Known affectionately as 鈥淭he Godfather of Go-Go,鈥 Chuck Brown said his time at Lorton, Virginia鈥檚 former prison complex formed him into the beloved musician he became. He performed and created music until his passing in 2012. (Courtesy of
Known affectionately as 鈥淭he Godfather of Go-Go,鈥 Chuck Brown said his time at Lorton, Virginia鈥檚 former prison complex formed him into the beloved musician he became. He performed and created music until his passing in 2012. (Courtesy of

While the journey to stardom was filled with its fair share of obstacles, came a long way from his humble beginnings, to audiences screaming 鈥淲ind me up, Chuck,鈥 as he geared up to perform at sold-out venues.

鈥淚’ve been around music all my life and everybody in my family could play some kind of instrument,鈥 Brown told the . 鈥淲alking down those old country roads playing your guitar or blowing your harmonica or playing your accordion.  My mother, she played an accordion, and she played a harmonica, and she played a little bit of piano. And I played a little bit of piano when I was 7 years old. By the time I was 13, I didn’t play piano anymore.鈥 

Born in Gaston, North Carolina, on Aug. 22, 1936, a young Charles Brown left home at an early age and spent time in and out of correctional facilities.  However, the DMV played a prominent role in forming the future鈥 Godfather of Go-Go.鈥

鈥淥ut of all the other institutions that I鈥檝e been through, they only taught me one thing, how not to go back to those same institutions again. But when I went to Lorton, that鈥檚 when I found myself,鈥 Brown said, referring to the former northern Virginia prison complex. 鈥淭hat’s where a lot of inmates found themselves.  You were presented with all kinds of opportunities, you know?  You could learn a trade. Guys have come out of there and became lawyers.  I got serious about music while I was down there.鈥

Though never formally trained, it was inside Lorton that Brown learned more about music.

鈥淚 learned how to play that guitar, I got serious about it within about six months.  A young man named Scotty, Bill Walker, Shannon, these guys were three great guitar players, used to play with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, you know, played with a lot of the big bands.  I used to sit there and watch those guys and they’d show me a few chords and I never forgot what they showed me because I never learned how to read music,鈥 Brown explained in the NEA interview, conducted two years before he died in May 2012 at age 75.

It was also inside the prison that Brown began performing for crowds, and he became an instant hit with his fellow inmates.

鈥淪howtime every Saturday [was] over at the auditorium at 5 p.m. Chow time on Saturdays was 5 p.m. So it got to the point, if I was on the show鈥 you know, Petey Green was the disk jockey and he broadcasted over the loudspeakers all over鈥 if I was on the show at 5 p.m., wouldn’t be nobody in the mess hall.鈥

In the 1960s Brown joined a group called Los Latinos, and was inspired and influenced by the Latin sounds. With his work with The Soul Searchers in the early 70s, Brown began exploring different sounds and merging genres, from jazz, to blues, gospel and African rhythms, producing funky tunes like 鈥淲e the People鈥 (1972), and the 1974 album 鈥淪alt of the Earth,鈥 which featured hits such as  鈥淏low Your Whistle鈥  sampled for rapper Eve鈥檚 鈥淭ambourine鈥 (2008) and 鈥淎shley鈥檚 Roach Clip,鈥 (1974)  sampled by Eric B and Rakim, LL Cool J and others.

The world was introduced to a new sound, when Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers revolutionized music with their hit 1979 鈥淏ustin Loose.鈥澛犅

Brown continued the Go-Go sound with hits such as 鈥淲e Need Some Money鈥 (1984), and his famous tune the 鈥淕o-Go Swing,鈥 in 1986. The legendary artist performed and created music until his passing from multiple organ failure in 2012, with notable tunes from his 2007 album 鈥淲e鈥檙e 番茄社区app the Business,鈥 such as 鈥淏lock Party鈥 and 鈥淐huck Baby,鈥 featuring his daughter KK.

The , featuring his son Wiley Brown often singing his dad鈥檚 hits, still performs to this day.

The Go-Go Swing Lives on

The celebrated musician ushered in a new sound that musicians continue to be inspired by to this day. 

Artists and bands like Sugar Bear and E.U., Rare Essence, Backyard, Be鈥橪a Dona, New Impressionz, and many more, keep Brown鈥檚 sound alive and even add their own rhythmic flares such as go-go鈥檚 pocket or more modern bounce-beat sounds. Producers and musicians such as Pharrell Williams, Jill Scott and rapper Wale have also incorporated the go-go sound and shared it with audiences worldwide.

In August 2022, at the annual Chuck Brown Day, go-go artist Sugar Bear, famous for the song 鈥淒a Butt,鈥 with the band E.U., paid tribute to the 鈥淕odfather of Go-Go.鈥

鈥淭he huge crowd showed that his legacy lives on and that people are continuing to incorporate his musical genius into new forms of music,鈥 Sugar Bear said

D.C. native Ramon Thompson said go-go taps into African ancestry.

鈥淭he drumming in go-go speaks to our melanin,鈥 explained Thompson, store manager at Blue Nile Botanicals. 

Thompson remembers the vibrant social scene of go-go and attending countless parties with his friends. He said the next day at school, students all over D.C. would drum on their desks with their pencils, like 鈥渨e were our own go-go band.鈥 

Thompson said the percussion-heavy groove of go-go resonated with audiences decades ago and continues to inspire people today. 

鈥淥ver 50 years later and I can still remember the beginning of go-go growing up. It鈥檚 a part of our Chocolate City culture and our blueprint of D.C,鈥 Thompson told The Informer.  鈥淚 don鈥檛 know what D.C. would be like if go-go music didn鈥檛 exist.鈥

WI Managing Editor Micha Green is a storyteller and actress from Washington, D.C. Micha received a Bachelor鈥檚 of Arts from Fordham University, where she majored in Theatre, and a Master鈥檚 of Journalism...

Bousaina Ibrahim is a contributing writer to The 番茄社区app. Bousaina, a daughter of Sudan, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2022 with a degree in journalism and...

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  1. The GODFATHER OF GO- GO is just that鈥 We use to skip school in WV and come to Chocolate- Dodge City and make a Day of it just to see Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers and many of the other Go- Go Bands鈥. One Of my favorites was The JUNKYARD BAND鈥 Sardines, Hey and Pork and Beans鈥 That鈥檚 when I was eating meat back then鈥 But it鈥檚 still one of my favorites鈥 I Truly MISS those Days鈥 WE Grew Up in the GREATEST ERA鈥 GO- GO; HIP-HOP; BREAK DANCING; You name it we were inventing it鈥 Computers Etc鈥 Bar none鈥 It still is Violence but those three things I just named SAVED Madd Black Lives鈥 I know for a FACT鈥 Because it SAVED MINE and a few others that I know鈥 Even if We didn鈥檛 make it big time; It still kept US out the Streets As Much鈥 Because We we鈥檙e practicing Our craft to get better鈥

  2. Love the article! One quick correction though – the world was introduced to Bustin鈥 Loose via the single in 1978, and album in 1979. The band did begin experimenting/building/arranging the song a few years prior, but recognition would have been isolated to those who attended local Go-Gos.

  3. Beautiful Atricle well written. Great information and history about. The Life and time of The Godfather Of GoGo Mr. Chuck Brown. Oscar’s Advice 2024

  4. Even though I grew up in Washington DC, I never knew about him until I downloaded the most wonderful album titled 鈥淭he Other Side鈥 where he collaborated with Eva Cassidy. His voice is magnificent and silky鈥 the collaboration was beautiful.

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