Stephen 'Doc' Kupka

ASK DOC - February, 2007

The Funky Doctor answers YOUR questions


From Craig Carman:

Of all the songs you have written for TOP, which are your favorites and why? Same question for your non-TOP songs. And finally, how many songs have you written in all?

Hi, Craig. Song-wise, I tend to like the ballads better. My favorite songs from the old Warner Brothers days: among the ballads, "Below Us All the City Lights" (on Back to Oakland); my favorite funk tune is "Only So Much Oil in the Ground" with "What Is Hip" a close second; and my favorite mid-tempo tune is "So Very Hard to Go" with "Because I Think the World of You" a close second (from Ain't Nothing Stopping Us Now).

Two songs I like from the period from 1976 through 1990 (when we didn't have many albums out) are "You Out to Be Having Fun", "Because I Think the World of You", and "Credit". From the Epic days (1990 on), my favorite songs are "Recapture the Magic" and "Digging on James Brown".

Non-TOP songs - I have lots of favorites, but one that stands out is "Since I Fell for You" by Lenny Welch. I used that as an inspiration for "This Story Must Be Told" from the upcoming "Doc Goes Hollywood" CD. I've probably written close to 1000 songs, but not all of them are in shape to be recorded. There are still a couple of hundred that I've written that could still be recorded at some point in the future.


From Ed Weinberg:

Hey Doc!! As I am a life-long TOP fan, I really appreciate and savor this opportunity to be able to contact you! I can't tell you how much of a thrill it has been attending countless Tower of Power performances in the NY tri-state area over the years. It's been awesome meeting and chatting with the guys in-between sets, although I have never had the pleasure of meeting you personally.

In any event, thank you for all the years of the greatest music ever played.... for the inspiration in my trumpet playing.... for making my commute something special... and for having people stare in on me in my car jumping around to the CD's thinking I'm some sort of nut!

Just a few questions for you......

How is Rocco? He's been through 2 major surgeries and I wanted to wish him well.

Rocco is doing surprisingly well. He's reasonably healthy and is playing great.

Are there any plans for a new Tower of Power studio album on the horizon?

TOP plans to do a CD of great old soul tunes for our next project. The rhythm section is starting to record basic tracks on Feb 12. It usually takes several months until the album is released, but it's definitely rolling now. Thanks for writing, Ed.


From Tim McGlasson:

A few questions I have always wanted to ask Doc Kupka:

I am a longtime Tower of Power fan and have seen the band perform seven times, dating back to 1974 when you guys played a gig with the Crusaders and Azteca at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernadino, CA. My question is, with all the personnel changes TOP has been through, how do you keep the horn section sounding so tight?

Hi, Tim. We recruit good players who are good enough to absorb and play our style of music. It was a real plus finding Mike Bogart who also plays excellent trombone.

Of all the horn sections TOP has had over the years, my favorite was Lenny Pickett, Emilio Castillo on tenor, you on bari sax, Greg Adams and Mic Gillette on trumpet/flugelhorn. Which horn section was your favorite and why? [BTW, I am still amazed how Mic Gillette played trombone, a former trumpeter myself, I know how hard that is to pull off]

The same one you said due to Lenny Pickett, who is the best saxophone player I've ever heard, as well as worked with. I want to add that Lee Thornburg was one of the most dynamic musicians I ever played with although he wasn't in that particular section. Both Mic Gillette and Mike Bogart could explain how they can work the trombone into their arsenal. I'm surprised they haven't posted somewhere how that is done.

[Note - Mic Gillette often discusses his approach to switching between trumpet and trombone (and other brass instruments) in his live clinics. - Ed]

There were some great rhythm sections, too. I'm old school, so I have always liked David Garibaldi as a drummer. The dude plays some seriously funky beats. Francis Rocco Prestia is a monster on bass, and Willie James Fulton had that rough edge to his guitar I always liked....especially on East Bay Grease. Which rhythm section did you like best?

Any rhythm section with David Garibaldi or Chester Thompson was great. My favorite guitarist was, and is, Jeff Tamelier.

OK...vocalists. My all-time TOP favorite is a toss-up between Rick Stevens and Lenny Williams but a close second would be Rufus Miller. Yours?

My favorite vocalist was Rick Stevens. That being said, there were certain songs that Lenny Williams sang better than anyone, and I'm a big fan of our present singer, Larry Braggs.


From Bruce Atkin:

Hi Doc, I have often felt that a reunion concert with TOP alumni and current members could be one heck of a show. I would buy the CD/DVD/tickets in a heartbeat. Any chance that might happen someday?

I would love it if that happened - if someone could promote it and put it together - but no one has been actively interested in doing so up to this point.

From Rosa Adams-Bussard:

Doc, I am the Director of Bands and Percussion at Lee's Summit North High School, a suburb of Kansas City Missouri. Thank you for all of the wonderful years of beautiful music. I can't imagine the world without Tower of Power.

What would you say to High School students that want to make music their profession - especially saxophone students? What about students that want to play, but major in music education as well? What should they do first? How would you get them prepared to go on to perform music in the real world as well as college?

Practice those long tones to get your tone together. Practice scales to get your fingers together. Work at it every day if possible and join as many bands and orchestras as you can. There's nothing like playing live, so if there are any opportunities in coffee houses or elsewhere, take them. Don't let other peoples' negative energy trample your dreams. Try to find other like-minded musicians to play with. Strive to be original. Just doing carbon copies of people you like ultimately won't be enough.

Also, would you ever consider doing a saxophone clinic, whenever you're in Kansas City, for our kids?

I don't do individual clinics, but I do with the Tower of Power horns. You might contact the local Yamaha dealer in your area because Yamaha endorses us. You could also contact Pat Rains, TOP's manager, at (212)860-3233. Thanks, Rosa and John.


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