Hal Lifson’s Corner: Tower Of Power’s Doc Kupka Still Rockin’
Posted: Friday, April 14, 2017 – 2:55 PM
Ever since I was a teenager in the early 1970s, I have worshipped the band Tower Of Power.
Their five-man horn assault is constantly referred to as the “World’s Greatest Horn Section.”
Drummer David Garibaldi and bass player Rocco Prestia are the best in the world at “pure funk” and play seamless syncopated rhythms on hit songs like What Is Hip?, You’re Still A Young Man and So Very Hard To Go to name but a few in the band’s 49-year history.
Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing my good friend Doc Kupka, a.k.a. “The Funky Doctor” who is a legacy member of Tower of Power and their amazing baritone sax man. Doc also has written all the group’s big hits along with group founder Emilio Castillo. Doc is a mega talented musician and is known for his innovative style of playing the sax against the other 4 horns with his deep “scoops” on the sax in between the horn lines.
Doc and I have kept in touch over the years and I was excited to meet him at my corner booth “office” here in Beverly Hills at Nate N’ Al. We shared a lot of music biz stories, as we always do, and we could not believe how long it had been since we have seen each other. Tower of Power keeps a rigorous touring schedule around the world and even after nearly 50 years together, the band still has fans clamoring to hear their unique blend of soul, funk, and R&B music played at a precision level. There is nothing like a live Tower of Power show as last year’s Saban Theatre show here in Beverly Hills proved to the packed house that was there to witness what Aretha Franklin once called “her favorite band.”
Now Doc also maintains a separate music catalog from Tower of Power of albums he writes and produces on his own. His latest album features former Tower of Power lead singer Ray Greene and a super lineup of musicians on a disc entitled Nature Doesn’t Legislate. Doc has written some cool political commentary songs over the year with partner Castillo on songs like Only So Much Oil In The Ground and Can’t Stand To See The Slaughter.
On the new record, there are clever songs like Football After Church, I Guess The Old Folks Were Right After All and Virtual Reality Heaven. Doc even recommended one of the new tracks for my latest PR client, R&B singer Freda Payne, Downbeat On An Upbeat Swing. Doc keeps writing great songs both for Tower of Power and for his own solo records. I tell Doc how much it means to be his friend when I have been a fan of the band since I was 12-years-old. “The fans keep getting younger,” Doc says with wry smile. “So I guess we are doing something right!” I tell Doc there is no band like Tower of Power in the whole world.
We discuss getting the band in The Rock and Roll of Hall of Fame and next year’s 50th Anniversary plans including a new album with their new lead singer, the talented Marcus Scott.
I ask for a to-go box for my Al’s Chopped Salad as the conversation left little time for eating. But the plan is made. I will see Doc again when Tower Of Power plays the Pomona County Fair in September. Hope some of my Beverly Hills funk-loving buddies will be there too!