Teach the Beat!

Bringing the distinctive D.C. sound of go-go into the classroom.

Teaching for Change is honored to work with D.C.  area schools and the authors of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. to develop lessons and share teaching ideas for infusing the history and music of go-go in middle and high school social studies, language arts, math, music, and/or D.C. history classes, and to bring renowned go-go performers into D.C. classrooms.

"Go-go has stayed true to time-honored cultural scripts such as live call-and-response, live instrumentation, as well as its locally rooted fashions, slang, dance, distribution and economic systems. Simply put: Go-Go never sold out. There is a grit and texture to the music that gives voice to the communities where it was created." –Natalie Hopkinson

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PEOPLE AND GROUPS

OVERVIEW | PEOPLE AND GROUPS | PHOTOS

 

Chris “Geronimo” Allen

Chris Allen, a native Washingtonian, has been a professional musician for over 20 years. His first music teacher, Mr. Ronald Harbor, ignited his initial love for music. Chris’ musical education started in elementary school and continued at UDC. He has collaborated with a range of musicians, including Mass Extinction, Redds & The Boys, Trouble Funk, Soul Patrol, Be’la Dona, Chuck Brown, Najee, Earth, Wind & Fire, Wayman Tisdale, Goodie Mob, DJ Kemit, Bone Crusher, The Chronicle, Outkast, Donnie, Lil Benny, Jas Funk, Sugar Bear, Go-Go Mickey KRS-One and Raphael Saddiq. Currently, he gives drum lessons, co-manages Be’la Dona and scores music for film.


Chuck Brown

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“The Godfather of Go Go,” Chuck Brown is the undisputed sole founder and creator Go-Go music, a hypnotically danceable genre deeply rooted in funk and soul that he developed in the early 70’s , andthe only form of expressive cultureto originate in the District of Columbia.  Foreshadowing rap and many of the major popular R&B styles of the past three decades, Chuck's signature style earned him a place in American musical royalty.  This esteem was maintained by the reputation of his legendary live shows, heavy on audience participation and built around “the beat” to create an unparalleled non-stop party atmosphere.

While searching for a sound to call his own in the 1960s, Chuck was deeply inspired by artists like James Brown.  He latched onto the Latin percussion groove from the band he played with at the time, Los Latinos.  Combining this with his roots, his love of blues, jazz, gospel, soul, and African rhythms, Chuck began to develop his own unique sound.   Starting out playing top forty, Brown would break-it-down between songs with percussion and audience call and response, and keep the music going, and the dance floor packed. Continue reading.

Also see interview with Chuck Brown on the National Visionary Leadership Project website and read Chuck Brown to Be Inducted In The North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.


JOHN "JB" BUCHANAN

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John Buchanan is a product of the DC Public Schools Instrumental Music Program. He learned to read music in the first grade and played melody flute. He started learning the trombone in the 4th grade and learned to play jazz in the 7th grade. At the same time he performed with the DC Youth Orchestra Program, first on French horn and then on trombone. Buchanan studied composition in college and lead his own soul band, “The Magnificent Seven”, crossover group, “Melting Pot” and jazz combo, “Coatis Mundi” at the University of Notre Dame.

Buchanan first heard the Soul Searchers at Byrne Manor on his Thanksgiving break in 1970 and sat in with the band after rehearsal in Horace Brock’s basement. He was invited to join the band playing trombone upon graduating in May 1971. Buchanan gradually added the keyboard to his repertoire and played electric piano and synthesizer. He wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on their first three albums: “We the People” in 1972, Salt of the Earth” in 1974 and Bustin’ Loose” in 1978.

Buchanan and the Soul Searchers toured the country twice and performed with many major acts including “War”, “Confunction”, “The Commodores”, Mary J. Blidge, Mother’s Finest, and culminating one trip with the “Soul Train” Show and Don Cornelius.


Stanley Cooper

Stanley Cooper started playing guitar at age 13, inspired by the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Ernie Isley  and George Benson. He joined his first go-go band, Prophecy Band & Show in the early 1980s. Deeply immersed in all things go-go during his tenure with Prophecy, his guitar influences included Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (Rare Essence) and Chuck Brown. As his technical facility grew, he began to perform with R&B, Funk, and Smooth Jazz bands, bringing influences from those genres back to go-go. His next go-go endeavor was with CJ’s Uptown Crew. CJ, former saxophonist with EU, Redds & the Boys, and Little Benny & the Masters, fostered and encouraged his development as a complete musician (songwriting, background and lead vocals, and keyboards/guitar synthesizer). His motto was “Don’t call the hall, I do it all!” Today he has his own group, 76 Degrees West, which fuses all musical styles with a go-go flavor. He made a promise to himself long ago that no matter how far he went as a musician, he would always have a place for go-go.


