There is no doubt that the biggest game changer of all in the Washington, D.C. music scene this year was the death of legendary Chuck Brown. This impacted the industry on every single facet. Each of the Game Changers of 2012 have been touched and guided by Chuck Brown in some form or fashion. Like Brown, they have been able to use their celebrity to change the game in 2012 by making significant contributions in the arts. Here, they are presented to you in alphabetical order. Congratulations to the following people for impacting the movement of the beloved music scene and using their status as a platform to take their talents and message further.
Black Alley– We are talented enough to play on a national level, but it won’t happen if we don’t put out original national level music. – Omar Kashif, manager, Black Alley
A multi-cultural marriage of soul and rock, laced with hip hop and sprinkled with GoGo, Black Alley is comfort food to soothe the soul. The band consisting of Kacey Williams on vocals, Josh Hartzog on bass, Eric Champaloux on lead guitar, Hope Udobi on keyboards, Mack Tyson on keyboards, Bo Beedy Clark on percussion and Danny “Animal” Henderson on drums has coined their sound as Soul Garage Music. The March 2012 release of their debut album, which includes the majority of original material, Soul.Swagger.Rock.Sneakers. has garnered much attention as three singles, “Shake Stop”, “Ghetto Acapella” and “Crankin'” featuring Raheem DeVaughn, have been featured on radio.
Omar Kashif, manager of Black Alley explains “Alley House Entertainment is our own label. We put the CD out ourselves, independently. We saved money from our shows, jobs and everywhere else we could. It takes a lot to break barriers, but we have to invest in ourselves if we want bigger companies to take notice. We have moved about 5,000 units to date and we look to do more with videos coming out in early 2013 as well as new music. I think people dig our sound, our stage performance and our unapologetic approach to cranking.”
Black Alley has enjoyed a successful year playing locally as well as entertaining audiences in Charlotte, South Dakota, New York, Philadelphia and Miami. “We have been on NBC, Fox and CBS and have played shows with Common, Kindred, Angie Stone and others. We have been really blessed to have folks dig the music.”
Gregory “Googie” Burton– I don’t plan to become rich, but I would like my music to be remembered as Real Good Music.- Gregory “Googie” Burton
“We all go through different phases in our growing up. I feel that I have been listening, playing, and mixing for 3 decades. The music that’s being played today is ok, but there’s no real thought behind the lyrics, and the music is put together by a computer, not a musician. What I have in my vision for what my band does, is to bring the realness out of the music with real, natural feeling, and lyrics that are sung and carefully thought out,” states Burton, a fixture on the music scene for 30 years as a premier sound engineer and bassist who is currently working with his own band, Soul’A Movement.
As a sound engineer, Burton has mixed for the best and currently juggles his time between the Chuck Brown Tribute band and Familiar Faces. “I get calls to do some of the touring acts to maybe fill in for their sound engineers. When I am there, I observe how the shows get put together and I think to myself, I could be doing this type of stuff myself. That’s what brings me back to playing bass. Doing sound locally is cool, but I don’t like to be ruled on what instruments need to be turned up. Don’t call me to mix from your ears. Chuck Brown never questioned anytime I mixed his band. James Funk, Little Benny or Sugar Bear never questioned my work.”
Burton was well respected by Chuck Brown and the feeling was mutual as he reminisces, “I was on the Tom Joyner cruise with EU this year, which was fun, but not as fun as when Chuck did it because we knew that he wasn’t feeling well and a lot of people were missing him. Sugar Bear and I were both worried about Chuck. I made sure to call him when we got off the water. I miss the trips with Chuck Brown. Chuck called me to fill in for Glenn Ellis once when he was ill, but he called back about 10 minutes later and said he’d better keep me on sound because ‘anyone can play bass, but only Googie can run sound’.”
