Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wind Me Up Chuck!

As I've mentioned before, I'm from the DC area. But let's get real. Prince Georges County, Maryland. Out Anacostia, through Marlow Heights, and Temple Hills and into Clinton. Clinton, Md. And if you were to go a couple of towns further, you'd be in Waldorf. And Waldorf is home to one of the baddest cats there ever was.
Chuck Brown, The Godfather of Go Go!


Go Go music is a genre that Chuck gave birth to in DC in the Seventies and perfected in the Eighties. He topped the R&B charts in '78 with "Bustin' Loose" and again a couple years later with "We Need Money". Grace Jones used DC Go Go players on the "Slave To The Rhythm" album. Everybody thought this Go Go thing was gonna take off and be the next big national genre, but somehow it never happened. Perhaps it's because the style isn't really built for mass consumption, or even a recorded format. It's an intimate, in-the-moment experience, and it's a party. It happens in a club or an armory. Chuck and the band play a 2-3 hour set without stopping.  There's a 'shout out list' that people sign up on and while the music's going he communicates constantly with the audience (who, by the way, are dancing their asses off the whole time).  He shouts out that so and so from Howard University is in the house.  Such and such from the S.E. projects is in the house.  This ones having a birthday.  That one needs to behave herself!  All the while that beat is constant as he slips in and out of riffs and melodies that might be anything from Harlem Nocturne, to the Woody Woodpecker theme.

Now, how you gonna capture, bottle and market that!  No matter, Chuck is a God.  He has inspired and mentored countless local musicians and bands:  Rare Essence, Trouble Funk, The Junkyard Band.  One of the biggest Go Go hits to date was "Da Butt"  from Spike Lee's "School Daze" soundtrack by EU (formerly Experience Unlimited) who were Chuck's proteges.

Charles Louis Brown was born in 1934, the son of share croppers.  He had had enough of school after 7th grade.  He was a church preacher from ages 11-13.  He was a thief who did 8 years in Lorton Reformitory in Virginia.  It was there that he got his High School diploma and there that for the price of 5 cartons of cigarettes, got a guitar made for him.

I'll let the man himself pick up the story from there:

In Aug. of last year, this ex-con got a street named after him (Chuck Brown Way) in DC. Because of Chuck and his Go Go beat, it's not unusual to walk around DC (and other cities, for that matter) and see this:

I'm so proud to claim a hometown kinship with Chuck Brown - a man of renown.

Here's a sample of one of those 3 hour tours.


jason said...

Ah yes, I remember GoGo, it was pretty big around here back in the day. Used to listen to it all the time, late nights on WYLD.

MJ said...

That one needs to behave herself!

I think we all know that was directed at YOU.

Dusty said...

Ooooh…I feel like bustin' loose!
Nice piece.
Never knew much about Brown and his life.
Just grew up hooked on his Soul chart-topper - "Bustin' Loose".

kabuki zero said...

Take it to the bridge now! Go-Go still fills a club better than hip-hop, but sadly there is now as much violence there. It was pure for a long time, but a new generation has embraced GoGo - and that generation is teeming with violence. Did our generation ruin our parent's music and clubs? I'd like to think not. Inner-city emerging culture reminds me of strip-mining.

VP81955 said...

I believe "Bustin' Loose" is played at Nationals Park every time a Washington Nationals player hits a home run. Recently it's also been used in a Nabisco ChipsAhoy commercial.