In Memoriam: Francis “Rocco” Prestia

Rocco Prestia

Another bass hero has left us. Longtime Tower of Power bassist Francis “Rocco” Prestia has passed away after an extended health battle. He was 69 years old. The news was shared on social media with a note from bandleader Emilio Castillo.

“Our dear ‘Rocco’ passed away last night, peacefully with his family by his side at a hospice in Las Vegas,” he wrote. “Some of us were blessed to have a few parting words with him over the last few days and for that I’m so grateful. Many people know that I always called him Frank because his name was Frank Hueton back in 1965. Frank was a very sweet kid with really cool hair when we first met in junior high school and we actually brought him into our band because of his hair; he was a horrible guitar player. My father had hired a teacher named Terry Saunders to teach us one song a week and the first thing Terry said to Frank was, ‘You need to play the bass!!!’ How right he was!!! As a bass player he was totally unique and as a person he was one of a kind. He fought a long fight over the last 20 years and now he’s with the Lord and heaven is his home. I’ll miss him dearly but I know that he’s now at peace and I look forward to seeing him there. To say that Francis Rocco Prestia was a huge part of the Tower of Power sound is a gross understatement. When people listened to Tower of Power it was always Rocco that they walked away talking about and he had a major impact on the music world.”

Prestia was the first bassist in the band and the longest-tenured in its 50-year career. He changed the way bassists play with his rapid-fire, 16th-note fingerstyle funk. His lines on “What Is Hip” and “Only So Much Oil in the Ground” setting a new standard for right-hand dexterity that players still strive for today. His style evolved as the band did, he told us in a 2014 interview.

“Well, it was actually very natural for me,” he said. “Once we got hip to soul music in late 1967 or something like that, we started adding horns and such. 1968 is when we changed the name to Tower of Power, and in 1969 we were pretty much on our way. 1970 is when we acquired [drummer] Mr. David Garibaldi. When he came in, he was a very, very busy player. I came more from that R&B background, so when the two styles collided what came out of it is pretty much what you hear from me today. It naturally happened. I was already on the road to playing like that, but when he came in it just all clicked – it wasn’t thought about or anything. It wasn’t like, ‘I want to play like that.’ It was just the clash of both of us. I brought him back a little bit and he brought me up a little bit, if that makes sense.”

Prestia is featured on 22 Tower of Power albums. Health issues over the past two decades forced him to sit out most performances, and the permanent bass chair has been filled by Marc van Wageningen since 2018. He received a kidney transplant in 2014. Last year, he began work on a solo album to follow up 1999’s Everybody on the Bus!

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Francis “Rocco” Prestia.

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  1. K Lee

    RIP FRP, and thank you for your immeasurable talent, power and grace.

  2. Bob Rogers

    RIP “Frank” :*(

  3. Vinny Sansone

    RIP Rocco. The bass was a thing of Beauty in your hands. Power and grace with musical force. The bass community will never forget you or your contributions.

  4. M Hart

    Rest easy Rocco :(

  5. T C

    I am deeply in debt to your talents!!! You were a big inspiration and a very gracious, heartfelt person.

    • Joe George Lopez

      We had some good times Rocco. Your style sound & Tower of Power will live on forever! Good bye my friend, Big George.
      To his family, he was a good man. He is with God now. May you find peace. He was a Tremendous Talent may he RIP?

  6. Eric aka “Petey”

    Had the pleasure of seeing TOP 5 times. 2 of the times Bobby Vega was filling in for Rocco; then Rocco the last 3. Rocco was so unbelievable! Those 16 note runs he was doing was unbelievable; especially the way it was locking in with David’s drumming! Made me look @ my bass lines differently! He will definitely be missed! Glad I had the chance to see him those 3 shows. I still have his lesson video he did for video progressions. I’m going to do my personal TOP playlist in tribute to the man and the band!
    May Francis “Rocco” Prestia R.I.P!

  7. Kenneth Kearney

    RIP Rocco, your legacy lives on.

  8. Ken E Mathews

    R.I.P. you change the world for the better

  9. Steve Weber

    I heard Tower of Power in 1971 I think, at Winterland in San Francisco.
    Also heard my brother Dave’s band Copperhead, Stoneground, Pink Floyd, and Hot Tuna at the same venue.
    Rocco was the most accomplished bass player of them all!

  10. Rodolfo

    Remarkable bassist the best for the best band ever

  11. Billy long

    Have a beautiful journey Rocco

  12. Mark Whittaker

    R. I. P Frank from myself and Merseyside xxx.

  13. AD C

    I saw TOP from the beginning as a 16 year old. We saw them so many times. Even hoping not to get carded in clubs. As I got older I realized just how original and crazy talented Rocco was. I tried to play bass. Watching and listening it was always ” how did he do that?” R.I.P. Rocco

  14. Tim Cummings

    I was blessed some years ago (I think it was 2014 or 2015) that I was finally able see TOP at, of all places, the MACC on Maui. David Garibaldi hadn’t been playing with them for some time and Rocco was recovering from his surgery. As the fates would have it they both were playing at the show. Talk about a tight rhythm section! Everyone was great but I couldn’t take my eyes off those two. I was sitting in first balcony section to the side of the band so I could really watch what they were doing. Thanks for coming to Maui, TOP!
    RIP Rocco.

