Trouble Funk, a musical group born on the streets of Washington, D.C. , is synonymous with the emergence of the non-stop, percussion driven, best seen live, experience the party, au- dience participatory call and response, grassroots, homegrown music called Go-Go. As the world wide ambassadors of this musical genre, Go-Go, a distant, but older cousin of Hip-Hop, Trouble Funk has taken their sound from the gritty streets of D.C. to the clubs of the nation and the festivals around the world for the past 30 plus years.
The band and their sound, developed by mixing an uproarious blend of swinging, up-tempo 70’s funk with a 60’s 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 1980’s with anthems “Drop the Bomb”, “Pump Me Up”, “Let’s Get Small”, “So Early in the Morning”, “Saturday Night Live From Washington, D.C., Parts 1 & 2”, “Say What?” and two R&B/ Hip-Hop Billboard charting tracks, “Still Smokin’” and “Good to Go”.
“Drop the Bomb” was the first Go-Go record to be released outside of Washington, D.C. 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 on 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 on 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 80’s, 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 5 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 being 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, George Michael and Black
“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.
Trouble Funk songs “Drop the Bomb” and “Say What?” recently were noted in a lawsuit over sampling issues filed by the owners of the Trouble Funk catalog, Tuff City, against the Beastie Boys for usage in the Beastie Boys songs “Shadrock”, “Car Thief”, “The New Style” and “Hold It Now, Hit It".
“Let’s Get Small” has also been sampled most notably by Ice Cube featuring Michael Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal on “We Be Ballin’ (Street Mix)”.
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, D.C.’s U Street Music Hall.
Most recently, 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. In fact, so much so that Dave asked Trouble to appear on stage with Foo Fighters and other notables for the 4th of July Celebration Concert in Washington, DC's RFK Stadium.
The Junkyard band began in 1980 as a group of kids playing in a lot with plastic buckets, soda cans and other found object, 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 with tight musical performances and polished presentations - 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). The 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 Washington, DC institution and tourist attraction.
As all of these band members were kids ranging in age from 9 -14 years of age, they now began to present a challenge to the adult groups they mimicked. In 1984, the band regularly began competing for performance slots in the DMV's popular go-go music genre. The band won-out bumping many of its competitors aside.
In 1985, Junkyard caught the attention of Def Jam Records and was signed to a multi-year recording deal. The band worked closely with Rick Rubin, recording and releasing the national hit "Sardines" and an underground favorite "The WORD". After release of the songs, Junkyard began a tour in 3 cities in Texas coming back up the east coast all the way to Boston. The tour included dates with a variety of groups such as Slayer, Fishbone and the Beastie Boys. Following that, 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 weddings, to the Apollo Theater, 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 too many others to continue naming.
EU (Experience Unlimited)
EU (Experience Unlimited) is one of the original Washington DC Go-Go bands. Fronted by founding member Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, the original members all attended Ballou High School in Washington, DC. The band chose the name Experience due to their respect for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Unlimited because they did not want to limit the range of their music. Their early regional hits included EU Freeze, Lock Your Butt, and Knock ‘Em Out Sugar Ray. Although they are best known for their Grammy nominated, massive worldwide hit Da-Butt from Spike Lee’s “School Daze” soundtrack, EU scored hits with Salt & Papa (Shake Your Thang), with rap innovator Kurtis Blow (Party Time), and on their own with Buck Wild and Taste of Your Love. Da Butt won Soul Train’s best R&B/Soul Single, Group in 1989.
EU has performed with Teena Marie, Morris Day and The Time, Mint Condition, Cameo, and countless others. They performed on a show with Bob Dylan in 1989, one of Sugar Bear’s career highlights. EU released the hit Umm Bop Bop in 2000. They dropped the single Bounce in 1999, garnering extensive airplay. EU appeared in the tribute DVD to Chuck Brown, Put Your Hands Up in 2002 (called quite possibly the best live concert DVD ever made by Murder Dog Magazine) with a brilliant set of live music, featuring a percussion showdown between Ju Ju House and Mighty Mo Hagans, along with blistering renditions of EU Freeze. Dog Star, Da Butt and much more. In 2003, EU performed to a national audience on the televised NAACP Awards’ Tribute to Spike Lee. EU has been featured in 2009 in VH1 one hit wonders of the 1980’s. Sugar Bear received the Legend Award at the second annual WKYS Go-Go Awards in 2007. He appears in a local TV commercial for an insurance company, and teaches special education at TC Williams.
Experience Unlimited has toured Europe, Japan, and across the US, but call Washington, DC home. EU is currently in the studio working on a new cd, and they continue to rock the stage night after night.