The Photographic History of DC’s Go-Go Scene

The new ‘DC Go-Go, Ten Years Backstage’ book takes you behind the scenes with photographer Chip Py.

WASHINGTON — Chuck Brown, the musical legend widely considered the godfather of DC’s Go-Go scene, had a bandmate who didn’t play an instrument.

Photographer Chip Py recalls the scene before a show in Hampton, Virginia, when a venue representative gave Py a lengthy introduction to the rules for taking photos at the venue. Among them was a rule that no one but the band members were allowed on stage.

This led Brown to inform the site manager that his photographer been part of the group and should be allowed to take pictures from wherever he wanted.

Brown and Py won this battle.

Chuck Brown included a photographer in his group, according to Py, because — in what turned out to be the last months of his life — Brown knew the photos would be crucial living history.

“Chuck asked me after photographing him for a year to take the stage with him,” Chip Py said. “On that walk to the stage, he had something to say to me. What he told me was that what I do for him is important to him, important to his family and important to his legacy. .”

Py told this story in the opening pages of his new book “DC Go-Go, Ten Years Backstage” and shared more stories with me during a visit to the DC park named after Chuck Brown up north -east of Washington.

When artists pass away, they leave their music behind to share with generations. Py’s photos are an important part of this living history; a perpetual reminder of the importance of the DC Go-Go scene.

“Having my footage archived in the DC Library for generations to come meant it was time to sit down and write the book,” Py said.

The DC Library system has an extensive set of Go-Go archives and it has now cataloged over 1,900 images taken by Py.

“Giving the legacy to people who may not know it. Giving the legacy to people for the story beyond me and beyond you,” Py said. “What I saw and what I captured in an authentic Go-Go is now preserved for historians and people to see.”

While Py’s photos speak thousands of words in themselves, Py’s book is both an olive branch for people who have never heard of the musical genre Go-Go and it’s also a tribute that captures its essence to the most diehard fans and musicians. .

“When I wrote this book, I took a lot of care that people who are in Go-Go are represented. There’s a whole photo section with fans,” Py said.

Included in the book are the origins of Go-Go, Go-Go 101 and the culture surrounding Go-Go.

The stories that accompany the photos tell the essential story of Chuck Brown and how he wanted fans to experience his music.

For example, an iconic photo of Brown at DC’s 930 club pointing downstage was an attempt to get a venue manager to remove the barricade separating the audience from the stage. Go-Go does not prefer such barriers between its musicians and its fans.

“Fans were reaching out to me to reach for Chuck,” Py said. “And Chuck, seventy-five, was kneeling down trying to reach them.”

Go-Go has enjoyed a resurgence in DC despite the fact that many former venues where Brown and others performed have been closed. Py saw this as a perfect opportunity to write the book now.

“It was the result of the events of ‘Don’t Mute DC’ in which Go-Go stood up for himself and said that we are here, we are part of the culture of the city after so many years of being put aside by the city and thought of something that deserves no attention,” said Py.

Py showed off some of his oversized limited edition print photos from his time shooting Go-Go. One included Brown performing in the shadow of the United States Capitol building at a pro-DC Statehood event.

You can read more about Chip and his book HERE.

WATCH NEXT: Netherlands Carillon in Arlington | Mic Up

The Dutch Carillon was a gift from the Dutch people to show their appreciation for America’s help during and after World War II.

WUSA9 is now enabled Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get the latest news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your journey. Your news.

Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, which will provide you with the latest news and a summary of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Michael E. Marquez