Tower of Power will bring its one-of-a-kind rhythm and blues sound to the 2015 Merced County Fair in June.
The band will headline June 11 in the fairground’s Outdoor Theatre, according to a fair press release.
Tower of Power is celebrating 47 years of delivering hits including: “You’re Still A Young Man,” “Down To The Nightclub,” “So Very Hard To Go” and “What Is Hip?” The band’s last appearance at the Merced County Fair was in 2010, but it has performed at the fair several times over the years and always to a packed house.
Also performing in the fairgrounds’ Outdoor Theatre will be Christian rock band 7eventh Time Down on Opening Day, June 10, and country artist Aaron Tippin, June 13. The rest of the entertainment lineup for the fair’s run will be announced soon.
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The Merced County Fair runs June 10-14. Each night a headline entertainment act will appear at 8:30 p.m. in the Outdoor Theatre, where all concerts are free with admission. Table Mountain FREE Concert Series is presented by Modelo Especial, the release said.
Tower of Power started out as a soul group called The Motowns, according to co-founder Emilio Castillo, who plays tenor sax and sings lead and background vocals. The band, including bass player Rocco Prestia, met Stephen “Doc” Kupka at the Alameda County Fair during the Fourth of July weekend in 1968 and gave him an audition. Kupka, a baritone sax player, has been with TOP ever since.
The group wanted to play at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, but Castillo said they’d never get through the door wearing suits and razor cuts with a name like The Motowns. “We grew our hair long and started to be hippies and changed our name,” Castillo said. Kupka suggested that the group should also write their own songs. Their first song was “You’re Still A Young Man,” according to the release.
An audition for Bill Graham went well. “Everyone had grown out of the psychedelic thing,” Castillo said. “The collective ear of the Bay Area was ready for something soulful. That’s right when we came along.”
Tower of Power’s first record, “East Bay Grease,” helped to define the East Bay sound, and did well enough to earn them a new recording contract. “Bump City,” their 1972 debut with the label, was a hit on both the Billboard 200 and the chart’s R&B albums chart and netted them the hits “You’re Still A Young Man” and “Down To The Nightclub.” They followed with classics including “So Very Hard To Go” and “What Is Hip?”
The band continues to tour and record. “We’re not a smooth jazz band or a retro band … We don’t follow trends, we just make our music exactly the way we want it to be,” Castillo said. Tower of Power was on the road last year with Journey and the Steve Miller Band. They’re old friends with Journey guitarist Neal Schon, who also played guitar for Santana. “Carlos (Santana) really dug the band, and he used to take us on tour even when people around the nation didn’t know us.”
Castillo said the group’s love of the stage hasn’t changed over the years. “I still love it as much as ever.”
Fans who come out to see Tower of Power will find there’s a new lead singer, Ray Greene – and he’s a perfect fit for the band, Castillo said. “Most bands lose their singer and it’s over. But we’ve changed singers and other players so many times, the fans actually get excited about who’s next.” The band has had more than 40 members throughout its history.
“Ray’s got everything – he looks great, he sings great and he’s a good person,” Castillo said. With a new member comes a new attitude. “Everybody in the band is saying ‘Wow, what is happening?’ You get to an age where we’re at and things can start to run down, but it seems like for us that things are really kicking into high gear.”
Admission tickets to the 2015 Merced County Fair will be available for $5 for everyone 6 years and up through June 9, the day before the fair starts. Kids 5 years and under will continue to get in free. The fair will offer a “5-pack” general admission discount ticket package for $20, that’s a 43 percent savings. The “5-pack” also will be sold through June 9. During the fair, June 10-14, general admission tickets will cost $7. Advance sale tickets will be available in May.
Other money-saving promotions include: Seniors, 65 years and up, will get free admission on Opening Day, Mercy Medical Center Seniors Day. Kids’ Day will be June 11, when all children 12 years and younger get in free.
The theme of the 2015 Merced County Fair, June 10-14, is "5 Best Days of Summer.” For information, call the fair office at (209) 722-1507, email to info@MercedCountyFair.com or go to www.MercedCountyFair.com.