Milton “GoGo Mickey” Freeman– I don’t know if it’s a game changer, but I left RE when certain people thought I would never leave. James Funk always said that one man won’t stop the RE show.-Milton “GoGo Mickey” Freeman
2012 was a huge year for movement within bands, but nothing as jaw dropping as when Milton “GoGo Mickey” Freeman decided to leave Rare Essence where he has held court behind the congas for the past 28 years with his innovative style. Arguably the greatest of all time in the D.C. area, no one could fathom this departure from the group that celebrated Freeman’s prowess on the congas with their song, “Do the Mickey”. Freeman was responsible for the creation and elevation of the percussive style on the congas after original member Tyrone “Jungle Boogie” Williams left years ago. Freeman moved to Familiar Faces, where many former Rare Essence members have assembled over the past few years.
Freeman remarks, “Throughout most of the years, I think I changed a lot of things on how GoGo Conga players play, like doing speed rolls first, making beats and doing a lot more with the left and if anybody says they did those things first, they are lying.”
“28 years, it was like a family to me, then it ended up like a bad marriage. But, in my two week’s notice, I wished them good luck in the future and if I could help with anything, I would,” Freeman shares of the departure.
Freeman likes the aspect of being an innovator and often emulated, but enjoys seeing others thrive with their own creations. He explains, “It makes me feel great that’s why I try to come up with the hardest and different things to make people like and want to come see more. It’s easy to say ‘I can do that’. Come up with your own ideas.”
While the style of the music that Rare Essence plays has changed and catering to a younger crowd than the Familiar Faces crowd, Freeman reveals, “A lot of people have told me I brought them back out playing in front of more people in my age group.”
He continues, “Rare Essence had young people coming out. I could tell when somebody first turned 21. It would be a new face in the club and if they got hooked, they would be back next week.”
Freeman wishes Rare Essence continued success and mentions that pioneering member James Funk always said, “One member won’t stop the RE show.”
Anwan “Big G” Glover– When I got on TV, I stayed working on my craft. I go to New York on Amtrak 3 to 4 times a week for castings and make it back to Union Station in time to jump in a cab and make it to my show. People don’t see that.-Anwan Glover
2012 has been quite a year for Anwan Glover, Washington, D.C.’s beloved icon. Glover is known to music fans as Big G, the front man from the Backyard Band, who has been playing for 25 years and counting and to the rest of the world as character Slim Charles from the HBO series, “The Wire”. Glover has certainly changed the game in 2012 while using his many connections and talents very wisely to not only boost his musical career and provide Backyard with the incredible opportunity to assist with an HBO fundraising effort in New Orleans, but by landing some roles in some major films.
Glover explains, “I’m not based in LA or New York. I do castings and come back to play music on the weekends. I can’t live without my music. I’m loved everywhere around because of my character on ‘The Wire’, but there’s nothing like D.C. “
“I was at Sundance Film festival in Utah in January! From Uptown to Sundance! I was there to promote a film ‘Luv’ starring Common, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Good, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Rainey, Jr., Lonette McKee and Michael Kenneth Williams. It’s coming out in January 2013 and have a role. I play a character named Enoch Boykin.”
He continues, “I loved Utah. I made friends out there. Going to Sundance is going to be paying off.”
As for paying off, it certainly has. Glover also has a role in another upcoming film due out in 2013 called “Twelve Years a Slave” with Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, Michael Kenneth Williams and others.
“I play a slave named Cape. I play the fiddle. It was so incredible to be cast for that.”
Many fans were pleasantly surprised to hear Glover’s trademark gravelly voice narrating the “Hey Rookie” show on ESPN.
Glover quietly reveals, “I cried watching it just to hear my voice on ESPN. I wake up and go to sleep with ESPN or HBO or the History Channel. I’m a Nationals fan, but I can’t shake the Orioles.”
Always one to think of his fans and what will keep them coming back, Glover confirms, “I’m always thinking of something I can do next. I made a lot of the sayings, the swag, the culture. I hear people say my stuff on their stage. It makes me feel good. People still love me. They know I’m not arrogant. I’m the same person, I’ll never change. I’m still G.”
