“A few years went by, and we got picked up by Island Records. [Island Records honcho] Chris Blackwell had this crazy idea of taking go-go and making the biggest thing in the world. It was a good thought, but you know, if you don’t know go-go, it’s not that simple.”
Trouble Funk decided the best way to take go-go national — and international — was to do as many live performances as possible. It was playing with big-name national artists, often “shutting them down” (stealing the show).
“We shut Herbie Hancock down. We performed with him, opened for him. WAR . . . Frankie Beverly and Maze . . . Groups didn’t wanna close after us. We did a show with Cameo, and shut them down. We did it one time and [singer] Larry Blackmon said we only did that because we were home, so then we took ’em outta town and shut ’em down.”
The late ’80s/early ’90s
After the limited success of 1987’s “Trouble Over Here, Trouble Over There,” the band split into different factions. The group also began to realize, during this period, just how many other musicians were sampling their music, and tried to recoup some of that money.
“‘Pump Me Up,’ everybody sampled: Teddy Riley, KRS-One, Whodini, LL Cool J, Kid ’n Play, Salt-N-Pepa, Will Smith, we can go on and on. Even the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So many different classic songs that people sampled. Even if the records that we released didn’t officially go platinum, they were part of other records that went gold or platinum.
“We’re still in litigation; we’ve done better in the past 10 years than back in the day. Unfortunately, we didn’t get half of what is due to us, but because the music is timeless, it’s never too late.”
The 2000s and beyond
Over the past several years, the group has experienced great loss, from injury and illness — percussionist Timothy “Teebone” David retired in 2011; Reed died in 2008. But Tony says the current incarnation of the group is working on a new album, “Unfinished Business,” hoping for a go-go episode of the TV series “Unsung,” and looking to mentor the next generation of go-go musicians.
“We all gotta get old, but God ain’t through with me yet. I’ve got a lot of music, a lot of positive things to share. I’m 53 years old right now, and I’m just getting started.
“I wish that a lot of these up-and-coming musicians that play the bounce beat would really get to know the history. I don’t believe they know how important it is to know where you been to get to where you’re going.
“Go-go is, I don’t think they realize, becoming extinct. When Chuck died, he took a big piece of that with him, and right now, nobody is stepping up to try to fill that void.
“I think it’s up to us, the older guys. A lot of these musicians around here now don’t even know who Big Tony is, who Trouble Funk is, but they’re getting ready to find out.”
Trouble Funk performs at the Howard Theatre at 8 p.m. on Saturday.