Tower of Power to funk up 35th annual Telluride Jazz Celebration, 8/5 – 8/7

Tower of Power to funk up 35th annual Telluride Jazz Celebration, 8/5 – 8/7

[click “Play” to hear Susan’s conversation with Emilio Castillo and Larry Braggs]


A_group_shot Telluride in the 1970s was dirt poor and tie dyed. The Idarado Mines were closing and derelicts were crashing at the historic Sheridan Opera House. In the larger world, some of the currents of the 1960s had become mainstream, women’s lib and youth with a voice for two. Polyester became as ubiquitous as avocado and gold for in home decor. Yuck. “Taxi Driver” was one of the standout movies of the decade. And Tower of Power came on the scene. Amen.

Tower of Power appears in all its horny glory (and I mean that in the good sense) at the 35th annual Telluride Jazz Celebration, August 5 – August 7, 2011, a not-to-be-missed weekend of jazz, funk, blues, wine, even yoga, which features other enduring legends in addition to Tower of Power, among them, Guest of Honor Paquito d’Rivera, Rita Coolidge and Allen Toussaint.

Tower of Power’s 40-year odyssey actually began just before the 1970s dawned, in 1968. Yes, a big year for the news, particularly if you fancy obituaries: Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated back then. But I digress.

In 1968, Emilio Castillo met Stephen “Doc” Kupka. 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 in August 1968, Tower of Power began playing gigs and soon became very well known as a local must-see group.

Many other great bands emerged from San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s: The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Big Brother, Journey, Cold Blood and others helped to define the “San Francisco Sound.” Tower of Power has always claimed Oakland, California as its hometown. Playing area venues and making a name for itself, Tower of Power’s big break was just around the corner. And here there is a link to Telluride.

Former Telluride local Bill Graham booked Tower of Power at his Fillmore West one Tuesday night in 1970. Impressed he then signed the group to his San Francisco Record label.

Tower of Power celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008 and still retains five original founding members.
Want to know more? Click the “play” button and listen to my interview with band leader Emilio and lead singer Larry Braggs.

Photo collage by Steve Spatafore

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