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Summer 2022

MAY 28 | Big Tony and Trouble Funk

MAY 28 | 7 PM


Trouble Funk, worldwide ambassadors of go-go music, headline this lineup of some of DC’s best go-go groups. Signed into law as the official music of DC in February 2019, go-go is a music of celebration and participation that thrives off the audience’s energy. Come ready to dance and sing along!

BIG TONY & TROUBLE FUNK

A Washington, DC native, Tony Wilson Fisher began playing music professionally as a teenager. As a result, the bands he played with had to sneak him into the clubs that served alcohol…he was just that good!

Trouble Funk, a musical group born on the streets of Washington, DC, is synonymous with the emergence of the non-stop, percussion driven, best seen live, experience the party, audience participatory, grassroots, homegrown musical genre called go-go. As the worldwide ambassadors of go-go, a distant, but older cousin of hip-hop, Trouble Funk has taken their sound from the gritty streets of DC to the clubs of the nation and festivals around the world for the past 30 years.

The band and their sound, developed by mixing an uproarious blend of swinging, up-tempo ‘70s funk with a ‘60s style horn section, heavily laden with infectious percussion, topped off with booming vocals and the genre’s trademark call and response, burst onto the music scene in 1978. Trouble Funk, in its infancy, consisted of the writing team of band leader, bassist and vocalist Tony “Big Tony” Fisher, keyboardists Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed and James Avery, and trumpet player Taylor Reed. The group was rounded out with the musical prowess of drummer Emmett Nixon, percussionists Mack Carey and Timothy “Teebone” David, guitarist Chester Davis, trombonist Gerald Reed and saxophonist David Rudd while they peppered the musical landscape of the 1980s with anthems “Drop the Bomb,” “Pump Me Up,” “Let’s Get Small,” “So Early in the Morning,” “Saturday Night Live From Washington, DC, Parts 1 & 2,” “Say What?” and two R&B/ hip-hop Billboard charting tracks, “Still Smokin’” and “Good to Go.”

Drop the Bomb (1982) was the first go-go record to be released outside of Washington, DC and was released on the pioneering label, Sugar Hill Records. Trouble Funk, with their raw, party-driven style, was able to capture the attention of musical enthusiasts of a variety of genres, catapulting themselves onto the national and international music scene. They would frequently tour with notable punk rock acts Minor Threat and the Big Boys, while still gracing the stage for major music festivals with legendary artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Parliament Funkadelic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, UB40, Def Leppard, and Fishbone, to name a few. Trouble Funk also recorded with Kurtis Blow and appeared in his video, “I’m Chillin’.”

From 1986 to 1988, Trouble Funk toured extensively throughout the United States, playing legendary venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theatre, and worldwide stages with multiple stops in Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Spain, Nice, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. A stop in Switzerland included a performance at the highly regarded Montreux Jazz Festival. 1994 brought Trouble Funk back to Japan for an extended tour.

In the mid ‘80s, while Trouble Funk was signed to Island Records, their live performances were captured on the big screen in the film Good to Go starring Art Garfunkel. The film, produced by Island Pictures, showcased go-go music and most prominently, the music of Trouble Funk with the group featured on five of the 13 tracks on the soundtrack. During Trouble Funk’s obligation with Island Records, they worked with the legendary Bootsy Collins who produced the album “Trouble Over Here, Trouble Over There.”

Today, Trouble Funk still tours frequently, playing a variety of festivals while their music has been kept relevant through sampling. “Pump Me Up” is one of the most sampled tracks of all time, having been sampled in over 70 different songs by various artists including Will Smith, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, M/A/R/R/S, Guy, Public Enemy, 2 Live Crew, George Clinton, Vanilla Ice, EPMD, Run-DMC, and George Michael. “Pump Me Up” is also featured in Style Wars and the fictional R&B radio station WildStyle in the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Recently, U.K. artist Kindness covered Trouble Funk’s “Still Smokin’” on his hit “It’s Alright.” Kindness wanted to capture the live performance of the go-go energy and sound and flew across the great pond to film the video live with Trouble Funk at Washington, DC’s U Street Music Hall.

Big Tony and Trouble Funk was featured in the HBO series Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways where Dave Grohl reveals that Trouble Funk was a big influence on his musical career—so much so, in fact, that Dave asked Trouble to appear on stage with the Foo Fighters and other notables for the Fourth of July Celebration Concert in Washington, DC’s RFK Stadium.

E.U. WITH SUGAR BEAR

Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott is a globally known recording artist, frontman, lead vocalist, and bassist with three Billboard hits including the “Da Butt,” which peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot Singles in 1988 and was featured in Spike Lee’s film School Daze. Also to Elliott’s credit, his group Experience Unlimited (known as E.U.) performed for the 2016 opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and has an exhibit in the museum. E.U. was Grammy-nominated during the 31st Grammy Awards for Best R&B Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal for “Da Butt” and awarded a Soul Train Award.

Born in Red Springs, NC, Elliott’s mother Ms. Ernestine Elliott moved her family to Washington, DC when he was only two years old and eventually settled into the Valley Green neighborhood of Southeast. Elliott was drawn to music as a child; often banging on desktops and making bass guitar sounds with his mouth. His mother noticed his love for music and bought him a six-string guitar when he was 13, but Elliott was drawn to the bassline. Self-taught, he learned to play bass by watching musicians on TV. He played “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & The Drells every day, listened to artists such as James Brown and Kool & The Gang, and practiced, practiced, practiced. It was around this time when Elliott adopted the name “Sugar Bear”—given to him by Ethel Knight, his afterschool provider. He ate Sugar Crisps cereal with the “Sugar Bear” on the front of the box, so much so, that Ms. Knight told Gregory that he started looking like the bear. From then on, Elliott became known as “Sugar Bear.”

