Appetite for Go-Go: Celebrating The Godfather at 2nd Annual Chuck Brown Day
On any other day, the Chuck Brown Memorial Park serves as a recreational space and a subtle reminder of the man affectionately referred to as the Godfather of Go-Go. But on August 20, the park was filled with Brown’s fans, his band and his music.
The second annual Chuck Brown Day celebration took place to commemorate Brown and celebrate his life only two days before his August 20 birthday. The Chuck Brown Band, whose members played with Brown for varying lengths of time before his death in May 2012, played everything from fan favorites dating back to the 80s, to their new single, “Show Me Love.”
“Basically, that’s what Chuck was about; he showed love to everybody,” said Douglas Crowley, a bassist who played on and off with Brown for about 15 years.
Brown’s spirit clearly lives on, not only through his music, but through his band members who still mixed the present and past verbal tenses together as they related anecdotes about their bandleader.
The Chuck Brown Foundation, which Brown’s two sons run and promoted at the event, focuses on three issues that were obstacles in Brown’s life before his music garnered recognition: education, homelessness and reentry into society after incarceration.
“Music was the main thing that really kept [Brown] going,” Crowley said of Brown’s inspirational approach to adversity, “because he knew personally that, within himself, he had something that he could do something with.”
Chatting with the band, fondest memories of Chuck include:
Greg Boyer, trombone: “Chuck heard us [brass players during a concert], and he came up to us afterwards, and he said, ‘I like the way you guys sound.’ We said, ‘thank you very much.’ You know, coming from Chuck Brown, that meant a lot. And he said, ‘I’m the only one in town who’s qualified to pay you.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a pretty big thing to say.’ So I took him up on his offer, and I played with him for the next 23 years. That’s probably my fondest memory of him.”
Douglas Crowley, bass: “It was intermission … I had picked up Glen’s bass because I wanted to play it because he had a jazz bass — he had an old jazz bass — and I just started playing, and it was one of Chuck’s tunes … He turned around, and he looked at me. He said, ‘Son, when Glen goes out of town, you’re playing.’ That was it.”
Elijah Balbed, saxophone: “It’s funny that yours is the first time you [both] met Chuck because mine is actually from the last time I encountered Chuck, in Richmond, which was the last gig I played with him before he went to the hospital. I was warming up … I remember I [began playing] a song: Harlem Nocturne. And, I guess, at that point, Harlem Nocturne wasn’t a regular part of the set; we hadn’t played it in maybe, at least, several gigs. And I just remember him kind of smiling while I played that song. And then, during the set, unannounced, he just went into the intro of Harlem Nocturne because, I guess, he heard me practicing it. That was my fond memory. He didn’t say anything. He just went right into it during the set. And I remember we looked at each other like, ‘Oh, I guess we’re doing that song now.’”