Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Many cities have a signature sound. Detroit has Motown. Memphis has the blues. Nashville has a country twang. The nation's capital, Washington, D.C., grooves to a sound called go-go.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: This is dance music with beats that are meant to get bodies moving. The lyrics and the rhythm are pretty simple — even repetitive. The texture of the music comes from the call and response with the crowd and the blend of a wide range of musical influences - Latin, funk, soul, the blues.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHUCK BROWN (Singer): (Singing) When you walk in a club, you want to show some love. Do what? Hello, hello, hello. When you walk in a club.

NORRIS: The man orchestrating this party is Chuck Brown, the Godfather of go-go. He created and popularized this sound some 30 years ago. Chuck Brown stopped by our studios recently to chat about his new CD. It's called "We're About the Business." He's 71 years old, still spry and more stylish than most men half his age with his signature hat, several gold rings and sunglasses that sparkle like a chrome grill on a hot rod. Chuck says his music is like gumbo, lots of ingredients, no fixed recipe, no two batches are exactly the same.

Mr. BROWN: So we're down the percussion room, my little funky music there and some funky lyrics that you might shout at the audience, and they howler back at you. I mean that's the full ingredients of it. Without the audience, you know, you just don't have the effect.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) When you walk in the club, you want to show some love. What love? Love, love, love. You walk in a club. You want to get some hugs. What love? Love, love, love, love. And then…

I used to play cabarets and things and the place to be all - full of tables and chairs and people said that they wouldn't dance until they got…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROWN: …are drunk, you know?

NORRIS: Have few sips before they step on the dance floor.

Mr. BROWN: You're right, right. And then - but when we started that go-go thing - that beat - the mink coats disappeared, and the neckties…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROWN: …came off. And then tables and chairs disappeared and the floor was full.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) There's a diamond ring. Now here's what I'm going need you all to do. Just let the beat take control of you. If you're in your car, enjoy your ride. If you're dancing, move your body side to side. Don't care. Don't care. Don't care.

NORRIS: Chuck, we're listening to this on a CD, if we were actually in a club, when you say we're going to get funky, you probably had the audience…

Mr. BROWN: Right.

NORRIS: …yell right back.

Mr. BROWN: They're going to shoot right back at you. Who cares? They're going to…

NORRIS: Who cares?

Mr. BROWN: You know, and that's the way to do it. You know, you have to really get into it and realize that the audience participation - the crowd response. Is what's happening? And we'll just play and play and just keep going. We won't stop. This continuous music is not like doing a top 40 when you do cover songs and then you stop. When we started creating the go-go gig, we would come out with one top 40 then go right into another.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) Don't care. Don't care. Don't care. Down, down. Don't care.

The only hooks, you know, what I'm saying? I'm not what you might call a lyric writer. I write hooks and try to make people work with the audience. And the funky tracks, that's what you need.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: On the CD, an interviewer actually asked you a question, it's where the song begins, and the interviewer asks if you had to keep just one genre, if you had to choose just one, what would it be? And your answer is the blues, and then boom.

Mr. BROWN: Yeah.

NORRIS: It opens up with this song.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Why the blues, though? Why is this sound more important than all the others?

Mr. BROWN: I just feel so good. But, you know, I feel the blues. It's in me. I'm, you know, I'm born with that in me.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) Everyday. Everyday, I have the blues. Everyday, everyday, I have the blues.

NORRIS: Actually, Chuck, you have had your share of the blues.

Mr. BROWN: Yes, ma'am.

NORRIS: You have seen your ups and your downs. You did a little bit of time.

Mr. BROWN: Absolutely, absolutely.

NORRIS: And that's where you really learn how to play the guitar.

Mr. BROWN: Right. I was 24 years old. And I paid a young man five cartoons of cigarettes, he would make you a guitar in the carpenter shop. Made everybody a guitar, they wanted one - five cartoons of cigarettes. And I sat there in my bunk and I learned to play, you know, play a few little tunes. And the guys used to card around say man, you ought to get on the show over there, and I ought to told him, you know, within six months time I was on the show. And when I got out, you know, I was working two or three jobs. But on the weekends, people would call me to their little cookouts in their backyards to play. Then sometimes they would pass the hat around.

NORRIS: Uh-huh.

Mr. BROWN: Take up a little collection for me. Give me a few encouraging words. You ought to get in the band and cut some records, you know? I said well, I'm on parole at this point in time, and I'm not allowed to play in places that serve alcoholic beverages. So I did pretty good, I was a good boy.

But I started playing with a group and I was on the stage in a time around the room playing one night the cabaret. When the cabaret was over my parole officer came onto me. I didn't know he was there - scared me to death. I said oh, Lord, I know I'm going back now. I said Mr. Wilson(ph), he said no, no, no, no, no, no, (Unintelligible), when is your next one?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROWN: And that's when I knew that it was going to be all right. You know? So I told him where my next gig was. He said I'd be there too. He said just stay out of trouble. I said yes, sir. God bless you and thank you so much.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) Well, everyday. Everyday I have the blues. Well, everyday, baby. Everyday you give me the blues. When you see me worry baby, you know, it's you I head to.

NORRIS: I want to ask you about one particular song on your CD - the theme from the "Godfather" as done ala go-go.

Mr. BROWN: Yes, ma'am.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: You can't help but smile when you listen to this.

Mr. BROWN: I love that song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROWN: I love it. I love the movie and everything.

NORRIS: And you listen to this, you imagine the Corleone family doing this funky two-step…

Mr. BROWN: You're right.

NORRIS: …in the kitchen or something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BROWN: Yeah, but I could just imagine rock it like this, you know, what I'm saying? Just grooving to it. And I always did, you know, love the tune. And I just decided to do it and put it on the album. And everybody called me the Godfather. I didn't designate that name for myself. You know, it came from the fans. They're the boss. The fans and the radio - the DJs, you know, started calling me the Godfather so there it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BROWN: (Singing) Michele, you ride?

NORRIS: Well, Chuck Brown, we are so glad that you came in, spent some time with us in the studio.

Mr. BROWN: My pleasure.

NORRIS: That's chuck Brown, the Godfather of go-go. His new album is called "We're About the Business." And you can hear a concert of Chuck Brown performing live in Washington, D.C. at our Web site, npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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