In the late-1960s and early-‘70s, when bands were flocking to San Francisco to be part of the booming psychedelic music scene that launched the careers of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis and Big Brother, and many more now-legendary bands, one band raised a flag on the other side of the bay.

Tower of Power, performing with War on December 30 at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, claimed Oakland as its own, helping to put the city on the pop music map and establishing the band as one of the East Bay’s musical darlings.

“We’re really the only band that went out and preached the name of Oakland,” says the group’s founder, vocalist and tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo. “It was at the suggestion of the producer of our first band who reminded us, ‘You’re not a San Francisco band; you’re not psychedelic; Oakland is where you live, that’s where you party.’ That was some good advice.”

A horn-driven R&B outfit, Tower of Power successfully made the move from East Bay local band to pop sensation, picking up multiple hit singles including “So Very Hard to Go,” “What is Hip” and “Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of the Stream),” hitting gold record status with its self-titled, third album, and earning a loyal fan base around the world.

The band has been together consistently since 1968 with more than 60 members rotating through its fold. Its celebrated horn section has collaborated with a diverse range of musical heavy-hitters including John Lee Hooker, Elton John, Aerosmith, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Phish and many more.

Leading the way, for all this time, is Castillo and founding member Stephen “Doc” Kupka, who Castillo calls “the first hippie I ever met.”

“He was a hippie,” Castillo says, “but he was a soul-music hippie.”

The two met when Kupka, who was then the roadie for a band called Loading Zone, heard Castillo’s band, called the Motowns, play live.

“After the show he comes up and says, ‘Your band is really good, there’s only one thing wrong: your horn section needs a little bottom. By the way, I play the baritone sax,’” Castillo says with a laugh.

Castillo auditioned Kupka, liked what he heard and the two have been playing music together ever since.

“We’re always in and out,” says Castillo—playing dates around the country, gearing up for a tour of Europe. They have a handful of Bay Area shows coming up, including one in San Jose, which for Castillo is familiar territory.

“I’ve been playing in San Jose since before I was even in Tower of Power,” he says. “All my career I’ve been going to San Jose, playing venues all over town. San Jose has always been one of my favorite places.”

Heading into the studio in January to record an album of original material, Tower of Power is still going strong. When asked about the longevity of the band, Castillo says, “We have this way of making music that is really selfish: we make it to please ourselves. We didn’t come together and say, ‘There’s this certain type of music that’s selling, lets do that.’”

“We learned early on that if we stay true to ourselves, the fans get that we’re doing exactly what were supposed to do,” he says.