Stephen 'Doc' Kupka

ASK DOC - July, 2009

The Funky Doctor answers YOUR questions


From Steve Williams:

Hi Doc,

Having played the arrangements of the 'classic' TOP tunes for as long as you have, are there any tunes/lines you just wish you could 'fix' or change the arrangement substantially to make it a 'better' song?  But you know you can't because that's the way EVERYBODY knows the tune and you can't change a 'classic'?

Love the stuff but I can't find my mug in any of the crowd shot pics from the Fillmore! Oh well.  Looking forward to the DVD.

Steve Williams
Bari player too (even a YBS-62!)

Hi, Steve. There have been several Tower of Power songs that have evolved and changed over the years.  A classic example would be “This Time It’s Real”, where we added the “outro” section several years after the record came out.  In general, we’re pleased with the arrangements of the classics, but occasionally we will do things like adding the “Soul Power” section to the “What is Hip” ride-out, and we substantially changed the arrangement to “Knock Yourself Out”.  There is one song that we do not play live that I would change if I got the chance.  That is “Recapture the Magic”, which I thought was mixed poorly and I would change the tenor solo in the bridge.  In fact, you’ve given me a good idea.  I think I will re-cut that song on Strokeland sometime.


From Mark Mohr:

Hello Doc,

Tower of Power is a great, nonstop touring band.  This month (February 2009) you’re exclusively on the road in Europe. (I would LOVE to see the band perform overseas!)  I’m just wondering what goes into the planning, preparation, and execution of a successful overseas tour? You’ve been touring in the U.S. for so many years you must know a lot of the places you visit by heart.  Is Europe different and, if so, how?

Keep up the good work and thanks for taking the time to answer these kinds of questions from your fans.


Mark Mohr
Spokane, Washington

It’s harder to get established overseas than it is domestically.  We were fortunate to do a Warner Brothers- sponsored tour of their major artists back in the mid-70’s.  That got our foot in the door and we’ve been able to parlay that into—at least once and often twice—going to Europe every year.   Ordinarily for bands, the first tours are in support of a record (at least that was true when we got started), so you have to go out usually opening for somebody, but in any event losing money the first time or two to see if the public catches on.  Once you do that, then the promoters can start making some money and you can as well.  The only difference between Europe and the US is that it takes a little longer to get established.   Thanks for writing, Mark.


From Steve Kirk:

Dear Doc,

Can you tell me the mouthpiece, ligature, and reeds you use?


Steve Kirk

Hi, Steve. I use a 130/1 SMS Berg-Larsen metal mouthpiece and Rico Plasticover 1-1/2 reeds.


From Doug Allemang:

Hi Doc!

I have always been curious about something.  As I follow the various groups and musicians that I have come to love over the years, I see horn players whose horns look like the first instrument they ever touched.   I mean their horn looks like it came through the Civil War.  On the other end of the spectrum I see horn players who seem to have a new horn every time I see them play.   Where are you on this continuum horn-wise?  


Doug Allemang

Hi, Doug. Some horn players want their horns to look sparkly and shiny new, so they make an effort to keep it looking that way.  Other players fall in love with a certain horn and want to play that exclusively.  Consequently, the lacquer gets worn out.  Where I am is I let it ride until I get my horn overhauled, which is every few years, and then I clean it up.


From Enzo.:

Dear Doc,

I'm Enzo.  I live in Paris, France.  First sorry for my poor English.... I was born in Nice (French riviera).  I discovered you, in French jazz festival in Nice with The Tower of Power, in many year ago... and "Wowwwwwww"!   I was falling in love with the sound of Baritone Sax.  Very cool...  So, now I'm 37 years old, and I decide to learn Saxophone, but Baritone is very expensive for me, so I chose Tenor sax for play...  You are my pleasure when I go work every day, with my Ipod.  I like to hear Tower of Power and your very cool baritone sound, thanks Mister Doc.  I saw you last year in Bataclan live in Paris.  This year, you are in Bataclan the 6th February, but I can't... no money...  So, very very many thanks.  I respect your work from many years... in French language... MERCI DOC...

Paris, France

Hi, Enzo. I remember fondly that festival in Nice.  In fact, I was in an elevator with Miles Davis, which was quite a thrill for me.  I also heard a bari player practicing “Squib Cakes” in his hotel room.    I was newly married at the time and my wife was with me, so it was a very memorable time.  Keep in mind that you can pick yourself up a baritone and start playing at any time and you will make fast progress.  I hope your financial situation improves and thanks for the kind words.


We always 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,


Email questions that YOU have always wanted to ask the Funky Doctor to
Each month, we'll choose the best and present Doc answering your questions in an upcoming video interview or this monthly "Ask Doc" section.

If a question isn't used one particular month, we'll still keep it in the list for possible future use. Strokeland reserves the right to edit questions for form or content. By submitting a question to Ask Doc, you grant us the right to publish your question and use your name.

Remember, general questions that are of interest to a lot of folks are more likely to be selected.