Chuck Brown

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For the politician, see Chuck Brown (Minnesota politician).
The Godfather of Go-Go
Chuck Brown
Close-up of Brown singing
Onstage, October 1, 2005
Background information
Birth name Charles Louis Brown
Born (1936-08-22)August 22, 1936
Gaston, North Carolina
Origin Washington, D.C.
Died May 16, 2012(2012-05-16) (aged 75)
Baltimore, Maryland
  • singer
  • musician
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1960s–2012
Notable instruments
Gibson ES-335 (blonde)

Charles Louis "Chuck" Brown (August 22, 1936 – May 16, 2012) was an American guitarist, bandleader and singer who is has garnered the honorific nickname "The Godfather of Go-Go".[1] Go-go is a subgenre of funk music developed in and around the Washington metropolitan area in the mid-70s. While its musical classification, influences, and origins are debated, Brown is regarded as the fundamental force behind the creation of go-go music.[2]

Early life: 1936–1963[edit]

Charles Louis Brown was born on August 22, 1936 in Gaston, North Carolina.[3] Brown's mother, Lyla Brown, was a housekeeper, and his father, Albert Louis Moody, was a United States Marine. Brown's father, however, was not present in his life, and Brown lived in poverty.[3][4] When Chuck Brown was six years old, he moved to Washington, D.C. in 1942, and at 15 he started to live on the streets.[5] He did not graduate high school; Brown quit school and decided to perform odd jobs to make money,[6] including shining shoes.[7]

In the 1950s, Brown was convicted of murder and served eight years in Lorton Correctional Complex. At first, the case was tried as aggravated assault; however, it was moved up to murder once the victim died. Brown stated that his actions were in self-defense.[6] In prison, he traded cigarettes for a guitar, which was how his love for the instrument began.[6] When Brown completed his sentence, he moved back to Washington, D.C. and worked as a truck driver, a bricklayer, and a sparring partner at multiple boxing gyms. He also started to perform at parties throughout the area; however, he could not play at venues that served liquor, because his probation officer would not allow it.[6]


Chuck Brown died on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital of multiple organ failure, including heart failure. He was 75 years old. Several weeks prior to his death, he had postponed and canceled shows due to hospitalization for pneumonia.[1][8] His interment was at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf, Maryland.


"Chuck [Brown] was like the Washington Monument. He was like Ben's Chili Bowl. He was the big chair. He was all of that. Chuck Brown was Washington, D.C. [ ...] People feel you when it's genuine, and Chuck was always that."

Donnie Simpson, Washington, D.C. radio and television personality[9]

Brown is called the "Godfather of Go-Go"[3][10] and was considered a local legend in Washington, D.C. Darryl Brooks, a local promoter who worked with Chuck Brown during his career, stated, "He was a symbol of D.C. manhood, back in the day, because of the authority that he spoke with. He just spoke from a perspective that black men could understand."[9] Andre Johnson, the leader of the go-go band Rare Essence, said that Chuck Brown "influenced generations of people—not just one—a few generations of musicians around here."[9] Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Brown was "Go-go's creator and, arguably, its most legendary artist."[11]

Ricky "Sugarfoot" Wellman, longtime drummer for Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, died of pancreatic cancer on November 23, 2013 at the age of 57.[12]


Brown with his signature blonde Gibson ES-175


  1. ^ a b "'Godfather of Go-Go,' Chuck Brown Dies". The Washington Informer. May 16, 2012. 
  2. ^ Smith, Craig (November 2, 2007). "Some More D.C. Flavor: Chuck Wound Me Up". Virginia Law Weekly. University of Virginia. 60 (9). Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Sisario, Ben (May 18, 2012). "Chuck Brown, Godfather of Go-Go, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ Richards 2012, p. 1
  5. ^ Baker, Soren (May 24, 2001). "Chuck Brown Proves Go-Go Hasn't Gone-Gone". MTV. Viacom. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d 2012, p. 2
  7. ^ Fusilli, Jim. "The Godfather of Go-Go". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Chuck Brown dies: 'Godfather of Go-Go' passes away at 75". ABC Channel 7. May 16, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  9. ^ a b c Richards, Chris (May 16, 2012). "Chuck Brown's Music Impact: Deep Into Washington, and Beyond". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ Bogdanov 2003, p. 853
  11. ^ "Chuck Brown Dead: D.C.'s 'Godfather Of Go Go' Dies At 75". The Huffington Post. May 16, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Maza, Erik (June 23, 2011). "Chuck Brown just Keeps on Going". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 


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