Live with the Funk, Tower of Power

Music,  Events, Lifestyle

I first saw this band in 1976 at Cortland State when I was in grad. school. The venue was a building called Old Main, a pretty rank gym filled to the brim with mostly stoned out students including me. Cortland State had  three or four concerts during the school year with high-powered acts. I saw David Bromberg, New Riders of the Purple  Sage, the Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band and others.

T.O.P. was a band I needed to see. Their west coast sound blending great vocals, dynamite horns and full tilt energy was the calling card. The crowd was geared up for a wild performance and they did not disappoint. Lenny Pickett came charging out in front of the band, clad in his signature white tux. As the band started to play , he did a flipped out dance which stunned the crowd. It set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Music filled the Old Main gym with a sound that was power, polish and soul.  A mixed band of black, hispanic and white dudes looking wild and playing more intense as the night wore on. The musical repertoire gave us everything from ballads, horn leads and fabulous dancing from the band.

They sweated, smiled and played for themselves and us. Cortland was jock school with a large contingent of P.E. majors. from Long Island. The jocks loved to party and drink , no holds barred. Sometimes they got out of control as Cortland at the time had 63 bars downtown in a town of 30,000. Upstate NY got pretty cold in the winter and you stayed warm by heading into taverns and drinking the night away.

Little wonder when a band like T.O.P. came into town, students came out to do their thing.  Listen to this song as Steve ” the Funky Doctor” Kupka stands tall with his Sax blaring. He looked like a geek but played like a soul man.

The band is still going strong with an annual visit to Los Angeles. Many of the original players are gone but the energy remains.  Most of my recordings of their music is on vinyl  and not in very good shape. I rarely play these 33’s 1/3 due to their delicate nature. One day I keep promising myself , all the albums will end up on my computer.

Take a listen on this cut and while not a great recording, think of Cortland State 1976, snowing , below zero in January  with thousands of sweaty college kids, melting the ice in front of Old Main with body heat.

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