“Financially, my father was old-school; he believed in putting money in a box,” said Nekos Brown, one of the singer’s five surviving adult children.
There are four heirs named in the will: Nekos and Wiley, the sons of Chuck and Jocelyn Brown; and stepchildren “KK” Donelson and William Thompson. The will excludes an estranged adopted daughter, Gequita Gray, born to Brown’s first wife, Eleanor. His first-born son, Charles Louis Brown Jr., was killed in a car crash in 1990. Eleanor Brown died in 1992, four years after she and Chuck Brown divorced.
The estate is being managed by Brown’s widow, Jocelyn, who has struggled since her husband’s death, according to the family.
“They were [together] for 27 years,” Nekos Brown said. “You can’t replace that.”
Wiley Brown said he has spent much of the past year with his mother, “trying to make sure that she is doing okay to the point that she is not really lost in her grief. I try to do whatever I can to make it easier for her. It is still hard on her.”
She has maintained a low profile since Aug. 22, when she joined the family to accept a Chuck Brown Day proclamation from D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D). (That same day, Gray announced plans to name a Northeast Washington park after Brown, whom he called “one of the greatest Washingtonians.” The plan — which included a major renovation — has been met with significant community pushback.)
Jocelyn Brown will not be at the memorial concerts this week, the children said.
Brad Clements, part of Chuck Brown’s old horn section, said he had called Jocelyn Brown to offer his support. But he could never reach her. “She is very reclusive,” he said.
Monday night, the old band convened for rehearsal in an industrial section of Hyattsville, hard by the John Hanson Highway. Brown had practiced at Perfect Sound Studio for more than two decades; it still felt like home, albeit much emptier in Brown’s absence.
“It’s very different; he was the soul of everything that we did,” said vocalist Donnell Floyd. “The first couple of months after he died was really hard. The grieving process takes time. As time goes by, it will get better. But anytime you play his music, you feel something.”
Some of the deacons of go-go — leaders of other bands that thrived in Chuck Brown’s wake — came through, to figure out how they’d fit into the tributes.
Everybody wanted to perpetuate the legacy. Nobody was sure it was possible.
“It definitely feels like a void,” said “Sweet” Cherie Mitchell-Argus, a longtime keyboardist in Brown’s band. “It’s like James Brown’s band without James Brown. But we are trying.”
Then, Chuck Brown’s band played on, without Chuck Brown, keeping his go-go beat going.
Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.