Oakland, CA- One year removed from the Internet per se, I woke up in 2017 to a new zip code, the passing of Mic Gillette and Tower Of Power, the East Bay Godfathers of Soul, the group is coming home to Jack London Square and Yoshi’s with a new lead singer.
"BRASS KICKS ASS" WAS CLASS!
As for the passing of “Brass Kicks Ass” Mic Gillette, an original TOP member who went back to the days of Mic, Emilio Castillo and Rocco Prestia wearing Batman-like costumes on stage prior to forming the Motown’s, the name of the group before becoming the mighty Tower of Power in 1968.
MIC WAS THE MAN WITH 1,000 HATS
Besides his onstage persona and being the meat behind the original 5-piece horn section, Gillette always liked to wear cool hats. Yeah, there were Emilio’s days with a derby, but Mic consistently wore a lot of different really cool brims over the years.
LAST NIGHT WITH T.O.P. WAS AT YOSHI'S
Having been at Mic's last show with the band at this same venue, Yoshi’s, and sitting in a booth with Mrs. Gillette, nobody knew that night would mark the abrupt end of Gillette's second TOP tenure. Known as “Brass Kicks Ass,” I remember Mic as “Brass Had Class.” You see, all over Northern California, Gillette had for decades given seminars in public schools while raising funds for school bands and the like.
IS CARLOS SANTANA A POACHER?
Soon after Mic’s passing, Carlos Santana, my former neighbor on Coleridge St. in San Francisco, Carlos made a move and snagged TOP lead singer Ray Greene. Although Carlos and Emilio have been cool over the years, you can sense in Castillo's tone on YouTube.com that he wasn’t ecstatic with Santana having snatched his lead.
TOWER OF POWER HAD IT'S SHARE OF LEADS
Although TOP is known for a good number (double digits) of great front men, signing Greene to Tower after a long and lengthy Internet search in 2014, this after Larry Braggs, now with The Temptations, opted out after almost 15 years on lead, only to have to look again, this was a taxing experience for Emilio to say the least.
C.T. MOVED ACROSS THE BAY
Some may recall TOP keyboardist Chester Thompson being lured across the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco by Santana in the 1980s, so this wasn’t the first time Carlos might have been poaching in Emilio’s backyard.
Which brings us to this New Year of 2017 and Tower of Power being back in Jack London Square for engagements on January 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 & 12 (No shows January 9). This will mark the Yoshi’s debut of Marcus Scott on lead vocals.
ALMOST EVERY TOP LEAD WAS "RIGHT" FOR THE TIME
With the exception of one bad apple that couldn’t behave publicly or learn the songs, bandleaders Emilio Castillo and Doc. Kupka have come up with a stellar group of vocalists that have included platinum recording artist Lenny Williams, Rick Stevens, Brent Carter, the current Average White Band front guy, and Tom Bowes, lately of Blood, Sweat & Tears, to name just four.
EMILIO GIVES MARCUS SCOTT "GREEN LIGHT"
As we enter year #49 for Tower of Power, Senor Castillo has confirmed that Memphis, TN’s Marcus Scott has landed the permanent lead singer slot and will put his chops to the 20th studio album set for release late this year or next.
FORMER LEAD LENNY WILLIAMS CHIMES IN
The aforementioned Lenny Williams, it was he that first hipped me to Marcus Scott. “Pedro, Marcus is an incredible talent. Young, lots of energy and he can sing. I think it was a good move for the band.”
UTILIZING MICHAEL JACKSON RECORDING METHOD
Lenny’s blessings aside, Emilio Castillo has the Michael Jackson M.O. running in regards to the forthcoming CD. Having recorded 26 songs, Emilio says, “I’m going to take the best (12 or 16) of the 26.” And then Mimi gets real serious, “I want this to be the best album I’ve ever done.”
LAME HEADLINE & BEING AWAY FOR YEAR
As for the National Enquirer type of headline, “Writer Awakens From Coma,” I wrote almost everyday, mainly on sports for 25 years straight. That being said, I was so “burned out” in late 2015 that I couldn't have written a grocery list at gunpoint.
ROSY PICTURE FOR TOWER FANS
There's the excitement with Tower Of Power set to release album # 20, the infusion of new blood in Marcus Scott, and with the Golden Anniversary of August 2018 marking "50 years of East Bay Soul" right around the corner, it’s a good time to be hangin’ around Bump City again. See you on Telegraph.