Originally created 09/17/99

Godfather inspires the Tower of Power



Without a doubt, James Brown has had an impact on the group Tower of Power.

"He's been an influence for everyone's music," said Emilio Castillo, co-founder of the band, which performs at the B.B. King Blues Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. "All his stuff has so much energy. It's got a clever, crafty, syncopated feeling."

One of the tracks on the group's July release -- Soul Vaccination: Tower of Power Live! -- is a tribute to the Augusta native, although it didn't start as one.

Engineer Ken Kessie asked Mr. Castillo if he could come up with some beats for some songs. "They were simple beats," Mr. Castillo said. "They didn't inspire me. I told him to give me a beat -- something funky like James Brown's Mother Popcorn or I Got the Groove. He came up with a direct cop of a James Brown beat. I said, `I can do something with that."'

What resulted is called Diggin on James Brown.

Mr. Castillo said he doesn't know what the Godfather of Soul thinks of the song. Mr. Brown was out of the country, according to his management office, and could not be reached for comment.

However, Mr. Castillo said Mr. Brown is familiar with the band's music and likes its style.

"He's a fan of the band," Mr. Castillo said. "I bluffed my way backstage (to one of Mr. Brown's concerts in 1976) and said I was a guest of James Brown."

Security went to Mr. Brown and a few minutes later came back to tell Mr. Castillo, "James Brown will see you in a moment."

Once he got backstage, he met with Mr. Brown, who had curlers in his hair. Although they hadn't met before, Mr. Brown had heard the band's music.

"He dedicated the concert to me," Mr. Castillo said.

Mr. Castillo and Stephen Kupka started Tower of Power in Oakland, Calif., in 1968 and have released more than 20 albums. For more information on the band, see its Web site (www.bumpcity.com).

Sound bite

To hear Tower of Power, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and dial 8100. You'll hear part of the song What is Hip, from the CD Tower of Power Live.

REACH Charmain Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or czbrackett@hotmail.com.