Rory “DC” Felton, left, performs alongside members of Rare Essence in an undated photo at Nation night club in Southeast Washington. (Keith Washington/Courtesy of Penny Felton)

Rory “DC” Felton, a pioneering member of the city’s go-go scene, was remembered Sunday for his ebullient personality and his love of the District — best captured by the energetic tune “Take a Little Ride Through the City,” which the saxophonist co-wrote with his Rare Essence bandmates.

“That’s how he lived his life,” Penny Felton, his wife of 27 years, said. “He loved the outside, he loved the city.”

Felton, 57, one of the founders of the legendary band, was found dead of stab wounds early Friday in an apartment in Southwest Washington, police said. Felton, who was discovered about 2 a. m. in the residence in the Bellevue neighborhood, had been stabbed at least twice. Police did not disclose a motive or suspect.

Friends on Sunday recalled how Felton had been messaging them as recently as last week, when he ventured to Freedom Plaza for Emancipation Day celebrations where Rare Essence performed, always looking to catch a show and mingle with old friends.

Man, 57, fatally stabbed early Friday in Southwest D.C.

“If you want to have a good time, hang around ‘DC,’ ” band member Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson said of his friend and onetime bandmate.

He said that in recent months he had told Felton about upcoming gigs that would reunite the group’s original members. “I told him there was a couple of shows he needed to do, and he was all for it,” Johnson said.

Felton would have celebrated his 58th birthday Wednesday, his wife said. Instead, a celebration of his life will take place that day in front of the Xenia Street SE home that was an incubator for Rare Essence.

When his family moved him from Halifax County, Va., to Washington when he was a teenager, he was nervous and unaccustomed to city life. But he arrived to find the bustling music scene and vibrant community life, and immediately fell in love.

“His country life was really different and he worked on the farm,” Penny Felton said. “He said when he got up here he was so excited. He saw people were really living. When they gave him the nickname of ‘DC,’ he thought he was special.”

As word of his death spread through the go-go community, tributes poured in.

Once and Future Legends

Kevin “Kato” Hammond, the editor and publisher of a magazine about the D.C. go-go scene, reflected on Felton‘s talents and colorful personality in a piece for the site, which named Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mr. Magic” and Rare Essence’s “Take a Little Ride Through the City” as Felton’s “signature” performances on the sax. He said Felton was fondly “known for always donning [some of the] most creatively styled hats that he could find (which was his trademark) and his melodically aggressive cowbell patterns.”

“Rest in musical harmony, DC!” he wrote. “We’re going to continue taking a little ride through the city for YOU!”

Guitarist Chuck Brown was known as “The Godfather of Go-Go,” the D.C.-born genre of funk featuring conga drums, pulsating beats and a bandleader who interacts with the crowd. But names such as Anthony “Little Benny” Harley, the trumpet player, and Quentin “Footz” Davidson, the drummer, were known for carrying the genre with Rare Essence. In a 2010 story in The Washington Post, Johnson estimated that the band had given more than 5,000 performances. The world-renowned Brown died in 2012. Harley died in 2010, and Davidson was fatally shot in Prince George’s County in 1994.

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Felton was an early member of the band in the late 1970s and 1980s, and later performed with groups such as Little Benny & The Masters, Proper Utensils and the Legends, the latter made up largely of former Rare Essence members, his wife said.

“[“Little Benny”] Harley’s trumpet, John ‘Big Horn’ Jones’s trombone and Rory ‘D.C.’ Felton’s saxophone gave a fluid punch to the band’s rhythms, and from their grins, it was clear they were enjoying each other’s musical company,” The Post wrote in a 1999 story on the Legends, headlined “Once and Future Legends.”

Family and friends remembered Felton not only for his performances on the saxophone and cowbells but for his precise steps on stage.

“He could have easily been one of The Temptations,” Johnson said, referring to the legendary R&B group. “That’s how smooth his moves were.”

As his wife said Sunday, Felton carried the city he loved in his nickname. She said it stemmed from his middle name, Mordese.

“His mom and sister and brother called him DeeCee” and the band members shortened it to ‘DC.’ ”

Fans flock to reunion show of go-go legends Rare Essence

In 1992, she said, Felton was critically wounded in a shooting in Connecticut. Against all odds, Felton, who had been in a coma, recovered, she said, and within weeks was back playing his horn.

“He never slowed down,” she said. “We were in our 50s and he still wanted me to go to the go-go with him.”

Penny and Rory Felton had separated in recent years, but remained married, she said.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, two daughters and three grandchildren.

“He always stated that he will always be playing his music,” Penny Felton said. “So I suspect that he’s going to be in heaven with Little Benny and Footz and Chuck Brown playing his music.”