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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown (born August 22, 1936 - May 16, 2012) is a guitarist and singer who is affectionately called "The Godfather of Go-go". Go-go is a subgenre 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.

Brown resides in Waldorf, Maryland. 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.



  • 1972: We the People
  • 1974: Salt of the Earth
  • 1978: Bustin' Loose
  • 1980: Funk Express
  • 1984: We Need Some Money
  • 1986: Go Go Swing Live [Future Sounds Production]
  • 1987: Any Other Way to Go?
  • 1987: Live '87 - D.C. Bumpin' Y'all [live; double album]
  • 1989: Trust Me: Live Pa Tape, Vol. 2 [Future Records & Tapes]
  • 1990: Wind Me up Chuck, Vol. 3 [Raw Venture Records & Tapes]
  • 1991: 90's Goin' Hard
  • 1993: This Is a Journey into Time [live]
  • 1995: Hah Man
  • 1995: The Other Side - with Eva Cassidy (recorded in 1992 )
  • 1997: Live Pa Tape
  • 1998: Timeless
  • 1999: The Spirit of Christmas
  • 2001: Your Game...Live at the 9:30 Club
  • 2002: Put Your Hands Up!
  • 2005: Best of Chuck Brown (remastered)
  • 2007: We are About The Business (Raw Venture Records)
  • 2010: We Got This (Raw Venture Records)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Legendary Blood, Sweat & Tears


No American rock group ever started with as much daring or musical promise as Blood, Sweat & Tears, or realized their potential more fully -- and then blew it all as quickly. From their origins as a jazz-rock experiment that wowed critics and listeners, they went on -- in a somewhat more pop vein -- to sell almost six million records in three years, but ended up being dropped by their record label four years after that. Blood, Sweat & Tears started as an idea conceived by Al Kooper in July of 1967. An ex-member of the Blues Project, Kooper had been toying with the notion, growing out of his admiration for jazz bandleader Maynard Ferguson, of forming an electric rock band that would include horns and use jazz as the basis for their work. He planned to pursue this in London, but a series of New York shows involving some big-name friends didn't raise enough money to get him there. He did, however, find three players who wanted to work with him: bassist Jim Fielder, Blues Project guitarist Steve Katz, and drummer Bobby Colomby. Kooper agreed, as long as he was in charge musically. The horn section featured Fred Lipsius (saxophone), with Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss on trumpets and fl├╝gelhorns, and Dick Halligan playing trombone. The new group was signed to Columbia Records, and the name "Blood, Sweat & Tears" came to Kooper after a jam at the Cafe au Go Go, where a cut on his hand left his organ keyboard covered in blood.

That first version of Blood, Sweat & Tears played music that roamed freely through realms of jazz, R&B, soul, and even psychedelia in ways that had scarcely been heard before in one band. The songs were bold and challenging, and the arrangements gave Lipsius, Brecker, et. al room to solo, while Kooper's organ and Katz's guitar swelled in pulsing, shimmering glory. Their debut, Child Is Father to the Man, was released in February 1968, and seemed to portend a great future. The only thing it didn't have was a hit single to get AM radio play and help drive sales.

Disagreements about repertory grew into doubts about Kooper's ability as a lead singer, and soon split this band. Kooper left in March of 1968, and Brecker followed him out. That might've been the end of the story, except that Colomby and Katz decided to salvage a band of their own band out of this debacle. The lineup was reshuffled and expanded, and for a lead singer they found a Canadian national named David Clayton-Thomas.

The new Blood, Sweat & Tears recorded their album in late 1968. Blood, Sweat & Tears, released in January 1969, was smoother and more traditionally melodic than its predecessor. Equally important, the singles from the album were edited, removing the featured spots for the jazz players. "You've Made Me So Very Happy" rose to number two and lofted the album to the top of the LP listings. "Spinning Wheel" b/w "More and More" and "And When I Die" followed, and when the smoke cleared, the album had yielded a career's worth of hits. The LP also won the Grammy as Album of the Year, selling three million copies in the bargain.

In the spring of 1970, however, the group lost a huge amount of momentum with its core audience, college students, when they undertook a tour of Eastern Europe on behalf of the U.S. State Department. The Vietnam War was still raging, and anything to do with the government was potentially poisonous on college campuses. It was on their return to America, amid this dubious career move -- which was done to overcome the problem of Clayton-Thomas' shaky immigration status -- that Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 was released. It briefly topped the LP charts, and the single "Hi-De-Ho" reached number 14, but both sold only a fraction of what their earlier releases had done. Additionally, the group was now criticized in the rock press, which felt that Blood, Sweat & Tears were either a pretentious pop group that dabbled in horn riffs, or a jazz outfit trying to pass as a rock band. The group's decision to perform at a Las Vegas casino -- which even upset the head of Columbia Records, Clive Davis -- did nothing to defuse these doubts.

Clayton-Thomas exited after the fourth album to pursue a solo career. Most of the group's original and second-generation players were gone by then as well, though the playing standard remained consistently high. The lineup became a revolving door -- even Jaco Pastorius passed through their ranks, briefly -- and the group's record sales imploded, squeezed as they were by Chicago on the pop side of jazz-rock, and outfits such as Weather Report and Return to Forever on the more musically ambitious side of the spectrum. Clayton-Thomas returned in 1974, to what was billed officially as "Blood, Sweat & Tears Featuring David Clayton-Thomas." They released New City (1975), which did well enough to justify an ambitious tour that yielded the double-LP Live and Improvised. Columbia Records dropped the group in 1976, and even Bobby Colomby, who had trademarked the group's name, gave up playing with them. Clayton-Thomas has kept the group name alive in the decades since, fronting various lineups.


  • 1968 Child is Father To the Man
  • 1969 Blood, Sweat & Tears
  • 1970 Blood, Sweat & Tears 3
  • 1971 Blood, Sweat & Tears 4
  • 1972 New Blood
  • 1973 No Sweat
  • 1974 Mirror Image
  • 1975 New City
  • 1976 More Than Ever
  • 1977 Brand New Day
  • 1980 Nuclear Blues

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