There have been many positive things that happened this past year with regards to GoGo, but there are a very few that stood out this year to be classified as "Game Changers".
One sad game changing factor was that we lost too many people in their 50's and 60's this year who made major contributions over the years- 4 of them being former Soul Searchers- John Euell, an original member, bassist Glenn Ellis, saxophonist LeRoy Fleming and drummer Ricky Wellman. Another tragic loss was the passing of Reggie "Polo" Burwell, who is credited with developing the sub genre called Bounce Beat.
There are positive things to reflect on. Here are my Game Changers of 2013 in alphabetical order.
Chocolate City: Chocolate City, a band who comprises a who's who of 90's/ 2000's era Go-Go contributors from various bands, includes singer Michelle Blackwell, of Suttle Thoughts and most recently WHAT? Band, keyboardist Gerald Lattimore of Junkyard Band and Northwest Youngins, singer Losceyboi Lyles of All 4 U and Dynasty, keyboardist David Cleveland of HuckABucks, Black Alley and WHAT? Band, lead guitarist Stanley Cooper of 76 Degrees West and the Marcus Johnson Project, bassist Rob Ducket of WHAT? Band, skateboard aficionado Darren Harper who happens to play congas, percussionist Michael Harris of WHAT? Band, rapper Gabby Moe, singer Steven Drakes and drummer Joe "Toe Jam" Mahogany.
Chocolate City has been able to develop a winning formula with their song and line dance, "Chocolate City Shuffle", which is getting mainstream radio play as well as the support of internet radio. The video includes instructional information from the band and cuts to the Z Go-Go exercise class and some skateboarders actually participating in the catchy line dance. The video was directed by Darren Harper.
The band is well stocked with writers and producers so be on the look out for more original music from them!
Divas D.C. "The Cream of the Crop" This docudrama presented by Teri S features female artists from the DMV who have made major contributions to the music industry. Maysa Leak, one of the Divas profiled, was recently nominated for the 56th Annual Grammy Award. Sylver Logan Sharp has been the lead singer for the legendary group CHIC since 1990 and has her own jewelry line, Sylverwear. Teri S is a seasoned R&B vocalist and songwriter who has performed at Inaugural balls and at the White House. Shawn Allen-Ware is lead vocalist with Style Band. Deborah Bond is a member of Third Logic and is known for her eclectic mix of R&B, Funk and British Soul. "Sweet" Cherie Mitchell-Agurs, graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, is currently musical director of Bela Dona, but has toured the world with a who's who such as Pieces of a Dream, Chic and was a member of the Chuck Brown Band.
Drums Along the Potomac: A Global Go-Go Fantasia In May, Donnell Floyd and Milton "Go-Go Mickey" Freeman of Familiar Faces, drummer Kenny "Kwik" Gross of the Chuck Brown Band and poet/ photographer Thomas Sayers Ellis joined with the Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, brainchild of Greg Tate, to form The Upper Anacostia - Lower Gold Coast Symphonic. They performed a duo of shows, one in New York at the David Rubenstein Atrium and the other at the Kennedy Center.
As the musicians performed this polyrhythmic experiment , photographs taken by Ellis were shown on a big screen above the stage, as he recited some of his poems. This event was commissioned by the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of the free music series that both venues hold.
Northeast Groovers Return In a distinct power move, Northeast Groovers reunited for a show that morphed from a one time reunion into another show and another. They are using the tag line, "It's like we never left". In a shake up that left several bands having to restructure, NEG is currently creating new original music and playing consistently throughout the City. Watch for huge things to come from this group.
Gene Pratt Returning to the Stage Gene Pratt, who got his start close to 30 years ago as a member of the Junkyard Band, returned to the stage in late December as a vocalist for the band, G-Swagg. Pratt, who had been a vocalist with Suttle Thoughts, had to step out of the limelight to focus on some health issues. He always had the burning desire to return to the stage and that tenacity has paid off.
It will be great to see what Pratt does and how he elevates the already popular G-Swagg.
Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 80's This exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery and the simultaneous release of the documentary "The Legend of Cool 'Disco' Dan" was instrumental in showcasing and preserving the DC Subcultures of the HarDCore, Punk, graffiti and Go-Go Movements, along with the good and bad of both, in the Washington, D.C. 80's. Roger Gastman and his team produced the documentary which followed Cool "Disco" Dan and those graffiti artists that he inspired with his tags. The exhibit itself was filled with memorabilia from newspaper clippings, photographs and album covers to Little Benny's trumpet and a feature on the making of Globe posters. There were also several panel discussion with experts on the subjects of the subculture of the 80's including Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi.
Hosea "Heartbeat" Williams Whether hosting Heartbeat's Conga Hour on gogoradio.com, managing the band, Primetime, putting together the King Conga Battle or Krankapalooza or even channeling his alter ego, Sister Gertrude,Williams continues to embark on even more projects. A tireless soldier who is using his platform to promote Go-Go and elevate it by showcasing the positive aspects, is busy, but continues to give of himself. One primary focus is to honor Pioneers of Go-Go while they are still here. He honored Ricky Wellman before his passing.
A strong believer in his faith, he has traveled the world as a percussionist for Chuck Brown, Gerardo (Rico Suave) and Dog Eat Dog. He is currently working on a book.
All of the above mentioned have Facebook pages so if you haven't connected with them, these are the ones to watch!