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You Can’t Sit Still While Watching ‘Straight Crankin”

Long-Awaited Documentary Unpacks the Real Go-Go Swing

The word had been on the streets since 2017 about a documentary that would chronicle the development of go-go – D.C.’s homegrown musical creation. Now, the wait’s finally over.

On Monday, Sept. 10 at the historic Lincoln Theatre in northwest D.C., anxious aficionados of go-go music walked the red carpet and then viewed the premiere of “Straight Crankin’: A Go-Go Documentary.” And based on the reactions of the audience, the wait was well worth it.

“Straight Crankin,'” produced by the District’s Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME), seamlessly charts the development of the District’s go-go community — the bands, the styles, the history and the impact that has only increased in the past 40 years.

The film will air on the DCN cable channel and on OCTFME’s YouTube channel in October.

As for the film itself, one iconic go-go entertainer said seeing the documentary was like a celebration all on its own.

“The only thing they knew outside of Washington, DC was Chuck Brown, E.U. and maybe Trouble Funk,” said Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliot, the front man for Experience Unlimited (E.U.) when assessing how go-go still hasn’t achieved its rightful recognition on the national scene.

“We’ve never reached that broad, big stage,” he said.

Diehard go-go fans attending the premiere relived performances from years gone by held in parks and clubs around metro DC. They sang along as brief music clips played. They cheered and applauded whenever a go-go artist appeared on the screen, often sharing their view about how the unique music evolved.

Notable go-go talents featured in the film included: Buggs from Junkyard Band; Anwan “Big G” Glover from the BackYard Band; Andre “White Boy” Johnson from Rare Essence; Reo Edwards, a go-go producer, engineer and songwriter; Tony “Big Tony” Fisher from Trouble Funk; William “JuJu” House from E.U.; and Cherie Augers from Be’La Dona Band, one of the few all-female go-go groups.

DJ Kool, DJ Flexx and DC Dirty Rico provided a bridge with background facts in between band member interviews.

The audience exploded when “The Godfather of G- Go,” the late Chuck Brown, appeared in archival footage about how he started in music. When a performance segment of another deceased musician, Anthony “Little Benny” Harley and his group Rare Essence later filled the screen, go-go lovers could barely hold back their excitement.

Brown and “Little Benny” both left their marks by being supportive of all go-go artists in the area. Many of today’s performers recalled receiving creative and business advice from one, if not both, of the go-go legends.

The premiere of “Straight Crankin'” serves as one of many September highlights coming under the banner, “Mayor Muriel Bowser 202 Creates.”

“We’re talking about the creative economy and all those things that make Washington vibrant and energetic,” said Brian T. Kenner, the District’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

One of the high points in the history of the documentary had to be the mega 1987 concert “Go-Go Live at the Capital Centre” produced by Darryll Brooks and Carol Kirkendall of CD Enterprises. The concert line up included a full roster of every top go-go group of the era and attracted an audience of more than 14,000 people.

“It was very big and gave a great image of Washington, DC and the DC music scene,” said Brooks, who once worked as Chuck Brown’s road manager. “Go-go has been very good to me,” he added.

To learn more about “Straight Crankin'” and other “202 Creates” events, go to www.202Creates.com.

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