ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Chuck Brown
National Visionary


Born in 1934 in Gaston, North Carolina

Enduring soul and jazz artist, known as the "Godfather of Go-Go" for pioneering this unique and popular urban dance music









BIOGRAPHY
Jazz guitarist and singer Charles Louis “Chuck" Brown is the undisputed creator of Go-Go music, a rhythmic, danceable genre rooted in funk and soul developed in the early 1970s.

Brown was born in 1934 to Lyla Louise Brown and Albert Louis Moody in Gaston, North Carolina. He grew up very poor and quit school after completing the seventh grade. At age seven he learned to play piano in church. From ages 11 to 13, Brown was a preacher. He also made money selling newspapers, shining shoes, and digging ditches. At 17, Brown joined the Marines, but only served 11 months. As a young adult, Brown was imprisoned several times for robbery and selling stolen property. In the early 1950s, he spent eight years in Lorton Reformatory outside of Washington, D.C.


Chuck Brown playing at Lorton
At Lorton, Brown earned his high school diploma and bought his first guitar. He taught himself how to play it with help from accomplished guitar players who had performed with Count Basie. Brown became very popular as he performed in weekly shows. Brown left prison in the late 1950s.

In 1964, Brown married his first wife and three years later became a father for the first time. He worked a number of jobs from sparring partner for boxers at local gyms to bricklayer to tractor trailer driver.

In the early 1960s, Brown played with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm. In 1965, he joined the group Los Latinos, a band that played Top 40 music with a Latin flavor. After joining the group, Brown returned to Lorton Reformatory every year for the next 15 years to perform for inmates.

In 1966, Brown formed his own band, Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers which played Top 40 music. He continued to play such music throughout the next decade. In the early 1970s, Brown began to develop his signature “Go-Go” music. Brown brought together Latin rhythms, call and response, and a continuous drum beat to create the unique sound. He also wrote transitions between songs so that the music was non-stop in his concerts. His first hit, We the People, was released in 1971.

In 1978, Brown recorded the chart-topping hit Bustin' Loose and released the (gold) album by the same name. In 1984, he released We Need Some Money and in 1986, he released Go Go Swing, which sparked an international following for Go-Go music. Brown continued to perform Go-Go while experimenting with other forms of popular music.

Brown married again in 1992. That same year, he connected with the late singer Eva Cassidy and recorded The Other Side, a critically acclaimed album of jazz and blues duets. Brown and Cassidy performed together in concert, opening for acts such as Al Green and the Neville Brothers. Brown dedicated his 1998 album of American classics, Timeless, to Cassidy who died of cancer in 1996.

In 2001, Brown’s album Your Game...Live at the 9:30 Club was voted one of the top ten albums of the year by Billboard’s R&B editor and others. In 2002, Brown released Put Your Hands Up!, a DVD of live performances. The Best of Chuck Brown was released in 2005 and in 2007, Brown released We're About the Business featuring his daughter KK on the hit song Chuck Baby.

Brown has received numerous accolades, including the National Endowment for the Arts Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award (2005). In 2006, Brown performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a tribute to funk music. In 2009, Washington, DC named a street after him—Chuck Brown Way.

Brown's influence can be heard in hit songs through the years ranging from 1990s Shake Your Thang by the rap group Salt-N-Pepa to 2007's Tambourine by singer and actress Eve.

Brown is the father of the late Charles, Jr., Nekos, Wiley, Bill and Takesa (KK).

VIDEO CLIPS


EXTERNAL LINKS
Chuck Brown's Wikipedia page
www.windmeupchuck.com (Official Website)

RELATED LINKS
B.B. King's Visionary page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/brownchuck


ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z