Local musicians came in droves for Chuck Brown’s funeral at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Thursday afternoon. Throughout the four-hour homegoing service, members of go-go groups Trouble Funk, Rare Essence, Backyard Band, O.P. Tribe, Junkyard Band and Black Alley, folk-rock singer Citizen Cope, rappers Tabi Bonney and DJ Kool, and many others could be spotted in the crowd, nodding their heads to the beat provided by the Chuck Brown Band.
Also in attendance: Logan Westbrooks, the founder of Source Records, the California label that helped Brown climb the charts in 1979 with the godfather’s signature anthem “Bustin’ Loose.”
We spoke with Westbrooks from his Washington hotel room a few hours before the funeral service.
How did you first begin working with Mr. Brown?
Well, it was in 1978, and I had just secured a distribution deal with MCA. I had formed a new label which is called Source Records. I was searching all over the country for the right record for our first release. A fellow who was working with me... knew a producer named James Purdie who lived here in D.C. who had produced this record for Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers called “Bustin’ Loose.” So we listened to it and made a decision right there on the spot that this was the one... We put the deal together and in the last quarter of ‘78, and we released it. And at the beginning of the year it was popping all over the country.
So you signed Brown on that song alone? You hadn’t seen him perform live before?
No, I hadn’t.
Wow. What were your memories of hearing “Bustin’ Loose” for the first time?
It was exciting. It was infectious. At the time, I was teaching a class at Cal State University in L.A. And I played it for those students. Those young people were ecstatic. There was no question that this was the one.
And what did you think when you finally met Mr. Brown?
When I first met him, I was quite impressed. He was a gentleman. And I was impressed with the young people he was working with, the young people he had in his band. He was recruiting them, nurturing them and working along with them. That was impressive to me.
What brings you to Washington for the funeral?
Since then, Chuck and I have been in business together. We have a lot of publishing [issues to manage]... We never did lose contact.
Your relationship with him sure seems to have had an exciting start.
It was just unbelievable. Here we are, this fledgling little label, and calls are coming in from all over the country from promoters to disc jockeys. Everybody wanted him. Everybody wanted a piece of it.