Stephen 'Doc' Kupka

ASK DOC - August 2014

The Funky Doctor answers YOUR questions

Since we haven't done an "Ask Doc" feature for some time, we combined some new questions with a few from our archives that we never got to use. Email us any question you might have for Doc and it just might get answered in a future column. Enjoy!


From Alex:

Hi Doc

First, you are one of my heros and the reason I play the Baritone sax. I'm 16 and Tower of Power influenced me so much. My question is who/what influenced you to play Baritone sax?

Best Wishes,

Alex Lloyd


I was influenced by the Soul records of the mid-60’s: Sam and Dave; Otis Redding, James Brown, and many others. I noticed that baritone sax "scoop" that occurred on many of the records and it was something I liked. My first instrument all the way through college was the oboe, so when it came to wanting to play soul music, I knew I had to switch. I picked up a bari sax, practiced hard for a few years and learned to play it. Fortunately, at the time I was ready to be on stage, I met Emilio Castillo. In regards to players, Gerry Mulligan holds the gold standard, but I can’t emulate him because I’m a section player rather than a soloist. My favorite tenor players of all time are King Curtis and Lenny Pickett. Good luck in your bari playing career and remember… don’t let the low notes go flat!



From Kat:

Well, hello there, Doc!

How are you and how is your wife? My question for you is, if you were to play a 2nd instrument what would it be ?

You are my favorite in the group! I’m a big fan of yours, and, of course the biggest Tower of Power fan!

Your #1 fan,

Kat xoxoxoxxoo

Hi Kat,

I would play keyboards, just because from keyboards spring all aspects of music. I already compose on a keyboard, but what I can do it play simple chords with my left hand and melody lines with my right, which serves to compose, but not perform. Thanks for asking about my family. My wife is getting better and better after her liver transplant.


From Will:

Is Tower of Power working on a new project? My all time fav group needs to bring back more of that funk!


Hi Will,

Yes, Emilio Castillo is producing a new TOP record. He wants to do it like Michael Jackson did, by recording 30 songs and picking the best 12. Since we can only record when we’re not on the road, this will take a long time to complete, so don’t expect anything at least until 2015. That being said, it will be a great CD.


From Bill:


Thank you for all the 1000s of hours of enjoyment, and even your advice on bari set-ups (I’m playing a 130/0 vintage Berg with a 1 1/2 Rico Plasticoat just to get as close I can to that sound of yours!) Now if I could just play like you!

How is your wife doing? What can I do to help?

God bless,

Bill Lewis

Bill, for the setup I have, I had to build up to it. I started on a Berg 110 and a 2-1/2 reed. After a couple of years, I went to a 120 Berg with a 2 reed. I finally got to the setup I use now, and 130/1 Berg and a 1-1/2 Plasticoat reed, which I have played for many years, and I’m not going to go any further than that.

As for my wife, she’s getting better, but there are still lots of bills to pay so feel free to send money with my appreciation to the Yvonne Kupka Medical Fund. Thank you so much for your kind consideration. And to those of you that have already donated, thank you from my family and the bottom of my heart.


From Eric:

Hey Doc,

Why don’t you get down on your knees on SAYM any more?

Hi Eric,

A few years back, I sprained my knee badly and couldn’t do it physically. Since it was becoming awkward and almost a comedy routine anyway, I decided to stop doing it instead of retiring. I had told myself years before that if I couldn’t get down on my knees anymore, I would retire, and I renigged on that!


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