E.U.'s Sugar Bear

Stacey Palmer | 8/2/2012, 1:45 p.m.

The Informer Interview

At the height of the Go-Go scene in the late 1980's bands included Experience Unlimited (E.U.), Rare Essence (R.E.) Chuck Brown and Trouble Funk. Few teens in D.C. could pass up an opportunity to see these homegrown bands -- made up of their neighbors, school friends and even family members--hit the stage. Fully clad in bamboo earrings (a least two pair), Sergio Tacchini sweat suits, AJ coveralls, and with their hair in box Phillies and asymmetric hairstyles, teenagers flocked by the thousands to places like Crystal Skates, The Black Hole, Triples, and Wilmer's Park several times a week to dance and sweat into the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes getting there was a mission - sneaking out, getting to the club, getting in the club and of course, getting home. In 1988 the nation's love of Go-Go caught up with DC's when Spike Lee's film "School Daze" showcased E.U. and their song "Da Butt." The song reached Number 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and remains a show stopper. As the 25th anniversary of "Da Butt" approaches, The Washington Informer sat with E.U.'s leader Gregory "Sugar Bear" Ellis to discuss the anniversary, the Go-Go scene, both past and present, and the future of EU.

Washington Informer: Experience Unlimited (E.U.) is one of the early pioneers of Go-Go music, but your roots are in rock. How has the band's sound changed over the years?

Sugar Bear: Well, I will always keep my rock flavors and incorporate them most of the time, but you know of course, the sound has got to change because the times have changed. You got to stay commercial so to speak, but I still have my rock flavors in the middle of what I do.

Washington Informer: Can you describe the early Go-Go scene for me?

Sugar Bear: The greatest scene on Earth - great musicians, bands playing music, it was a very festive atmosphere - very positive. Back in the day most bands played their own original music but now all the bands are playing cover tunes. It's definitely changed.

Washington Informer: What was the importance of the October 1987 Go-Go Live at the Capital Centre performance?

Sugar Bear: That was the first time we did a live Go-Go concert with all the bands because most concerts that came through the city - Earth, Wind & Fire, Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly or whatever - they would add a Go-Go band to sell tickets. We knew we could sell tickets, so we just decided to do it on a larger scale and it worked. We had over 16,000 people at Go-Go Live and that was a great experience. Chuck Brown, E.U., Rare Essence, Little Benny and the Masters, Hot & Cold Sweat and Junk Yard [Band], were all there. So it definitely worked.

Washington Informer: We are also coming up on the 25th anniversary of the song "Da Butt". What do you remember about the making of this song?

Sugar Bear: I knew it was something different. It had Go-Go elements all in it, but I never thought it was going to be as big as it was. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would get that big.