Sugar Bear attended Ballou High School in Southeast Washington DC, where he put together a band named The Rebels, who showcased their skills in Ballou’s talent show. They won Best New Group, and subsequently changed their name to The Young Hustlers, followed by Experience Unlimited (E.U.)—inspired by The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced.” That was E.U.’s beginning.

After the talent show, they were blessed to open for the legendary Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers at the Panorama Room in Southeast, DC—it was the largest crowd E.U. had played for. “People liked us, but they wouldn’t dance so Chuck Brown pulled me to the side and said, ‘Son, you have a lot of great talent, but you have to play what the people want to hear.’ We stayed and watched the set. I was amazed at the call and response! The whole place was jumping for two hours straight and that day, I learned what the go-go music scene was all about” said Sugar Bear. That following Monday, E.U. rehearsed and changed their entire format to a go-go style.

In 1988, one song, “Da Butt,” catapulted E.U. from a local band to a globally-recognized brand; still relevant today. Donnie Simpson, legendary radio personality, was the first Deejay to give it airplay, thus introducing it to the world. That song opened Sugar Bear up to concert, festival, nightclub stages and private events, likewise USO Tours, worldwide. He collaborated with Salt-N-Pepa on “Shake Your Thang.” He’s shared the stage with countless stars and was a guest on the Arsenal Hall Show. In 2019, during the #DontMuteDC campaign, DC native and movie star Regina Hall hosting the 2019 BET Awards brought out Sugar Bear & E.U. also Rare Essence to perform. During the 93rd Academy Awards, Oscar nominee Actress Glenn Close not only shouted out Sugar Bear, but went viral dancing to “Da Butt.” Among celebrities who’ve acknowledged Sugar Bear & E.U. are Fantasia, Jill Scott, and CeeLo Green at the 2020 Soul Train Awards, who also performed medleys of “Da Butt” during their shows. Sugar Bear is grateful for his career and considers himself blessed—”All glory and honor to God who makes everything possible.” With a heart to uplift others, he is dedicated to students at Alexandria City High School formerly TC Williams where he’s served as a special education instructor for 25+ years and counting. Many singers/musicians have performed in the band, it oftentimes boosted their careers.

E.U. is very much alive; going strong with the same passion to play as they did back at Ballou High School. To know Sugar Bear, or to see him perform, you’ll recognize that his love for the Lord, go-go, and rock and roll, all overflows and compels people to party during his family-friendly shows.

JUNKYARD BAND

Junkyard Band began in 1980 as a group of kids playing in a lot with plastic buckets, soda cans, and other found objects, emulating the sounds of some of their favorite go-go bands who performed in their Southeast, DC neighborhood Barry Farms also known as “the projects.” The band began to play talent shows and street performances throughout DC, taking audiences by storm—playing from the grounds of the Smithsonian and Washington Monument, to the streets of Georgetown.

The band became a novelty act across the District, Maryland, and Virginia areas (DMV). Their popularity led to a TV commercial with one of the area’s most popular retailers: Cavaliers Men’s Clothing Store. Shortly thereafter in 1983, the band landed an appearance in the movie D.C. Cab because it had quickly become a tourist attraction and Washington, DC institution.

In 1985, Junkyard caught the attention of Def Jam Records and was signed that same year to a multi-year recording deal. The band worked closely with producer Rick Rubin, recording and releasing the national hit “Sardines” and an underground favorite “The WORD.” After release of the songs, Junkyard began to tour in the United States and played major venues such as Capital Centre, Richmond Coliseum, and the Apollo Theater. The tour included dates with a variety of groups such as Slayer, Fishbone, and the Beastie Boys. Later in 1986, Junkyard appeared in the Def Jam produced movie Tougher Than Leather alongside Run-DMC.

Because of the unique beginnings of the band, it has performed on all types of stages, in all types of situations from street corners, to clubs, to weddings, to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The band has opened for and performed with/backed-up numerous artists such as Tupac, Ice Cube, Salt-N-Pepa, Doug E. Fresh, Lauryn Hill, Chuck Brown, and so many others. As the band started when the members were pre-teens, Junkyard has been going strong for more than three decades.

Adding to the band’s many accomplishments, special honors, awards, and accolades, Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC, proclaimed January 15, 2018 as Junkyard Band Day.

DJ WROYAL

DJ Wroyal is one of the DMV’s most sought after female DJs.  She has been performing and wrockin’ dance floors for over a decade.  She has a passion for providing people with a unique, professional DJ experience defined as “The Wroyal Treatment.”  Some may know her as Wendy-Rai, former lead singer of the DMVs all female go-go band Bela Dona. From singing on the mainstage to owning and operating Wroyal DJ Company, this multi-talented artist is a proud wife, mother of three, and a 17-year veteran of the Montgomery County Fire Department. DJ Wroyal and the Wroyal Family are the perfect Party DJs: they bring the party wrapped in professionalism, drippin’ with class, and energy that is unmatched.

THE QUEENS OF GO-GO FITNESS

Since February 2012, the Queens of Go-Go Fitness LLC have been trusted partners and leaders in fitness, total health, wellness in the DMV, the nation, and beyond. The Queens of Go-Go Fitness spread the love of DC’s home-grown go-go music thru dance fitness, making sure everyone knows how to “Wind Me Up Chuck” dance and get healthy. Go-Go Fitness was started by native Washingtonians, Danette Tucker and Erica Berry Wilson, to provide a family-friendly environment that encourages women, men, and children of all ages to get fit and have fun while doing so. Go-Go Fitness inspires physical activity to support the health and well-being of families and their communities.


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SPECIAL THANKS TO
Dan and Gayle D’Aniello,
Wolf Trap 2022 Season Underwriters