Timothy "Teebone" David

Timothy "Teebone" David is a native of Washington, DC. He has 45 years of experience with percussion and vocals. He played with Triple Threat Sound Factory, Dagati, and Trouble Funk. David also recorded with Kurtis Blow, Maeco Parker, Limbo Maniacs, Fishbone, Bootsy Collins, FFF, and Stefan Remmler. He attended The Modern School of Music for voice and is a self taught percussionist experienced in jazz, Latin, African jazz, R&B, soul, funk, blues, and reggae. He has traveled to Europe, Japan, and toured in the USA and Canada. 


Melvin Deal

Melvin Deal has been instructing African dance and drumming in Washington, DC for over 30 years. He is founder of the African Heritage Dancers and Drummers. His commitment to uplifting the Ward 7 & 8 communities is outstanding. African Heritage Dancers and Drummers gives many young people an opportunity to learn culture, heritage, and discipline while being exposed to new and exciting things and has earned a renowned reputation for excellence, locally, nationally and internationally. Deal is a native Washingtonian, who began his dance career at the Northeast Academy of Dance in Washington, DC in 1959. Receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in 1965 from Howard University, Mr. Deal devoted his time and talents to the positive development of youth in the community. He founded the African Heritage Center in 1973.


Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott

Sugar Bear is a founding member of and front man for EU (Experience Unlimited), one of the original Washington DC go-go bands. He and his fellow band members were all students at Ballou High School. The band chose the name Experience due to their respect for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Unlimited because they did not want to limit the range of their music. Their early regional hits included “EU Freeze,” “Lock Your Butt,” and “Knock ‘Em Out Sugar Ray.” Although they are best known for their Grammy-nominated, massive worldwide hit Da-Butt from Spike Lee’s “School Daze” soundtrack, EU has also scored hits with Salt & Papa (Shake Your Thang), with rap innovator Kurtis Blow (Party Time), and on their own with “Buck Wild” and “Taste of Your Love.”  Sugar Bear has appeared in a local TV commercial for an insurance company, and teaches special education at TC Williams.


Experience Unlimited (EU) and founder Sugar Bear

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EU (Experience Unlimited) is one of the original Washington DC Go-Go bands.  Fronted by founding member Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, the original members all attended Ballou High School. The band chose the name Experience due to their respect for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Unlimited because they did not want to limit the range of their music.  Their early regional hits included EU Freeze, Lock Your Butt, and Knock ‘Em Out Sugar Ray.   Although they are best known for their Grammy nominated, massive worldwide hit Da-Butt from Spike Lee’s “School Daze” soundtrack, EU scored hits with Salt & Papa (Shake Your Thang), with rap innovator Kurtis Blow (Party Time), and on their own with Buck Wild and Taste of Your LoveDa Butt won Soul Train’s best R&B/Soul Single, Group in 1989.

EU has performed with Teena Marie, Morris Day and The Time, Mint Condition, Cameo, and countless others. They performed on a show with Bob Dylan in 1989, one of Sugar Bear’s career highlights.  EU released the hit Umm Bop Bop in 2000.  They dropped the single Bounce in 1999, garnering extensive airplay.  EU appeared in the tribute DVD to Chuck Brown, Put Your Hands Up in 2002 (called quite possibly the best live concert DVD ever made by Murder Dog Magazine) with a brilliant set of live music, featuring a percussion showdown between Ju Ju House and Mighty Mo Hagans, along with blistering renditions of EU Freeze. Dog Star, Da Butt and much more.  In 2003, EU performed to a national audience on the televised NAACP Awards’ Tribute to Spike Lee. EU has been featured in 2009 in VH1 one hit wonders of the 1980’s.  Sugar Bear has appeard in a local TV commercial for an insurance company, and teaches special education at TC Williams. 

Experience Unlimited has toured Europe, Japan, and across the US, but call Washington, DC home.  EU is currently in the studio working on a new cd, and they continue to rock the stage night after night. 


David ‘32’ Ellis

David Ellis’ role in go-go has been the hype man/rapper for several popular go-go groups. As the “hype man,” he was responsible for putting the A1 sauce on the steak: He brought excitement to the go-go performance. He started his career 28 years ago as an original member of the Junkyard Band. He recorded vocals on popular Junkyard tunes such as “The Word” and “Sardines”. Working with Def Jam Records, he was able to perform at the world-renowned Apollo Theater and the Capital Center many times. He has performed on shows with Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D. After leaving the Junkyard Band, he became an original member of the Northeast Groovers and played in the Washington metropolitan area for many years.  He also played with Rare Essence for 10 years and, in 2010, he left the band to join DA’ Mixx Band.


