Chuck Brown

Last updated

The Godfather of Go-Go

Chuck Brown
Onstage, October 1, 2005
Background information
Birth nameCharles Louis Brown
Born(1936-08-22)August 22, 1936
Gaston, North Carolina
Origin Washington, D.C.
DiedMay 16, 2012(2012-05-16) (aged 75)
Baltimore, Maryland
  • singer
  • musician
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active1960s–2012

Charles Louis Brown (August 22, 1936 – May 16, 2012) was an American guitarist, bandleader and singer who has garnered the honorific nickname "The Godfather of Go-Go". [1] Go-go is a subgenre of funk music developed in and around the Washington metropolitan area in the mid-1970s. While its musical classification, influences, and origins are debated, Brown is regarded as the fundamental force behind the creation of go-go music. [2] [3]

Honorific nicknames in popular music are terms used, most often in the media or by fans, to indicate the significance of an artist, and are often religious, familial, or royal and aristocratic titles, used metaphorically. Honorific nicknames were used in classical music in Europe as early as the early nineteenth century, with figures such as Mozart being called "The father of modern music" and Bach "The father of modern piano music". They were also particularly prominent in African-American culture in the post-Civil War era, perhaps as a means of conferring status that had been negated by slavery, and as a result entered early jazz and blues music, including figures such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Go-go high-energy subgenre of funk music from Washington, D. C.

Go-go is a popular music subgenre associated with funk that originated in the Washington, D.C., area during the mid-60s to late-70s. It remains primarily popular in the Washington metropolitan area as a uniquely regional music style. A great number of bands contributed to the early evolution of the genre, but the Young Senators, Black Heat, and singer-guitarist Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers are credited with having developed most of the hallmarks of the style.

Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when African-American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bass line played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer, often at slower tempos than other popular music. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves that created a "hypnotic" and "danceable feel". Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.


Early life: 1936–1963

Brown was born on August 22, 1936 in Gaston, North Carolina. [4] Brown's mother, Lyla Brown, was a housekeeper, and his father, Albert Louis Moody, was a United States Marine. Brown's father, however, was not present in his life, and Brown lived in poverty. [4] [5] When Chuck Brown was six years old, he moved to Washington, D.C. in 1942, and at 15 he started to live on the streets. [6] He did not graduate high school; Brown quit school and decided to perform odd jobs to make money, [7] including shining shoes. [8]

Gaston, North Carolina Town in North Carolina, United States

Gaston is a town in Northampton County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 1,152 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Area.

United States Marine Corps Amphibious warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), also referred to as the United States Marines or U.S. Marines, is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for conducting expeditionary and amphibious operations with the United States Navy as well as the Army and Air Force. The U.S. Marine Corps is one of the four armed service branches in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

In the 1950s, Brown was convicted of murder and served eight years in Lorton Correctional Complex. At first, the case was tried as aggravated assault; however, it was moved up to murder once the victim died. Brown stated that his actions were in self-defense. [7] In prison, he traded cigarettes for a guitar, which was how his love for the instrument began. [7] When Brown completed his sentence, he moved back to Washington, D.C. and worked as a truck driver, a bricklayer, and a sparring partner at multiple boxing gyms. He also started to perform at parties throughout the area; however, he could not play at venues that served liquor, because his probation officer would not allow it. [7]

Lorton Reformatory

The Lorton Reformatory, also known as the Lorton Correctional Complex, is a former prison complex in Lorton, Virginia, established in 1910 for the District of Columbia, United States.

Bricklayer A craftsman who lays bricks

A bricklayer, which is related to but different from a mason, is a craftsman who lays bricks to construct brickwork. The terms also refer to personnel who use blocks to construct blockwork walls and other forms of masonry. In British and Australian English, a bricklayer is colloquially known as a "brickie". A stone mason is one who lays any combination of stones, cinder blocks, and bricks in construction of building walls and other works. The main difference between a bricklayer and a true mason is skill level: bricklaying is a part of masonry and considered to be a "lower" form of masonry, whereas stonemasonry is a specialist occupation involved in the cutting and shaping of stones and stonework.

Boxing combat sport

Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring.

