Chuck Brown w Band . Photo by James Hilsdon

The annual Chuck Brown tribute – a Go-Go Music affair, at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in suburban Washington, DC., offered a throw-back feel, from the days when DC proudly proclaimed itself as the nation’s Chocolate City, and Go-Go music dominated the airwaves.

While DC is no longer the “CC” George Clinton boasted about on his epic 1975 album release titled Chocolate City,the Go-Go music of that era has managed to continue to thrive – now being created and enjoyed by a new generation of Go-Go enthusiasts. And, those Vanilla Suburbs that Clinton once referenced, well great numbers of those white residents have largely been assimilated into DC’s city boundary lines. Though residential lines have transformed, Go-Go music has remained a forever and needed constant among DC’s prideful natives. Welcome to the new Washington, DC.

Charles Louis “Chuck” Brown, a Gaston, North Carolina-born blues guitarist, is considered the “Godfather of Go-Go.” While being influenced by the funk innovations of James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” Chuck Brown (no relation to James) was also influenced by the Latin bands that pervaded the DC region during the early 1970s. Chuck utilized his creativity by blending the conga-laden, cowbell-based Latino sounds with his funk-driven, blues-oriented compositions. Hence, the birth of Go-Go.

On the evening of Dec. 27, 2014 a tribute to Chuck Brown was attended by a throng of his fans, who came to hear their heroes’ actual backing band – fronted by a couple of Chuck’s children, lead singer Takesa “KK” Brown and his son Wylie Brown, a singer/rapper. Chuck’s children did a wonderful job, and disappointed no one on this post-Christmas holiday weekend. A turnout of just about 2,000-strong came out to support the band, while keeping Chuck Brown’s name alive in DC’s highly competitive live music market.

The set list consisted of Chuck’s hits such as “Bustin Loose,” from 1978. “Wind Me Up Chuck,” “Chuck Baby,” “Run Joe” and “Still Crankin” were also popular hits performed by the 10-piece, horn-based band, on this chilly evening.

These days Go-Go is still a viable music form in the DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) region, even though its popularity never went global, such as reggae or even hip-hop.

The call-and-response activity which pervades the crowds is a significant stalwart of the Go-Go party scene, is its connection with Gospel music. The continuous flow from one tune to another, to keep the dancers on the floor, is very similar to the Rock’s “Jam Band” scenario, where bands string various songs together, while varying rhythms and melodies creatively emerge from within and throughout one song. That same attitude makes rock-and-roll jam bands very similar to the soulful, funk of Go-Go music. And the continuous pulsating groove-like rhythms are a direct take from the reggae rhythms formulated by Bob Marley and The Wailers in the early 1960s.

During an interview with “KK” Brown, she expressed pride at continuing her father’s legacy in conjunction with her younger brother, Wylie. “I’m really glad you’re writing this article, because Go-Go too often gets a negative rap. It’s really a positive music and it attracts positive people. The beats make folks just want to dance and have fun. It’s a partying kind of music, all about having a good time,” she added.

“Go-Go is DC’s folk music,” said Aaron Jones, a native Washingtonian attending the event. “I can vividly recall riding in my father’s car and listening while he played Chuck’s music on cassette tapes. It was also the music played during our house parties back in the day.”

“About 20 years ago, I told my wife we’d better start trying to catch Chuck’s shows, because one day, he’ll be gone and it’ll be too late. Since then, we’ve made it an annual event to catch his act at various outdoor festivals. You could say we’ve raised our sons on Chuck Brown’s music. They love Go-Go, even though they have their own new style that they gravitate toward. It’s OK though, because they know the foundation, and that’s Chuck Brown and the original Go-Go.”

In looking at Go-Go’s future, it appears to be in good shape, considering that Chuck Brown’s grandson, Derrick Brown, is the future face of the music. KK says her 16-year old son, nicknamed “Pac-Man” by Grandpa Chuck, has “got the juice.” He can sing and rap. “Go-Go’s in good shape now, and for the future too,” she said.

The Chuck Brown Tribute Band will appear at Maryland Live Casino on March 17 and at the Bethesday Blues & Jazz Supper Club on April 10. For more information contact Tom Goldfogle at Full Circle Entertainment, 301-879-9811.)