Tom Goldfogle– Keeping the band playing is not only a way to keep celebrating all that Chuck Brown meant to this city, but it is part of a healing process for all who loved him, and that includes the band. I’m a Game Continuer of work that began a dozen years ago to elevate the career and music of someone I admired so greatly. – Tom Goldfogle
Tom Goldfogle, Chuck Brown’s longtime manager and friend, prefers to stay behind the scenes, but, in 2012, after the passing of legendary Chuck Brown, he has been able to keep Brown’s band, currently known as The Chuck Brown Tribute Band, playing, even forging a relationship with the Howard Theatre to feature Chuck Brown Mondays and also dong tireless work with the Chuck Brown Foundation.
Goldfogle, born into a military family in Nebraska, spent time in the D.C. area between moves to Louisiana, Mississippi, Peru and Michigan.
“In between moves, my father would be at the Pentagon, so the DMV was the only place growing up that felt like home.”
Although Goldfogle was aware of GoGo in the late 70’s with the release of “Bustin’ Loose”, it really became ingrained in his life in the early 1980’s while he was managing a record store in Landover Mall. He describes the times. “The store was part of a chain based out of NY. I would call the head of operations and say that I needed to pay for 2,000 copies of a GoGo 12″ in cash, out of the register drawer on a Friday, but that I would sell all 2,000 by Monday. They thought I was completely out of my mind until Monday rolled around – pretty much had carte blanche after that and could bring in whatever local product I wanted.”
With an extensive resume in the music business, Goldfogle recalls starting out working at a 3,000 seat concert hall in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “It was 7 days a week from age 14-18. There I was exposed to every major act in all genres of music and was hooked. I worked at Eclipse Jazz in college at the University of Michigan, then started my own concert promotion company, Double Shot Concerts, Inc. while in college and put talent in a 1,200 seat theatre. I also worked music retail after college, first managing record stores, then becoming the regional supervisor for the Mid-Atlantic, overseeing many stores.”
In the 80’s, Goldfogle started Liaison Records with Becky Marcus, “first as an independent label, then becoming a national independent urban distributor and one stop. We did an annual music industry conference called the Music Business Forum for about 6 years and moved into talent booking, management, PR and music publishing as the years went on,” Goldfogle explains.
It was through Liaison that Goldfogle met Brown. He shares, “It started as helping Reo Edwards, his manager at the time, with Future Records and Chuck Brown product in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We initially met with Reo to try to elevate Go-Go music from its then current state of being sold out of the trunk of a car at a low price to a few local stores, to regional and national distribution at a higher price through major chain stores, which we were able to do. Throughout the 90’s Liaison began helping Chuck in more ways. I took the lead on that work starting around 2000 and within a year or so I was doing everything for him.”
Leaving Liaison in 2004, Goldfogle continued his work managing Chuck Brown’s career and focused on his own expanding roles in publishing, PR, marketing, booking and consulting.
After Brown’s death, it was important to Goldfogle to keep the legacy alive. He states, “Chuck was always known to have some of the best musicians on the planet in his band. Greg Boyer, Brad Clements, Bryan Mills, Cherie Mitchell, Kenny Gross, Maurice Hagans, Karlston Ross, Marcus Young, Donnell Floyd, and his daughter KK, along with stage manager Bobby Smoot and a great live engineer, Greg “Googie” Burton- these are all incredibly talented artists. They can stand toe to toe with the best of the best. This has always been the case, starting with the original Soul Searchers and on through the years – he has always had the best musicians in his band. Frank “Scooby” Marshall joined the band to fill in when Chuck was first not feeling well, and he adds so much. Each individual member of the band feels his loss, in personality, in mentorship, in friendship, in father figure and band leader. Keeping the band playing is not only a way to keep celebrating all that Chuck Brown meant to this city, but it is part of a healing process for all who loved him, and that includes the band. I’ve always tried to elevate the music. The series at the Howard made so much sense – having national artists join the band in celebration helps reinforce the tremendous impact Chuck Brown had on music as a whole, and the Howard was enthusiastic about making that happen on a regular basis. It also gives us a chance to celebrate some of the other legends of Go-Go. I would love to see something positive come from the Chuck Brown band going forward. I am hopeful I can help with that in some of the work I am just beginning now. Also hope his fans will continue to support the band, and continue to celebrate Chuck Brown. His fans meant the world to him.”