Thomas Sayers Ellis

Thomas Sayers Ellis was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and played rototoms and timbales for Petworth Band & Show. His first, full collection, The Maverick Room, was published by Graywolf Press in 2005, for which he received a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers’ Award and the 2006 John C. Zacharis First Book Award. Skin, Inc., his second collection, appeared in 2010 and was reviewed critically and widely. He co-founded The Dark Room Collective in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1988, and earned an MFA from Brown University in 1995. His writing and photographs have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The NationThe Paris ReviewOxford AmericanPoetryTin House, and the Best American Poetry (1997, 2001, 2010 and 2015).

In 2011, he exhibited the first one-man show of go-go photography titled “(Un)Lock It: the Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket.” From 2007 to 2012, he frequently photographed Chuck Brown and many other personalities and aspects of Go-Go culture. He has taught at Howard University, Sarah Lawrence College, The University of San Francisco, and the University of Montana.

Recently he co-founded Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a language/music group of poets and musicians, and recorded "Chuck Town" (for Chuck Brown) and was, shortly thereafter, awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry.

The photos throughout this "The Beat is Go Go" website are primarily by Thomas Sayers Ellis.


Donnell “D-Floyd” Floyd

Donnell Floyd fell in love with the saxophone as a 10th grader at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. That is also when he joined the infamous Rare Essence (RE).  He performed with RE from 1983 to 2001. During his long stretch with RE, he recorded songs with such greats as Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D and Redman. Floyd is famously known for such classics as “Work the Walls”, “Lock It” and “Overnight Scenario”.  In 2001, he decided it was time for him to spread his wings and to explore his talents to newer heights. He then spent the next decade with Familiar Faces (formerly 911), performing with national recording artists greats, such as Montell Jordan, Tony Terry, Fantasia, Marsha Ambrosius, and R. Kelly.  With over two decades of experience under his belt, he grabbed the attention of the legendary “Godfather of Go-Go,” Chuck Brown, and was invited to join the stage with his band, becoming a marquee performer at venues nationally and internationally.  As Floyd continues to please his fans musically and artistically, his ambition is to help develop new talent and be behind the push for music worthy of Grammy nominations.


Milton "GoGo Mickey" Freeman

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Milton "Go-Go Mickey" Freeman is a DC Go-Go legend and is known for his fast hands on congas and for his raw beats that have become a staple for many area conga players. Freeman won "Congo Player of the Year" in 2006 at the first Go-Go Awards presented by Washington DC radio station WKYS, and again in 2007, keeping the Backyard Band from sweeping every category in which they were nominated. In addition, Freeman has won two individual "Wammies" from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) and five as a member of Rare Essence along with a spot in WAMA's Hall of Fame.

Counting percussionist and Prince protégé Sheila E. as an inspiration, Freeman was also inspired by local legends Jungle Boogie and Ricky "Sugarfoot" Wellman. He joined Reality Band in 1980 and followed that with stints in Redds & the Boys, Ayre Rayde, and several other go-go groups, before joining Essence in 1984 and rising to legend status.

Freeman recently reunited with several former Rare Essence band members and joined the Go-Go group Familiar Faces. Mickey can be seen performing four nights a week with Familiar Faces at venues throughout the DC area. When he is not performing, Freeman is likely to pop up at local venues to catch other Go-Go bands and can often be persuaded to get on stage and play the congas. Currently, Freeman offers percussion lessons and is working on a project with his sons Mickey and BJ.


Kevin "Kato" Hammond

Kevin “Kato” Hammond is a media mogul and musician. He is the creator and owner of Take Me Out To The Go-Go, Inc. (TMOTTGoGo), which comprises Take Me Out To The Go-Go Digital Magazine, TMOTTGoGo Radio, TMOTT Website and Graphic Design, and Otakcity Publishing. Since its inception in 1996, the TMOTTGoGo brand gained attention from outside media outlets for its designation as “the official gateway to a Washington, DC music culture” and "the trusted voice of the Go-Go music community." Such media outlets as Vibe magazine, MTV, TV One, and WETA has made Kato Hammond and TMOTTGoGo a significant source of information about the Go-Go music culture. Hammond’s history as a musician includes serving as Lead Vocalist and Guitarist for Pure Elegance, Little Benny and the Masters, and Proper Utensils. Today, in addition to managing multiple ventures, Hammond works services with the Go-Go Coalition. serves as a Drummer for Chantilly Baptist Church, and has just recently released his autobiography entitled Take Me Out The The Go-Go: The True Story Of A Music Culture And The Impact It Made On The Life Of One Man.


