Stephen 'Doc' Kupka

ASK DOC - April, 2007

The Funky Doctor answers YOUR questions


From Michael Foley:

I am a huge fan of Tower of Power. I remember seeing you guys at the Tuesday night auditions at the Fillmore West. My question is as follows:

Who selects the set list when you guys play live venues? As a long time fan, I have seen many, many, shows and the majority of the time, the set lists seem to be the same. I would love to hear some of your "B"-side stuff performed live just for old times sake.

A loyal fan since 1968

Michael Foley

Hi, Michael. There are certain songs that we have to do no matter what and certain others that we have to do most of the time.  When we do two-show nights as we do Scullers in Boston, Jazz Alley in Seattle, and BB Kings in NYC, we do two almost completely different shows.  For a person who would like to hear a lot of B-side stuff, catching both shows at one of those venues, you’ll hear a lot of songs you ordinarily don’t get to hear.  These days, before every major tour, we’re pulling out one to three old songs that we haven’t done in a long time and inserting them in the set.  For this next tour, the songs are “Clean Slate”, “How Could This Happen to Me”, and “It’s Not the Crime”.


From Jeff in Australia:

Hi Doc,

Is there ever going to be a Strokeland Superband DVD?

Jeff in Australia

We are hoping to do a DVD next winter! It will take a lot of work, but if everything falls into place it will happen and it is our hope that we can get it done.   Thanks for asking, Jeff.


From Steve Demma:


First of all, thanks for the greatest funk band ever! My question is:

When you play the same venue on multiple days, as in Las Vegas, do you change the sets every day? I caught you at the Suncoast in 9/2005 and was wondering if I would hear different songs on different nights.

Another question/request: I would love to hear "The Expected One" from the somewhat obscure "Lights Out in San Francisco" album. Any chance of putting that back in the book?

Thanks again.

Steve Demma
Lincoln, NE

Hi, Steve.  Ordinarily it’s the same set, but we will interchange a couple of songs.  When it comes to “The Expected One”, we probably won’t be doing that.  Greg Adams is now touring live and there’s a chance he would be doing that song.


From Mark Mohr:

Hi Doc,

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions in this forum.  It’s a pleasure to be able to see feedback from Tower of Power fans and to get the “inside scoop” from you.  I first saw the band at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1974 when you were touring in support of the “Back to Oakland” LP and a huge canvas of the album’s cover art came rolling out of the rafters towards the end of your set. (That was very cool!) I was pleased to learn in the March 2007 “Ask Doc” column that you guys had relearned “Can’t stand to see the slaughter” and “And you know it.” 

How do you guys go about “relearning” your own songs and why did you stop playing them in the first place? 

That very concert you saw at UC Santa Barbara was where Bill Ross (producer/arranger of “Doc Goes Hollywood”) saw TOP and became a fan, so it was a very significant event in the history of Strokeland.  When we want to do a new song, there’s either a horn chart (or not!) that we want to use.  We were very loose about filing them back in the old days.  If there isn’t one, somebody will figure out what the parts are and we relearn them.  I can usually figure parts out myself, but some of the songs haven’t been played in fifteen or twenty years and those take a little bit of effort on my part.  In general, it isn’t so much that we want to stop playing songs, but when new songs come up, some songs have to be replaced.

Another question or two if you have the time: how do you keep your sanity with such a busy touring schedule?  It seems that you’re always on the road.

I've been touring for over 35 years and know what it entails. I'm used to the routine by this point.

Also, do you ever get back together and play with former TOP members like Greg Adams and Euge Groove? It always catches my eye when I see a musician advertised as a "Former member of Tower of Power."

Whenever we're in NYC, Lenny Pickett comes and sits in. Occasionally, others from Tower's past do the same. They're always welcome and it depends more on when they're in the same city where we are than anything else.

And how did you get former California governor and former Oakland mayor Jerry Brown to write some introductory thoughts for the Oakland Zone CD?

It was part of a PR thing that Jerry Brown willingly participated in being as he was Oakland's mayor at the time.

I realize that's a lot of questions. One more slight bit of feedback, if I might: I've always thought the strength of TOP's live show has been doing what you guys do best: play the funky stuff. But when buying your recent CD's, I've always been a little disappointed to discover that you add the voices of a female chorus. You don't have female background singers in concert, why add it to the recorded mix?

Records are meant to sound good, but you might ask Emilio Castillo that question as he is the producer of those CDs.

Thanks, Doc!
Mark Mohr

Thanks for writing, Mark.


From Dave in San Antonio, TX:

Hi Doc,

I'm sure that you get this question asked a lot of you; and forgive me if you have already answered it in your column. What baritone sax did you play during most of your recordings, especially during the 70's such as on "Urban Renewal"? What baritone sax do you play now? I am assuming it is a Selmer. As a follow on, what serial number range is your favorite and what serial number range did you play in the 70's?

Thank you for taking my question,
Dave in San Antonio, Texas

Hi Dave. Before the Epic contract of 1990, everything was done on a Selmer. Since then, it's been Yamaha, which I'm very happy with. As of five years ago, the horn section has a Yamaha endorsement, although I've played mine since 1990. My Selmer was stolen in 1990 and I have no idea what the serial number was. I was never much interested in that anyway.


From Ron & Heidi Moore:

Do you have any idea when the new Tower of Power website will be online? On the old TOP website the tour schedule had not been updated for a month, so is there a good site where we can access ToP's tour schedule until the new website is online?

The better half and I are anxiously awaiting the gig at Scullers next month!

Take care!
Ron & Heidi Moore

The new TOP website will be online any day.  Since Andy Ebon is no longer involved in the official website, we had to reorganize and any day now we’ll be online again. On the front page of the official site at, there’s a link there to a tour schedule now.  You can also check for an up-to-date calendar.  [Ed:  Strokeland will be posting a Tower of Power tour schedule ourselves soon.]


Keep those questions coming!   Thanks for the support and we'd like to get more participation in the Strokeland Community! Lots of folks already check it out, but feel free to post also.

Until next month,


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