Another project developed after Brown’s passing was a foundation in his name, The Chuck Brown Foundation, to address and assist with issues important to Chuck Brown- education, homelessness and the re-entry into society after incarceration.
“The Foundation came about at the Brown house when we first got a few people assembled to begin to think about how we could put the homegoing services and viewing together in such a short time frame, and on the level Chuck and his fans and this city deserved. Mayor Gray was instrumental in making sure that happened. Darryll Brooks suggested it would be a good time to consider a foundation. Over the years, I had countless requests for Chuck’s time every day of the week. We always tried to fit in the schedule whatever we could, but there were a couple things that we always made time for. Helping the homeless, going to schools, and encouraging those who were incarcerated or recently re-entering society from incarceration. Chuck had such strong empathy for these causes because they all impacted his life in major ways. He had been homeless, even after having a hit record. He was not able to finish school until getting a GED while serving at Lorton, and he experienced first hand the prejudice and difficultly someone has getting a second chance after incarceration. The Brown family all felt that continuing to help in these areas was a way to keep Chuck Brown’s true spirit at work in the city he loved so much. Chuck and I spoke a number of times over the years about how he would like to be able to help more in these areas. People can donate by visiting www.thechuckbrownfoundation.com .
Marcus Johnson– Music makes the day better in the morning, afternoon, hell all day and night long. Wine enhances that experience. You figure that most Jazz Lovers love wine, so all we have to do is get good wine, at a great value, and put it on the shelves. Then you promote the fact that Flo (music and wine) makes your life a little better, one sip and sound at a time.- Marcus Johnson
When most people hear the name Marcus Johnson, they think of his smooth jazz sounds and Billboard chart topping hits with over a dozen albums to his credit. Few die hard DC music fans know that he played with Ayre Rayde and Go-Go Lorenzo “back in the day” as well. But how many know that Johnson has created a lifestyle brand, Flo, incorporating music and wine? He exemplifies branding in business.
A product of the DMV, Johnson recalls, “My first group was actually a group called Touch Band and Show. I met them as a part of Mayor Barry’s student summer job program with the department of Rec. The showmobile wasn’t my first job, but it was one of my first where I made money to show up at practice.”
“In high school, I got the opportunity to sit in with Ayre Rayde. They were always my favorite band. I use to sit by 95.5 or 93.9 and wait for their single ‘Sock it to Me’ to come on the radio. Lets face it we all did. Rick and Tidy were the Talkers, Jeff on drums, Mike on guitar, one of my buddies from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, Bruce Williams on Sax, and Heartbeat (formerly of Central Groove) was on the congas. We killed it! ‘Jungle Boogie’, ‘What’s up like that’, some new jazz grooves that I brought in- Man, it was awesome. I got to play at the University of MD, the Capital Center, all of it. It was hot! But the traveling to rehearsals in Suitland became hard in the face of leaving for school.”
As a student at Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, Johnson was deeply into jazz. “By the time I was in 10th grade we were performing Charlie Parker arrangement of tunes like ‘Yardbird Suite’, Chick Corea’s ‘Spain’, Count Basie and the like. Bill Potts, who I got the chance to study with a summer program at Montgomery College did a lot of the arrangements. I was the leader of the band in the 10th grade and then through my senior year. I also made all county and all state. During my senior year, our school band traveled to New Orleans where we competed and won against the best in the nation. Those are great memories. But the seeds of jazz were set.”
After high school, Johnson attended the University of Miami, majoring in Music engineering and technology- a triple major which consisted of Jazz Piano, Electrical Engineering, and Acoustics. Due to some family issues, Johnson had to head back to DC where he entered Howard University as a Jazz Studies and Business major.
“This is where I had the first chance to perform with Chuck Brown. I was no where on the scene but the word had gotten around that I could play. I was supposed to have an audition one night at the Kilimanjaro but it was one of the violent DC nights where a couple of people got stabbed and killed. My dad laid down the law. NO GOGO AT ALL. That was pretty much it until later where I was asked to perform on the stage with Pop’s(Chuck Brown) for Mayor Adrian Fenty’s inauguration event. People spoke about that for years. I’ll never forget it,” cites Johnson.
