FRESNO, CA (KMJ) Bruce Conte has passed away after a long battle with Leukemia.
The local guitarist and vocalist was born in Sanger and grew up in Fresno. He found his biggest musical success in the ’70’s and ’80’s as lead guitarist for Tower of Power.
Bio from Conte’s website:
My cousin, Victor Conte and I started a band called Common Ground and played in the local club scene where we developed our R&B and Jazz styles from 1967 – 1969
In 1970 I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to join a local band called” Loading Zone” along with member Tom Coster (from Santana), Linda Tillery, Tony Smith and Doug Rauch. We had three albums out and played The Fillmore and opened up for Tower of Power frequently. A bond began to form while sharing a rehearsal hall with them and I started to co-write songs with Emilio Castillo and Doc Kupka of Tower of Power. In September of 1972, they hired Lenny Pickett and myself from the Loading Zone. I played on 8 Albums and it remains one of my life’s greatest musical experiences.
In 1983 I started a small quintet and worked the Bay Area club scene in a band called “Hot Street”. In 1984, I got a house gig at a Bay Area night club called Frenchy’s and had a slick R&B show band called “Power Play”. We recorded two albums that were never released. We then started working 9 months per year for Hilton Hotels in Reno and Las Vegas. Within a two-year period, the group got burned out. In 1986 I was getting jobs in casinos where the money was good and the work consistent which made it hard to leave the circuit.
I worked a house gig at the Peppermill in Reno, Nevada for one year with Detroit based singer Tommy Bell. In 1987 I moved to Las Vegas and joined a group called “Sante Fe” with band leader Jerry Lopez ( currently working with Ricky Martin) .
In 1988, I sold my home in San Francisco and moved to Los Angeles. I started playing with local drummer, Sal Rodriguez, currently with the group War. One year later., I joined forces with Bobby Espinosa and Sal in the group El Chicano. I spent 10 years and made one album entitled Painting the Moment with El Chicano in which I co-wrote several tracks.
In 1999 I was featured on a Rhino Records release entitled “Anthology” by Tower of Power. I have recorded four solo albums: , a mixture of Rhythm and Blues.
I recorded and co-wrote with Rick Braun on his album Full Stride, a song entitled Moonshot, which is being played on Smooth Jazz stations through out the United States. I also recorded on Rocco Prestias cd, Everybody on the Bus.
After leaving Tower of Power in 1979, Conte played in a number of groups in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, as well as with Al McKay in his All-Stars, and released four solo albums. One of these is Bullet Proof on Severn Records (2002).