  15. Rachel Martinez

    Rest In Peace Rocco thanks for decades of soulful funk you’ll be missed ???

  16. Ginny Bartley

    I saw TOP more times than I can count. Chatted with Rocco numerous times. Prayed for him when he was ill?. His musical talent was off the charts and he will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. May he rest in peace??

  17. Bill Enderlin

    What can I say that hasn’t already been said. I’m still working on “What Is Hip”. A giant among giants.

  18. Eugene Molloy

    Rip Rocco, there’s a bass rig waiting in Heven for you

  19. JOHN J Schwamborn

    RIP Rocco, you were and have been an inspiration in my bass playing style. God rest your soul.

  20. Danielle C Bartelli Oldfield

    So many shows. So much talent. Quite a few laughs. RIP Rocco. Your music will live on and comfort us. dani

  21. Ron

    R I P Rocco. Rick, Skip, Mic and Heavens TOP now have the best Bass player in their Band.
    We will keep our dreams alive and pray for your family and friends.

  22. Michael Barbolla

    First saw TOP open up for Credence Clearwater and Bo Didley in Fort Worth Texas in 1973 as a young 15 yr old . Thanks for all the great music. Prayers for the family and Emilio, Doc, & David G. ????

  23. Michael Barbolla

    First saw TOP open up for Credence Clearwater and Bo Didley in Fort Worth Texas in 1973 as a young 15 yr old . Thanks for all the great music. Prayers for the family and Emilio, Doc, & David G. ????

  24. Taylor Michaels

    It was a LIVER TRANSPLANT folks? I KNOW because there were a small group of people contacted when the beeper went off, so a few of us were part of Rocc’s transplant support team. I LOVE THAT MAN & was BLESSED to be loved back! RIP Baby, you’re already missed SO VERY MUCH.?? Taylor

  25. Taylor Michaels

    It was a LIVER TRANSPLANT folks? I KNOW because there were a small group of people contacted when the beeper went off, so a few of us were part of Rocc’s transplant support team. I LOVE THAT MAN & was BLESSED to be loved back! RIP Baby, you’re already missed SO VERY MUCH.?? Taylor

  26. Fang

    Man, another legend gone. RIP Rocco Prestia, always a true class act.

  27. Esther Gillett

    Rest in peace, Rocco. So glad to have met you in Scottsdale. You were one of a kind and will be missed.?

  28. Ben Fierro

    May God bless you with eternal lasting lif in Heaven as you blessed us with your music , prayers go out to family and friends for comfort and blessed assurance. To be absent in body is to be present with the Lord. Have a great time in Heaven playing fir our Heavenly Father, RIP ???

  29. nosh

    Emilio Castillo’s words are lovely. A beautiful eulogy for a great player.

  30. Edward Lara

    Rest in peace

  31. Hairs

    I saw TOP and Rocco many times in CT clubs.Shows were incredible always! Rocco made it look so easy!!Will never be another like him.Thoughts to the family& friends.RIP Rocco.Heaven has a Band with no bonderies! HAIRS

  32. Joseph moore

    CONDOLENCES TO ROCCO’S FAMILY AND HIS TOWER OF POWER FAMILY ! HE WAS THE EXTREME BASSIST AND EVERY BASS PLAYER IN THE WORLD LOOKED UP TO BE AS GOOD AS HE WAS! RIP ROCCO YOU WILL BE MISSED!

  33. Rodney Mayve

    He was in my books my man growing up Tower of power he would stand. Their on stage hands and fingers moving funk hip motion OG bass player i will miss him i bet right now God and Jesus are savior are funk out jam out to you got to funkize respect Rod Mayve sr from phx az loves Tower of Power RIP brother i see you soon

  34. Alex Abarca

    One of thee best player I’ve heard with his 16 notes playing tectnics he will be missed.
    R.I.P FRANCES ROCCO PRESTIA

  35. Cherry

    Frank you will truly be missed but finally at peace. It was a pleasure to know you and call you friend. Sleep well my friend until we meet again. RIP.

  36. Dennis Harper

    RIP Rocco Prestia. One of a kind Bassist that’s for sure. Still love hearing you lines. One of my favorites from way back when TOP started. As a retired bass player hope I get to meet you in Heaven one day. ?Thoughts and Prayers go out to the family and TOP.? Dennis Harper Williamsburg Va. ?

  37. Jim Laner

    A Diamond…Sparkling In The Sand. Thank you Rocco for putting the funk securely in the pocket. RIP.