Rufus Miller - lead vocals; Francis Rocco Prestia - bass; Willie Fulton - guitar; Jay Spell - keyboards; David Garibaldi - drums; Emilio Castillo - tenor sax; Stephen "Doc" Kupka - baritone; Skip Mesquite - flute, saxophone; Greg Adams - trumpet, flugelhorn; Mic Gillette - trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone; David Padron - trumpet; Brent Fyres - congas
Walking through a door first was opened by Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago in the late 1960s, Tower of Power emerged in the early '70s as the west coast answer to the horn-driven rock movement. But whereas those other, aforementioned groups paid a heavy debt to the styles and modulations of big-band and jazz, TOP based their music around the soul/funk sounds of James Brown, Motown and Stax.
The original incarnation of the group came out of a funk band called the Motowns, formed in 1968 by saxophonist Emilio Castillo, baritone saxophonist Stephen "Doc" Kupka, and trumpeter Mic Gillette. The power trio of horn players moved to the Bay Area soon after, and by 1970 had formed a new group called Tower of Power. By the time TOP began playing gigs in San Francisco clubs, they had grown to 11 pieces and were signed immediately by Bill Graham, who placed them on his own San Francisco Records label and booked them on a regular basis at his Fillmore East and West theaters.
Rufus Miller left after the group's first album East Bay Grease was recorded, but appears at this show nevertheless. The band's next vocalist, Rick Stevens, remained with the group through the second album, Bump City, but, due to an increasingly problematic drug habit, was replaced by Lenny William just prior to the third album. Tragically, Stevens was convicted in 1976 of a triple murder during a drug deal gone bad and was sentenced to life in prison. After 36 years of incarceration, Stevens was released on July 20, 2012.
This recording is one of the many Fillmore West shows that Graham recorded and features material from both East Bay Grease and Bump City, the latter of which was still as of yet unreleased. Highlights include "Back On The Streets Again," "Knock Yourself Out" and "Baby I Love You." Next to James Brown and Flames, Sly and The Family Stone, and Otis Redding and his band, there aren't too many soul groups that could get this down and funky. This show is an absolute must for any and all followers of funk.