Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2014

Go-Go in NOLA

It’s been a tough year for the go-go community, as it had to say good-bye to its godfather, the great Chuck Brown, who died in May at the age of 75.

But Washington, D.C.’s homegrown music will get some serious love Saturday, when New Orleans’ legendary community radio station WWOZ devotes two hours to listening and celebrating the percussion-driven funk fusion of go-go.

From 8 p.m.-10 p.m. CDT, Soul Sister, aka Melissa Weber, will spend her “Soul Power” show with Thomas Sayers Ellis, a Washington native who is a poet, photographer, teacher and all-around go-go scholar. The station live-streams at wwoz.org.

Soul Sister, a revered DJ in the Big Easy, told HOH that she’s long been a fan of go-go and sees the two cities as linked musically, a topic she and Ellis will delve into.

“The reason why I’m so excited to have Thomas Sayers Ellis on my show this Saturday night is because I’ve been playing Washington, D.C., go-go music on my radio show since I’ve been on the air, for about two decades,” she said. “There is a connection, I feel, between New Orleans and the D.C. go-go sound, and we’re going to highlight that this Saturday.”

Last year, Ellis’ solo photography exhibit “(Un)Lock It: the Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket,” ran at the Gallery at Vivid Solutions in Anacostia, and he has several artistic projects in the works that revolve around go-go.

Many go-go partisans have long felt their music suffered from a lack of recognition. This comes through even on Brown’s website, which says on the home page, “The name Chuck Brown might not mean a whole lot to people outside the Washington, D.C., area. That would be their loss.”

Soul Sister, who opened for Brown shows at Jazz Fest and House of Blues in New Orleans, said go-go was a part of growing up in Louisiana. “When I was little, there were a number of commercial radio DJs who would play the Washington, D.C., go-go music, on the radio, and that’s how I learned about it.”

Then, years ago, after watching a mid-1980s BBC documentary, “Welcome to the Go Go,” Soul Sister took what she called “my go-go vacation” to Washington to check out the scene. Her first go-go was at the now-defunct Club U for a Rare Essence show.

And, she said, Brown’s loss was felt all the way down in the Big Easy. “We love Chuck Brown. When he passed, we threw our own memorial with the Brassaholics,” a local band. “D.C. was mourning, but so was New Orleans.”

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