Music career

Brown with his signature blonde Gibson ES-175 Chuck Brown and his guitar (2005).jpg
Brown with his signature blonde Gibson ES-175

Brown's musical career began in the 1960s playing guitar with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm, joining Los Latinos in 1965. At the time of his death he was still performing music and was well known in the Washington, D.C., area. Brown's early hits include "We Need Some Money" and "Bustin' Loose". "Bustin' Loose" has been adopted by the Washington Nationals baseball team as its home run celebration song, and was interpolated by Nelly for his 2002 number one hit "Hot in Herre." Brown also recorded go-go covers of early jazz and blues songs, such as "Go-Go Swing" Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing If Ain't Got That Swing", "Moody's Mood for Love", Johnny Mercer's "Midnight Sun", Louis Jordan's "Run Joe", and T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday".

Jerry Butler American soul singer and songwriter

Jerry Butler, Jr. is an American soul singer-songwriter, producer, musician, and retired politician. He is also noted as being the original lead singer of the R&B vocal group the Impressions, as well as a 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Since leaving The Impressions, Jerry has had over 55 Billboard Pop & R&B Chart Hits as a solo artist, including some 15 Top 40 Pop Hits in the Hot 100, and 15 R&B Top 10's. He served as a Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, from 1985 to 2018. As a member of this 17-member county board, he chaired the Health and Hospitals Committee, and served as Vice Chair of the Construction Committee.

Washington Nationals Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Washington, D.C., United States

The Washington Nationals are a professional baseball team based in Washington, D.C.. The Nationals compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) East division. From 2005 to 2007, the team played in RFK Stadium; since 2008 their home stadium has been Nationals Park on South Capitol Street in Southeast D.C., near the Anacostia River.

Nelly American rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor from Missouri

Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., known professionally as Nelly, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, investor, and occasional actor from St. Louis, Missouri. Nelly embarked on his music career with Midwest hip hop group St. Lunatics, in 1993 and signed to Universal Records in 1999. Under Universal, Nelly began his solo career in the year 2000, with his debut album Country Grammar, of which the featured title-track and the single "Ride wit Me" were top ten hits. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to peak at number one. Country Grammar is Nelly's best-selling album to date, selling over 8.4 million copies in the United States. His following album Nellyville, produced the number-one hits "Hot in Herre" and "Dilemma". Other singles included "Work It", "Air Force Ones", "Pimp Juice" and "#1".

He influenced other go-go bands such as the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Big G and The Backyard Band, Junk Yard Band, Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited (EU), Little Benny and the Masters, and Trouble Funk.

The Junk Yard Band is a Washington, D.C based go-go band, founded in the early 1980s by children playing on improvised instruments. They are best known for their songs- "Sardines" and "The Word."

Rare Essence is a Washington, D.C.-based go-go band formed in 1976. Rare Essence has been amongst the most prominent musicians of the D.C. music scene, producing numerous hit songs in the local D.C. market and several hits nationwide, including the charting hit "Work the Walls".

Experience Unlimited was a Washington, D.C.-based go-go/funk band that enjoyed its height of popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s. Fronted by lead singer/bassist Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliot, the group has had a fluctuating membership over the years, but they have maintained a fairly loyal following.

The song "Ashley's Roachclip" from the 1974 album Salt of the Earth by Brown's band The Soul Searchers [9] contains a drum break, sampled countless times in various other tracks.[ which? ]

"Ashley's Roachclip" is an instrumental song by funk group the Soul Searchers from their 1974 album Salt of the Earth on Sussex Records. A portion of the song from 3:30 to 3:50 contains a widely recognized drum break that has been sampled countless times in songs across several genres.

<i>Salt of the Earth</i> (The Soul Searchers album) 1974 studio album by The Soul Searchers

Salt of the Earth is the second album by the Washington, D.C.-based group The Soul Searchers.

In the mid-1990s, he performed the theme music of Fox's sitcom The Sinbad Show which later aired on The Family Channel and Disney Channel . He appeared in television advertisements for the Washington Post and other Washington, D.C., area companies. The D.C. Lottery's "Rolling Cash 5" ad campaign featured Chuck Brown singing his 2007 song "The Party Roll" in front of various D.C. city landmarks such as Ben's Chili Bowl.

Brown played a blonde Gibson ES-335. [2]

Death and legacy

Brown died on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital of multiple organ failure, including heart failure. He was 75 years old. Several weeks prior to his death, he had postponed and cancelled shows due to hospitalisation for pneumonia. [1] [10] His interment was at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf, Maryland.

