Emilio Castillo: Then & Now
Emilio Castillo: Second Tenor Sax, Vocals
When Tower of Power starts to groove, and I mean really starts to click, we enter what I call “the Oakland Zone.” That’s when we're really in the pocket, when our fans jump out of their seats and give us back that same high energy that we’re putting out. It's almost a transcendental experience.
I know that I'm blessed by the love and respect we get from our fans and fellow musicians. It’s a humbling experience and fills me with a tremendous amount of gratitude. Our music carries a lot of energy and emotion; the magic is that we can translate and share it. It's like the funk -- you just can't fake it.
I’m very proud of my heritage; not many people know that my parentage is Mexican and Greek! I was born on September 24, 1950, and raised in Detroit; my family moved to Fremont, Calif., when I was 11. My musical memories are clear: I loved Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk,” the Platters’ “Only You,” and “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs. Life changed when we moved to California; the transition was tough but music made it easier. I heard a singer named Roger Collins who just floored me -- right then and there I became a soul fanatic, absolutely obsessed! Roger had a tune on Galaxy Records called “She’s Looking Good,” and it was killiin’! I saw him in concert, too -- he was Mr. Showtime, baby! I also fell under the spell of an East Bay group called the Spyders; they were so tight, they could drop on a dime. Their lead singer, Dennis Del Aqua, became my role model for soul singing. But everything changed the first time I saw Sly & the Family Stone. Talk about entertainment value! Man! Me and Rocco (Prestia) would sneak into Frenchie’s and stay for six sets a night. No one could match Sly’s craft and substance and their music still inspires me today.
The years of togetherness with my band mates, and all the fans I've met on our journey, fills me with so many wonderful memories. And it gives me hope for many more. I'm very proud of our last two records, Oakland Zone, and the "Great American Soulbook" which is a classic soul cover album with some great guest artists. As a horn section, our collaborations with Huey Lewis, Little Feat and the Eurthymics stand out as my favorites. And I still have many goals to realize. I’d like to write a Tower of Power song that serves as the main theme in a classic motion picture, and I’d love to see the band make a record with an artist who has a timeless quality.
I’m a homebody. When the band isn’t traveling, I spend all my time with my wife Suzanne, and my children Christian, Isabella, and Dominic; I also have two older daughters, Ariana and Katina. As a family, we’re very active in our local church and share a special fellowship there. I love my family with all my heart and soul, with every fiber of my being. I don’t just think it -- I say "I love you" regularly and, hopefully, I show it, consistently.
I’ve learned from experience that God has a plan for me, and that it’s better than mine! I just try to remember that, no matter what comes down the pike.
All band member biographies were compiled by Leo Sacks.
Leo Sacks is a freelance record producer in New York. With Emilio Castillo, he co-wrote “Happy ‘Bout That” and “Stranger In My Own House” for Tower of Power’s Oakland Zone (Or Music, 2003), and the bonus track “Nothing Like It” for the European edition.