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Legendary Go-Go Percussionist Joins New Band

Special to Informer | , Brittney R. Palmer | 11/7/2012, 4:23 p.m.

The Washington Informer recently had the opportunity to speak with Milton "Go-Go Mickey" Freeman former percussionist for Rare Essence, who made the decision last month to leave Rare Essence and join Familiar Faces. The move ended a 28-year run with the band and has left many go-go enthusiasts wondering how the transition will impact both bands. Freeman was born and raised in Washington, D.C. by a musical family; his mother Chicquita, was a pianist and singer and his father Milton, a guitar player and lead singer in Mickey and the Blazers, a rhythm and blues group. The elder Mickey bought his son a drum set when he was two and taught the prodigy how to play.

When he was 12, Freeman went to see his first go-go band, the Pump Blenders, and got in trouble when he went home. Good friends with the late Quentin "Footz" Davidson (a legend in his own right), with whom he used to bowl, Freeman would go to the Coliseum and play on Footz's drums. Freeman taught himself to play congas when he was 14 after watching Rare Essence conga player Tyrone "Jungle Boogie" Williams.

"Like father, like son" continued when Freeman's sons Lil' Mickey and BJ learned to play by watching and listening to their father. BJ currently plays congas with several up and coming bands, and Lil' Mickey is in college.

WI: How did you feel when you first joined Rare Essence?

GGM: Well, Rare Essence was the biggest band in the city, outside of Chuck Brown. Chuck Brown was the God Father of Go-Go, but for my age group everybody was going to see Rare Essence, and that was the biggest band to get into so once I was in, that in itself was very exciting, being a part of the number one band in the city.

WI: What was your most memorable show with RE?

GGM: Most memorable show? It would have to be Go-Go Live at the Capital Center (1987), which was one of our biggest shows; you know playing in front of a crowd that big was huge for me.

WI: I am sure you had many great experiences playing with RE, but what experience will you cherish forever?

GGM: Playing alongside Footz, Benny, and Funk, those would definitely be my best memories. Footz is the one that got me started in the band, playing alongside the best drummer and best lead mic men in the business. I'll always cherish that.

WI: After being with the Rare Essence for 28 years, why did you leave? What was the deciding factor?

GGM: Uh, there were a lot of business moves that I've been through with the band and it was just time for a change for me. It was time to get out of that situation. I just couldn't deal with certain things anymore and I felt like it was best for me to look out for me and my family. It was kind of hard, to tell you the truth, yeah it was hard, but this was maybe the third time that I've thought about it and this time I just, I was sure.

WI: Are you at all concerned about how your fans/friends feel about your decision?

GGM: No, not at all. If you're a friend of mine you're going to be there regardless of who I play with, I get just as much love and support playing with the the new band, if not more.

WI: So you've already had your first show with the new band, Familiar Faces, what do you look forward to with them?

GGM: I look forward to the future and what it brings. We are going try to make new music for the city; you know people complain about everybody doing cover tunes so I want to see us make more original hits, which I know we can do because we have top flight musicians in the band.

Freeman has already performed several shows with Familiar Faces and hasn't missed a beat.

Freeman can be seen performing four nights a week with Familiar Faces. For the band's schedule please visit: www.familiarfaces.org. Twitter: @FamiliarfacesDC.