"Chuck [Brown] was like the Washington Monument. He was like Ben's Chili Bowl. He was the big chair. He was all of that. Chuck Brown was Washington, D.C. [ ...] People feel you when it's genuine, and Chuck was always that."

Donnie Simpson, Washington, D.C. radio and television personality [11]

Brown is called the "Godfather of Go-Go" [4] [12] and was considered a local legend in Washington, D.C. Darryl Brooks, a local promoter who worked with Chuck Brown during his career, stated, "He was a symbol of D.C. manhood, back in the day, because of the authority that he spoke with. He just spoke from a perspective that black men could understand." [11] Andre Johnson, the leader of the go-go band Rare Essence, said that Chuck Brown "influenced generations of people—not just one—a few generations of musicians around here." [11] Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Brown was "Go-go's creator and, arguably, its most legendary artist." [13]

The Soul Rebels Brass Band, Rare Essence and Slick Rick performed a tribute concert and collaborated on June 21, 2012 in Washington DC at the historic Howard Theatre which re-opened in April 2012. [14]

Former member of Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, saxophonist Leroy Fleming (born Marion Leroy Fleming, Jr.) died on March 12, 2013. [15] [16]

Ricky "Sugarfoot" Wellman (born Ricardo Dalvert Wellman on April 13, 1955 ln Bethesda, Maryland) was a longtime drummer for Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers. He died of pancreatic cancer on November 23, 2013 at the age of 58. [17] [18] [19]

Awards and honors

Brown was a recipient of a 2005 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. [20]

In 2009, the 1900 block of 7th Street NW, in Northwest Washington, D.C., between Florida Avenue and T Street was renamed Chuck Brown Way in his honor.

He received his first Grammy Award nomination in 2011 for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for "Love" (with Jill Scott and Marcus Miller), from the album We Got This. [21]

On September 4, 2011, Brown was honored by the National Symphony Orchestra, as the NSO paid tribute to Legends of Washington Music Labor Day concert - honoring Brown's music, as well as Duke Ellington and John Philip Sousa - with a free concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Brown and his band capped off the evening with a performance.


Studio albums

Live albums

Compilation albums


  1. 1 2 "'Godfather of Go-Go,' Chuck Brown Dies". The Washington Informer. May 16, 2012. Archived from the original on May 20, 2012.
  2. 1 2 Smith, Craig (November 2, 2007). "Some More D.C. Flavor: Chuck Wound Me Up". Virginia Law Weekly . University of Virginia. 60 (9). Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  3. "Chuck Brown Dead: D.C.'s 'Godfather Of Go Go' Dies At 75". Huff Post. May 16, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 Sisario, Ben (May 18, 2012). "Chuck Brown, Godfather of Go-Go, Dies at 75". The New York Times . Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  5. Richards 2012 , p. 1
  6. Baker, Soren (May 24, 2001). "Chuck Brown Proves Go-Go Hasn't Gone-Gone". MTV . Viacom . Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 4 2012 , p. 2
  8. Fusilli, Jim. "The Godfather of Go-Go". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  9. "Soul Searchers". Rap Sample FAQ. The Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  10. "Chuck Brown dies: 'Godfather of Go-Go' passes away at 75". ABC Channel 7. May 16, 2012. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  11. 1 2 3 Richards, Chris (May 16, 2012). "Chuck Brown's Music Impact: Deep Into Washington, and Beyond". The Washington Post . Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  12. Bogdanov 2003 , p. 853
  13. "Chuck Brown Dead: D.C.'s 'Godfather Of Go Go' Dies At 75". The Huffington Post . May 16, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  14. "Soul Rebels at the Howard Theatre" . Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  15. Marion LeRoy Fleming, Jr. accessdate July 16, 2018
  16. Remembering Leroy Fleming, Former Member of Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers accessdate July 16, 2018
  17. Ricardo Dalvert Wellman accessdate July 16, 2018
  18. Remembering the Great D.C. Drummer Ricky "Sugarfoot" Wellman accessdate July 16, 2018
  19. McArdle, Terence; McArdle, Terence (November 28, 2013). "Ricky 'Sugarfoot' Wellman dies; drummer for Chuck Brown, Miles Davis and Carlos Santana". Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  20. "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 2005". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  21. "Grammy Awards 2011 Nominees List: Eminem Leads The Pack". Sawf News. December 2, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  22. Maza, Erik (June 23, 2011). "Chuck Brown just Keeps on Going". The Baltimore Sun . Retrieved November 29, 2012.

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