzer, and guitarist Jerry Cortez.
Lead vocalist? For Tower of Power, it’s like changing tires. At last count, it’s 12. That’s 4.5 years per vocalist.
“Singers have a short shelf life,” said Castillo, granting a 45-minute phone interview earlier this week while — you guessed it — auditioning candidates for the coveted lead vocalist slot, vacated when Ray Greene was whisked away by Santana after fulfilling the 2021 calendar with Tower.
“They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse — a ton of money,” Castillo said.
So it was back sifting through videos, recordings and suggested possible candidates by trusted friends to find “The Guy” by the time TOP returns in 2022, including a just-announced April 1 gig at the Empress Theatre in downtown Vallejo.
“We don’t invite them (for audition) unless they’re potentially going to work. It’s not like a cattle call,” Castillo said. “We listen to all kinds of people and call people I can trust; watch video links, listen to audio. All kinds of ways to gather information. And if someone is ‘in the ballpark,’ we let them know.”
After scrutinizing three candidates this week, one “completely owned it” while another was “a little young,” Castillo said. “We look at different things: ability, enunciation, intonation, good stage presence and if he’s a principled guy. And soulful.”
While the potential new guy has to carry those trademark Tower tunes like “What is Hip?” and “Down to the Nightclub,” Castillo says he doesn’t “like these guys to be a mimic. I want them to find their own way. Some can’t help it. They hear the record and that’s what they know.”
Whoever emerges as the lead vocalist better be prepared to pack a suitcase — often. The pandemic impact notwithstanding, Tower hits the road 200 days a year — even after more than five decades, with prestigious talent agency William Morris at the wheel.
Tower of Power is in the rarified air of those musical acts still performing together since 1968 with at least two charter members.
Not only is TOP “just as good, we’re maybe a little better” than ever, Castillo believes, especially after “Iron” Mike Bogart re-joined the band on trumpet after a stint with the Navy and college.
Though Castillo is elated that Tower secured bass player Marc van Wageningen in 2018, he misses original member and friend, the late Frances “Rocco” Prestia, who died Sept. 29, 2020 at 69.
“He and I were friends since he was 14. I knew him inside and out,” Castillo said. “There was that brotherhood that goes deeper; even deeper than Doc (Kupka). I miss him. He was a good guy and a great player. To so many people, he’s their hero.”
Castillo said his own health is good and there are no plans to retire. And, not that he obsesses about it, a No. 1 hit would be icing on the career cake.
“Oh, I don’t think about that too much. Though there may be some regrets,” says Castillo, believing he “missed the mark” in inadequately producing the 1976 song, “You Ought to Be Having Fun,” which was recorded twice.
With downloading platforms, “you never know” if a past tune or one yet-released will strike gold, Castillo said.
“That’s what I keep telling my wife; any minute, one of these could take off,” said the faith-based sax player and vocalist.
At 71, Castillo said many are surprised he maintains the energy level during so many concerts. While he may no longer — like the song says — still be a young man, at least he feels it.
“I think the music keeps me young … and the work keeps me active,” he said.
And in 20 — OK, maybe 30 — years, when Tower of Power is history and someone comes across the band’s music?
“I want them to say that we had super high musicality played by 10 principled men,” Castillo said.
Tower of Power headlines the Empress Theatre in downtown Vallejo on Friday, April 1, 8 p.m.
Tickets go on sale Thursday, 6 a.m., at
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