Stephen 'Doc' Kupka

ASK DOC - February, 2009

The Funky Doctor answers YOUR questions


From Preston Stedman:

Hi Doc,

Please do consider laying down a Christmas CD! Having you fellows add some funk to songs such as "Winter Wonderland" would be very COOL.

I have been hooked since I caught TOP in 1969 in a packed gym at Edison High in Stockton. You guys strike MY main nerve -- every time I hear you. Love my latest Strokeland CDs, your DOC GOES HOLLYWOOD and DoctorfunK's PRESCRIPTION FOR SOUL and enjoy them so much ...keep on making that sweet soul and funk!!

Best to you and your family in 2009.

Preston Stedman
Sonoma County, CA

Thank you so much for the kind words, Preston. I would love to do a Tower of Power Christmas album, but the people in charge haven't seen fit to make it happen. We hope to have new Strokeland products out this year.


From Bruce Burns:

Hello Doc,

The Carolinas are the birthplace of a style of R&B known around here as "Beach Music". The music has a characteristic "swing" or "shuffle" rhythm and its sound is based on a kind of R&B sound that actually pre-dates modern rock & roll or even modern soul music.

When one thinks of Tower of Power, the term "Beach Music" normally does not come to mind, but there is at least one exception. The tune, "This Time It's Real", sounds as if it was written specifically with the "Beach" sound in mind.

My question -- is it true that you were inspired to write "This Time It's Real" after hearing a recording by Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs and that you were previously unfamiliar with this style of R&B?


Bruce Burns
Salisbury, N.C.

Hi, Bruce. I was certainly aware of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs when I wrote "This Time It's Real", but I had never heard of "Beach Music" at that point. I have come to know and love Beach Music in the 35 years since then and am honored that unknowingly I made some Beach Music of my own. It's a mystery to me why Tower of Power does not play more in the Carolinas. I hope in the future we do, and I hope to meet you sometime.


From SPC Joseph Robinson:

Dear Doc,

Hey man, I just wanted to let you know, I've admired your playing ever since I first heard you play.

I can't say that I play funk -- Gerry Mulligan is my other hero -- but what are your goals with Strokeland? Do you have room for a young baritonist? I am in the Army band, so it would probably be tough trying to cut records with ANYONE, but I'm still interested in your company. I look forward to hearing more of your music. Take care.

SPC Joseph Robinson
US Army Bandsperson

Hi, Joseph. I love being named in the same breath as Gerry Mulligan. He was a great player. As for now, I will be covering the bari parts for Strokeland, but who knows what the future will bring. Good luck to you in your career and please come up and say hello if you ever come to a Tower of Power show.


From Willie Shipp:

Hi Doc!

With all the hype and rumors created by the publicity departments of the record companies, it's hard to distinguish reality from myth. Having said that, I have to ask you.... is it true that the term "Squib Cakes" was actually coined on the spot, at the Fillmore, by Mic Gillette and Chester Thompson and also, that their inspiration for creating the phrase was watching a woman in a tight dress walking away from them?

p.s. I know this is a loaded question... pun intended!..LOL!


Willie Shipp
Virginia Beach, Va.

The way I remember it... when we were working up the tune, David Garibaldi said "Let's go get some squid" -- he's a big Italian food devotee. Chester thought he said "Let's go get some squib" and thought he meant "Let's go pick up some girls". So after the misunderstanding was cleared up and we all got a laugh over it, the title "Squib Cakes" was born. Thanks for writing, Willie.


From Gary P.:

Dear Doc,

Most musicians in the smaller cities may belong to the local musicians union, but about the only time they have any real involvement with the union is with the annual ball it sponsors. I'm curious as to the procedure of a major label recording date and the role that the union plays in it. For example, take Michael Bolton's cover of "When a Man Loves a Woman". I assume the producer got the idea that the Tower of Power horns would be perfect for the date. Could you summarize the step by step procedure of what happens next from the producer's idea to the finished product?

Gary P.
San Antonio, TX

Hi, Gary. First of all, the artist or producer decides they want to put some horns on their song. When they determine that they want to use the TOP horn section, they track down our manager, and through him, set up the date. Then we play and wait for the check to reach the union weeks later. I wish there were more sessions like that today, but with the advent of the home studio, those sessions are much rarer than they were.


We need more good questions! We can't do it without your help, so please send your questions to and I'll try to answer.

Until next month,


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