“FLO Brands is a lifestyle company I created after reading an article on Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, in Fast Company magazine. Starbucks was facing issues due to is meteoric growth and he said that he had to sit down and ask himself and as a company ‘What business am I really in?’ And his first answer wasn’t the coffee business. As the music industry was disrupted by mp3.com and itunes, then Pandora, and the like, I had to ask myself the same question. While I was teaching at Bowie State University (was also on the faculty of Georgetown’s Center for Professional Development), I presented my thoughts to my students and they loved it. I/We are in the therapy business! Music makes the day better in the morning, afternoon, hell all day and night long. Wine enhances that experience for my target market. So I often say that we are a Lifestyle enhancement company. Once you define your business, the parameters work themselves out. You figure that most Jazz Lovers love wine, so all we have to do is get good wine, at a great value, and put it on the shelves. Then you promote the fact that Flo (music and wine) make your life a little better, one sip and sound at a time. And we aren’t done.”
Between Johnson’s musical career and his hands on involvement with Flo, 2012 has been a very successful year. Some accomplishments include setting his top two attendence records at Blues Alley, selling out the Hamilton twice, pairing wine and music with a local retailer in Manassas, Virginia to be able to ship “FloPaks” to most states in the country, the Jazz Fest West, being the first artist to perform and sell his own wine at the Manassas Wine and Jazz Festival, being featured in the Jazz at Jewel promotion where Flo wine is currently being sold in about 200 Jewel Osco stores in Chicago, launching the Sips and Sounds ™ series at Renaissance Hotels, creating a Euro Jazz group with Parisian DJ and producer, Young Pulse while touring in Europe, selling out performances at Le Basier Sale in Paris and in Dakar Senegal and retailing Flo in WalMart, Costco, Target, Harris Teeter, Giant Food, Total Wine and More, Kroger and Whole Foods in 12 states around the country and growing.
Johnson proudly states, “FLO has also been certified as a minority owned wine brand. FLO is one of 5 African American brands that are actually on the floor of a WalMart. That’s huge! And anything pertaining to the wine is a jazz success because without the Jazz, there would not have ever been the thought of a FLO.”
Frank “Scooby” Marshall– I feel like I’m taking a step outside my comfort zone, therefore, changing the game, so to speak. To go places you’ve never been, you sometimes have to do things you’ve never done! – a Sirius Thought from Frank Sirius
2012 has been a “sirius” year for Frank Marshall known best as R & B artist Frank Sirius and his Go Go alter ego, Scooby. His many musical accomplishments this year have demonstrated that it is possible to succeed as a successful artist in more than one musical genre. While a permanent fixture of both the Chuck Brown Tribute Band and Familiar Faces, Marshall also has reached nationwide success as Frank Sirius with his single “Song For You” charting on the Billboard R&B/ Hip Hop Single chart peaking at #3. He also performed at Blues Alley for 2 sold out shows.
Marshall reveals, “The greatest accomplishment for me in 2012 was having the honor to perform and be the front man for the Chuck Brown Band at Chuck Brown’s Homegoing Service. That was a huge deal for me, both personally and professionally. It was a true honor.”
Well, who is Scooby and who is Frank Sirius and do the two ever meet? Marshall smiles and explains, “I’m Scooby everyday, all day! I mean, that’s been my name since before I could walk, so it’s most natural for me. I turn into Frank Sirius when I hit the R & B stage. I’m kind of shy deep down. Especially when it comes to R & B because I haven’t been doing it as long as I’ve been doing Go-Go, so I need that alter ego to get me through.
He continues, chuckling, “Scooby and Frank Sirius meet when I’m around my friends and I start boring them with all my philosophies and conspiracy theories!!”
