Stephen 'Doc' Kupka

ASK DOC - December, 2008

The Funky Doctor answers YOUR questions


From Mark Mohr:

Hi Doc,

I feel like I've gotten a great Soul Vaccination lately. First, I brought my wife to the Tower of Power concert here in Spokane, Washington a few months ago. (Great concert by the way!) Then, I ordered the Tower of Power Live in Germany CD. (Oh, man. That was great, too!) Then, I stayed up late watching the podcast/webcast of Tower's awe-inspiring 40th anniversary concert at the Fillmore. (Wonderful stuff! Can't wait for the DVD!) Wish I could be at Jazz Alley in Seattle later this month for your shows there.

But finally, I stumbled onto the Wolfgang's Vault website and was able to listen to six different TOP shows in their entirety. I died and went to heaven!

My question is this: your band is incredibly busy. You're always touring, and being on the road must consume most of your time. But do you ever get a chance to take the time to sit down and listen to concert recordings like this and enjoy where you've come from and where you are now musically?

Thanks for keeping the music alive.

Mark Mohr
Spokane, Washington

Hi, Mark. Occasionally on the bus we'll listen to a tape of a show, and the archival project* that has recently come out has given us a chance to hear a real old show. Whenever we do a new recording such as THE GREAT AMERICAN SOULBOOK, I tend to put that into major rotation. My current favorite is DOC GOES HOLLYWOOD. I listen to that a lot.

[THE GREAT AMERICAN SOULBOOK is the title of the forthcoming Tower of Power CD of classic soul tunes, due for release in the first quarter of 2009. * Doc refers to the recently released EAST BAY ARCHIVE VOL I, a live recording from 1972. - Ed.]


From Cyndi Roe:

I recently ran across a vinyl LP from 1978 called BIG CITY by drummer Lenny White. One of the tracks listed the Tower of Power horns as guest artists. The horns were recorded at a San Francisco studio called "Different Fur". I'm curious as to how things were done back in the day... i.e. who built the charts? Were they hand-written because that was before the age of computer music notation software? Did the guys ever hear the music before they walked into the studio? Seems like a very complicated business!


Cyndi Roe

For the Tower of Power horns, things were done pretty much the same then as now, except for now we read computer-generated parts. In general back then, Greg Adams did all the arrangements and consequently, they were pretty clear cut. I don't remember specifically if he did that particular arrangement. I seem to think that Lenny White either did it or had one of his people do it. We had never heard the song or the parts before walking into the studio, which is usually the case when the TOP horns do a session. It's just the way we've always done it and it works for us. Thanks for writing, Cyndi.


From Bill McConnell:

Dear Doc,

As I listen to DOC GOES HOLLYWOOD, I hear tribute being paid to some of the greatest writers and artists of our generation, but there are two compositions that seem to stand out in particular for me. "That One Special Someone" has a magical, timeless quality that reminds me of a Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer collaboration. It's the kind of tune that will sound as fresh fifty years from now as it would have fifty years ago.

The other tune, "So Now I Have to Drink Alone", strikes me with the same surreal, dreamlike quality I remember when I first heard Patti Page singing Lieber & Stoller's "Is That All There Is?" on the radio in the early 60' just knew it was an instant classic.

My question is, is my impression of these songs even remotely close to what you were thinking when you wrote them?... or am I completely off the mark?..... or worse yet, am I just plain nuts???

Thanks much,

Bill McConnell
Cody, Wyoming

Bill, you are a very astute listener. "That One Special Someone" was inspired by the song "The Second Star to the Right" from Peter Pan, however, Bill Ross commented to me that his arrangement of the song was like a Henry Mancini arrangement. I'm very thrilled to be compared to the legendary Johnny Mercer, who was one of the best lyricists of all time. "So Now I Have to Drink Alone" was flat-out inspired by "Is That All There Is", as well as to a lesser degree, the Broadway show "Cabaret", however I do not remember the Patti Page version. The one I remember is the Peggy Lee version.

[For more background information on the inspiration behind Doc Goes Hollywood, check out the Producers' Notes here on Strokeland. - Ed.]


From Vince Miller:

Hello Doc,

I read somewhere that you recorded with Stan Getz once and had felt that you were in the presence of greatness. Could you elaborate on some other artists from the jazz genre whom you admire and would Gerry Mulligan be one of them?


Vince Miller

Hi, Vince. I admired Stan Getz very much. We did a video shoot together and he was one of the all-time greats. Gerry Mulligan was probably the best bari sax player to ever walk the earth, but I never did get to meet him. The jazz artists that I like best are all the ones who played bluesy or funky kind of jazz. Included among them would be Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Cannonball Adderly, Lee Morgan, and Clifford Brown -- although I must admit I don't really consider myself a jazz aficionado.


From John Carlson:

Hey Doc!

I have a cool chart I did some years back on "Joy to the World" ala TOP. I was wondering if you guys would ever want a Christmas tune in the repertoire for TOP or the Strokeland Superband?

How about a TOP Christmas CD someday??? I'd love to arrange one. What if??? :-) I can see the horn section in Santa hats. Hmmmmm... "East Bay Holiday"? "East Bay Christmas"? "The Funky Santa"? "Sleighed in the Spirit??

Keep on keepin' it funky! Love you guys!

John Carlson

TOP is seriously considering doing a Christmas CD. Larry Braggs has mentioned many times that he would like to do one and it's just a matter of putting it together. That is just the kind of project that Bill Ross (Doc Goes Hollywood arranger) would really excel at. Thanks for writing John and I'll give your arrangement a listen.


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Happy Holidays ,


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