Longtime Tower of Power bassist Francis Rocco Prestia Jr., better known by his stage name, Rocco Prestia, has died at the age of 69, the legendary funk outfit confirmed in a social media post on Wednesday morning. While the cause of death was not specifically stated, Prestia had battled serious health issues since 2001 and underwent liver transplant surgery in 2014.
Prestia initially auditioned as a guitarist for the East Bay funk band that would eventually become known as Tower of Power in the group’s early days, but was persuaded to switch to the bass. The decision to switch instruments proved to be prescient, as Prestia went on to become a renowned bass player and a pioneer of the “fingerstyle funk” approach, in which he would lightly mute the strings with his left hand to add a percussive feel to his playing while maintaining clear and accurate pitch. That characteristic sound helped put him at the forefront of an innovative period for electric bass players in the early 1970s.
Rocco Prestia – Fingerstyle Funk Bass Lesson
As Tower of Power bandleader Emilio Castillo noted in a remembrance of Prestia posted to the band’s social media, “To say that 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.”
Read Castillo’s full remembrance of Rocco Prestia below:
Our dear “Rocco” passed away last night, peacefully with his family by his side at a hospice in Las Vegas. 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 uniniqe 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.
Honor the memory of Rocco Prestia with this spirited live rendition of “What Is Hip?” from 1977. Rest easy, Rocco.
Tower of Power – “Oakland Stroke”, “You Ought To Be Havin’ Fun”, “What Is Hip?” (Live at Soundstage Chicago, 1977)