I know that a lot of people that are into Tower of Power are musicians. I am also a musician, and I play guitar. I have played in wedding bands, cover bands, club bands, but I have never made my living as a working musician. I did not dedicate my life to becoming a professional musician, or write my own material, but I still consider myself to be a musician.
I have always wondered what it would be like to sit in and play a song with my all time favorite band, The Tower of Power. Well, yesterday, in Red Bank NJ, I got to experience just what that would be like, and let me tell you, it was GREAT!
No, I didn't get to do this during the show, but I did get to play an entire song, "I've Got To Groove" with the band, AND, Ace, being the great guy that he is, not only recorded it through the board, but handed my buddy Bob his video camera so that this moment could be recorded in video as well.
Let me just say that a TOP soundcheck is pretty much all business. First the crew sets up all of the stage equipment, and checks all of the mic's. When TOP comes on the stage, they individually get levels for the horns, vocals, and the rhythm section. Sometimes they work on some specific parts of songs to tweek backround vocals, or, in the last couple of soundchecks I have seen, going over guitar parts. Mark is really coming along, and sounding great, more on that later.
How did this come about...
At the Atlantic City show, and at the Red Bank show, I was asked to take some specific photos, of the horn section, and of Emilio and Doc, both posed shots, and performance photos for a couple of upcoming magazine articles. When I got to the theater, I chatted with the guys a little, and told Emilio I was going back to the car to get my camera. He said "Oh, you are going to get your axe?", meaning my camera. I said "Yeah, and actually, I also brought my real "axe", my guitar, but I haven't worked up the nerve to ask you if I could play a song at soundcheck". He thought for a moment, and said "Go get it and tune it up".
Nervous? I was starting to realize that I was about to do something that, for me, was going to be really big, and I did start to feel very nervous.
So I went to the car, got the camera, got my guitar case, went back in the stage door (like I really belonged there...) and went inside. I opened the case, and used Mark's tuner. Fender Strats always go out of tune, and that would have been really embarrasing. So I was standing there, tuning up, and Rocco walks onto the stage. Well I got a really strange look from the Roc, but I was tuned up, and went to the edge of the stage, and sat there with my friend Bob and proceeded to watch the soundcheck.
By this time I was getting some puzzled looks from Doc, and some of the other band members, like what is this guy doing sitting over there with a guitar? But I waited...
After about 15 or 20 minutes of nervous anticipation, Emilio motioned to me to come over and plug in. He said Brian's going to sit in, and play "Groove". Before I knew it, The song started, but this time, I was not only listening to it, I was playing it!
The first couple of bars, I was feeling my way around, and really hoping that I would be able to hear what I was playing, and just keep time properly. It really sounds different from up there. But I was doing it. I was playing with the amazing Tower of Power. Me...
I was concentrating on the song, and I picked that one because, it's basically a 1-4-5 progression, not a lot of complicated chords, and has at least a bit of a solo section. Before we started, Tommy P asked me if I wanted to take the solo. I said sure, but Emilio said "No, just rhythm, it's not a guitar solo song". Well he's the boss, but I got a little solo stuff in there anyway.
So I am playing, hitting all the changes, all the accents, throwing in some of my own stuff here and there, and actually getting some winks and nods from the guys. Even Rocco dug it, and he isn't exactly overly expressive.
So here I was, fulfilling a life long fantasy. I am going to be 50 this December, and I am considering this to be an early midlife birthday present, kind of like when people go to baseball fantasy camp, or get to do a few laps in a real NASCAR car.
Let me publicly thank Adolfo, Mike, Tommy, Doc, Dave, Rocco, Roger, Larry, Mark (thanks for letting my plug into your rig), and of course Emilio for making this happen for me.
And Ace, having this on tape will just be fantastic. You are the best!
The show last night was also amazing, the crowd was totally into it, and the setlist was great, and the band was totally on top of things. I got a lot of great shots, so the photos and review will be coming shortly. I had to type this while it was all still fresh in my mind.
Two things later that night, Dave told me that in the entire time he has been with TOP, there has only ever been one other musician to sit in and play a tune with the complete band during a sound check, and that I did pretty good because Emilio let me finish the whole song. They laughed about some guitar auditions that only lasted a few bars, so at least I didn't get the hook!
At the very end of the evening, I got a nice compliment from Doc, which meant a lot.
So this one goes down as my most amazing and memorable Tower of Power experience.
Thanks for reading this L O N G post, but I really wanted to share this story with my TOP friends.