Chuck Brown (born August 22, 1936 – May 16, 2012) was a guitarist and singer who is affectionately called “The Godfather of Go-go”
Go-go is a sub genre of funk music developed in and around Washington, D.C. in the mid- and late 1970s. While its musical classification, influences, and origins are debated, Brown is regarded as the fundamental force behind the creation of go-go music.
Brown’s musical career began in the 1960s playing guitar with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm, joining Los Latinos in 1965. He still performs music today and is commonly known in the Washington, DC area. Brown’s early hits include “I 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”.
He has influenced other go-go bands such as Big G and The Backyard Band, Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited (EU), Little Benny and the Masters, and Trouble Funk.
The song “Ashley’s Roachclip” from the Soul Searchers’ 1974 album Salt of the Earth contains a famous drum break, sampled countless times in various other tracks.
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.
Brown is considered a local legend in Washington, D.C., and has appeared in television advertisements for the Washington Post and other area companies. The D.C. Lottery’s “Rolling Cash 5” ad campaign features Chuck Brown singing his 2007 song “The Party Roll” in front of various D.C. city landmarks such as Ben’s Chili Bowl.
He has 2 sons Wiley and Nekos Brown. Wiley is a gifted musician and football player at Virginia Tech. His son, Nekos, was a defensive end/linebacker for the Virginia Tech football team. While his son was in college, Brown scheduled concerts and other appearances around the Hokies home schedule to ensure that he would never miss a game, and became a fixture at Lane Stadium. Following the Virginia Tech massacre, Brown stated in an interview that he was “absolutely devastated” by the tragedy, and cried every day for two weeks. In shows that followed, Brown would pause for a moment in prayer for the victims and their families before beginning his performance, and dedicated several shows to their memory.
Brown was the subject of the cover article in The Washington Post Magazine on October 4, 2009, entitled Chuck Brown’s Long Dance.
He received his first Grammy Award nomination in 2010 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.
Since the early 1970s, Brown has exclusively played a blonde Gibson ES-335, which is affectionately referred to as his “Blondie.”
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 performed capped the evening with a performance.
Chuck Brown died on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at Baltimore’s John Hopkins Hospital of multiple organ failure. He was 75 years old. Check out “Bustin’ Loose” below!