Groovefest: Big Tony & Trouble Funk

Submitted to Dorchester Banner
Big Tony and Trouble Funk, a musical group born on the streets of Washington, D.C., will be appearing at the Groove City Culture Fest on Aug. 17, in the historic Pine Street neighborhood between Douglas and Elm.

Big Tony & 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, audience participatory call and response, grassroots, homegrown music called Go-Go.

As the world wide ambassadors of the 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 35 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 scene in 1978.

Trouble Funk, in its infancy, consisted of the writing team of band leader, bassist and vocalist Tony “Big Tony” Fisher, keyboardist Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed, 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, D.C., Parts 1 and 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 D.C. and was released by 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 nation 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 also recorded with Kurtis Blow and appeared in his video, “I’m Chillin.’”

From 1986 to 1988, Trouble Funk toured extensively throughout the US playing legendary venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater 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 TF 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 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 used 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 Eyed Peas to name a few, with some gaining chart topping hits.

“Pump Me Up” is also featured in Style Wars and the fictional R&B radio station WildStyle in the video 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 their song “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 classic “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.

In 2014, Big Tony and Trouble Funk released a CD and DVD entitled Trouble Funk’s 35th Anniversary which caught the attention of the founding member of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl. He then visited the group and spent a weekend with the group filming rehearsals and live shows for his HBO film series which culminated in Dave and the Foo Fighters sharing the stage at D.C.’s world famous 930 Club to help celebrate Big Tony’s birthday.

Dave hosted the event and shared his testimony with the sold out crowd about how seeing Trouble Funk perform during his growing up in the DC area inspired him to become a musician.

Today, Big Tony and Trouble Funk has humbly taken the title as the “World’s Best Go-Go Band” and continue to work around the globe and in the studio creating new Go-Go music for a new generation of fans.

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