Nico Hobson (bka Nico the GoGo-Ologist)

Nico got his nickname from his knowledge of the music and culture of GoGo. He has been involved in the go-go industry professionally since 1992. He started selling PA tapes, then produced a radio show on RADIO ONE, and now owns the world's premier online go-go radio station. The station has offered live programming since May 5, 2010.


Natalie Hopkinson

Natalie Hopkinson is the author of Go-Go Live: The Musical Life & Death of a Chocolate City published last year on Duke University Press. She first came to Washington to attend Howard University, where she earned a degree in political science in 1998. She worked for many years as a writer, editor and culture critic--first for the Washington Post and then the on the team of editors that launched the web magazine The Root.

Go-go music was the subject of her 2007 doctoral thesis at the University of Maryland-College Park, which combined research methods in journalism, public communication, American studies and ethnomusicology.  She has written about education and culture for the New York Times, The Atlantic’s website, Essence magazine and is currently a fellow of the Interactivity Foundation and leading its Future of the Arts & Society project.


William “Ju Ju” House

JuJu House is a multigenerational musician; you could say it’s in his blood—from his grandfather, his father and he’s passed it on to his son. He first picked up drumsticks when he was six years old in order to play drums at his dad’s church, and he’s been playing ever since. He first played with the Peacemakers, one of the early go-go groups that not many people remember. He practiced and played so intently that he developed his own unique style. As a result, he had the opportunity to perform internationally with go-go bands, as well as Chaka Khan, David Sanborn, George Benson and many others. Through the years, he has loved go-go.  He admits to being a purist; he likes the old go-go sound and would love to see it resurge.


Kip Lornell

Dr. Kip Lornell, co-author of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington D.C. (University of Mississippi Press, 2009) has a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology (American Music) from the University of Memphis, and an M.A. in Folklore, University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill. Lornell dedicates about one-third of his GWU course “Musical Cultures of Black Americans” to the music of Washington, DC.  


Cherie Mitchell

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Cherie Mitchell is one of the most dynamic young artists to emerge on the music scene. This native Washingtonian has spent the past decade performing across the U.S. and abroad. She began to play the piano at the age of five, classically trained by the late Mamie Ronca.

She also attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts under the direction of saxophonist Davey Yarborough. During her attendance at the prestigious high school, she competed in several piano and violin competitions. Michael Patterson, Barbara Durost, Ruth Norman, Hilton Felton, Atrius Flemming, Kim Tucker and Ramona Matthews were her instructors. Upon graduation, Cherie was crowned Miss D.C. National Teenager (sponsored by Wynton Marsalis) and received a two-year scholarship to Oklahoma City University. She also attended Virginia Commonwealth University and graduated cum laude at Howard University, receiving her BA in Jazz Studies, under the tutelage of Bob Hallihan and Geri Allen. Mitchell will present at the PD and coach music teachers.


Maurice Shorter (aka Moe Shorter)

A native Washingtonian, Maurice Shorter is the go-to guy for all things go-go. Shorter is chairman of the GoGo Coalition and serves on the board of the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA). It was as a student at Howard University that his long and fruitful go-go career took off. After getting Junkyard Band to perform on campus, he would later become their manager. He also managed Little Benny, EU and O.P. Tribe. In addition to managing bands, he was also an entertainment entrepreneur: he developed Street Records, a record label, 1Moe Show, an event production company, and owned a successful retail store in Southeast that only catered to go-go music.

Maurice is also a public servant. He served as a commissioner with the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities for 12 years, as well as a mayoral appointee on numerous boards and task forces. Shorter currently works as an Accountant/Budget Analyst for DC Public Schools.


Charles Stephenson

Charles Stephenson, co-author of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington D.C., is a cultural and political activist. For over twenty-five years, he has been identified with the evolution of go-go music in Washington, D.C.  As the manager of EU he witnessed the ascent of go-go music. As a producer and manager, he interacted with all the popular go-go acts in Washington, D.C., which included Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Rare Essence and the Junkyard Band. 

He emerged as a respected advocate and promoter of go-go music in a time when various political leaders were critical of the music and the “element” associated with the genre.  In 1971, he co-founded the Malcolm X Day Celebration in Washington, D.C., which has been recognized nationally for being the longest (25 years) and largest to celebrate the legacy of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz), the slain human rights leader.

Copyright  2013 The Beat. All Rights Reserved.

Website developed by Teaching for Change with support from
the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Image credits: Thomas Sayers Ellis