Look for more from both Scooby and Frank Sirius in 2013. Frank Sirius will be releasing his debut album “Sirius Music”. He will also be opening the Harlem Concert Series in Harlem, New York in May 2013, also headlining “GoGo Comes to Harlem”. There will be a much anticipated return for another successful run at Blues Alley and also a tour to support the release of “Sirius Music”. He also will be a featured act in the DC Takes Over Miami event in July.
“Being from Southeast, DC and being in GoGo bands my whole life, I’ve given my life to it. Now it’s time to show the world what Frank Sirius is capable of accomplishing with R&B.”
Hosea “Heartbeat” Williams– I wanted to honor the legends in the game and just bring different characters and excitement to the radio.- Hosea “Heartbeat” Williams
With the use of internet radio on the rise, there are many choices. Heartbeat’s Conga Hour is one of those “can’t miss” shows that mixes comedy with the platform of honoring legends that have been overlooked by the mainstream despite tireless efforts. Hosea “Heartbeat” Williams, a conga player who has toured with Chuck Brown, 90’s phenom Gerardo and Dog Eat Dog, has taken his brand of comedy and his relationships with these legends and been able to finally give them their accolades in a forum where any fan can join in via listening in on the internet or watching on UStream on GoGoRadio.com.
“My main intent when I started the show was to honor the legends and make history, change the way radio was heard and create my own lane. I wanted to do something similar to when I hosted Metroworld.” says Williams.
Williams realizes the impact he has been fortunate to make. “It gave me great pleasure to be the one to reunite all of the original Soul Searchers for the first time in 30 years on my show, in person or calling in, as a tribute to Chuck Brown after his passing. This made history and was very monumental to the GoGo Movement.”
Being able to honor his own mentor and idol, Tyrone “Jungle Boogie” Williams, original conga player and the blueprint for Rare Essence, really left a lasting impact on the generations of conga players who attended the show.
“The Jungle Boogie tribute that I was able to put together was one of my favorite shows. Honoring one of my idols and being able to get all these conga and GoGo legends in one room to finally honor him was way overdue. A whole host came through on that historical evening. We had a ball.”
“Also, inducting James Funk into the GoGoRadio Hall of fame was also long overdue. We were able to give this man his just due. It was another historical night on the Heartbeat Conga Hour,” he continues.
“The Little Benny show was filled with a lot of emotion and once again we made history that evening. We had his kids and his brother on the show along with GoGo Mickey and Godfather, two people very close to Benny. A very powerful poem was read that night by Thomas Sayers Ellis titled “The Helicopter” that was so powerful it had everyone in the room that night in tears. It was a very special evening.”
Williams carefully considers, “What makes my show different, I think, is because you never know what to expect. From characters Sister Gertude to Hattie Mae to Bo-Funk to Bishop Real Talk, the comedy aspect, to dealing with the relevant issues as well. We also have a large European following. My team is full of energy and very funny! They are all legends in the game from my brother, Slick Daddy Rick on da 1’s and 2’s, Bojack, Buggy, Londi Love, Marlo Love Life and Nico.”
The Heartbeat Conga Hour can be heard on Tuesday nights from 6pm to 10pm on GoGoRadio.com.
Wisdom Speeks– Chuck Brown specifically asked me (Whop) to help bring back to life what he created. – Whop of Wisdom Speeks
Whop of Wisdom Speeks ponders the question, “how did we change the game in 2012?”
He immediately replies, “Our ‘Donka Donk’ video in HD, industry format which tastefully highlighted and bridged the gap between DMV hip hop and classic GoGo by using established DMV artists on a commercial platform that is not the normal format that traditional bands have given. We are DMV artists and, most of all, an original band and show that consists of 7 core members. We have brought a fresh approach to what has been dragged through non innovative mud since before POPS (Chuck Brown) died.”
“In which he (Chuck) specifically asked me (Whop) to help bring back to life what he created,” he continues. “To which I responded, ‘It will only be accepted in a new dimension’ meaning the program has to be cancelled before a new reality in GoGo sets in. And that is Wisdom Speeks has changed the game by going back to the roots of DC music and exposing and removing the weeds. I guess you can call it care taking or taking care of original DC music. Sanctioned by the Godfather himself, Chuck Brown, RIP.”