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Go-go legend Chuck Brown on his fans, his city and his late night television debut

chuck brownChuck Brown appears on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" on Tuesday night. (John Shore)

By Chris Richards

At the age of 74, Washington's beloved "Godfather of Go-Go," Chuck Brown, is making his big premiere on late night television. In just a matter of hours, he'll be sitting in with the Roots on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" -- and plugging his brand new three-disc set "We Got This."

We spoke with the godfather last week as he bounced between stops on a local publicity tour that's taken him from banks, to tire shops, to shopping malls, to the studios of NPR, to the bowels of the Department of Defense. Read the interview, after the jump.

You've been doing promo for this new album all over town. I know you were at the Best Buy in Columbia Heights the other day...

And at the Pentagon!

Really? The Pentagon Pentagon?

Inside the Pentagon. Can you imagine that?

Wow. Was it your first time there?

Well, my teacher took us when we were in school.

Did you actually perform inside the Pentagon?

No, signing autographs and taking pictures. Everybody wants to take pictures with me and it's a wonderful thing. I love taking pictures, nowadays. Because you never forget where you come from. Fifty years ago, the only people who wanted to take pictures of me was the police! And now the police take pictures with me.

Where else have you been this past week?

My wife and I were down at Action Al's Tires down on Bladensburg Road buying my son some new tires for his truck. And two FBIs walked in and said, "Listen, Mr. Brown, we're from the Federal Bureau of Investigation." And I said, "Hold up! I'm not wanted anymore!" (Laughs.) I had 'em all cracking up. He said, "Oh no, Mr. Brown. We just want to take a picture and get your autograph."

You're such an icon here. What's it like doing a local publicity tour like this and getting so much affection from Washington fans?

Oh my goodness, they come from everywhere. I just love 'em so much. Crowds and crowds of people. I really appreciate that I can't go nowhere without people hollering at me. I just love it.

What do they say to you?

A lot of people just want to touch me. I can't believe that. Or maybe, "Can I have your handkerchief." Things like that. So now I know what those stars feel like. I love shaking hands with people. I love spending as much time as I can with people. That's why I don't like bodyguards around me. I don't like that kind of image. I'm just too outgoing. I love being close to people.

Well speaking of stars, you'll hanging out with some on Tuesday night. What can we expect from your performance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon?" Have you played shows with [Fallon's house band] the Roots before?

I've played with them before, in their band in Philadelphia on an Independence Day. Fourth of July. I looked out there and standing in front of me looked like I saw about 700,000 people out there. But can you believe this? That was one of the few times I didn't get nervous! And I've been getting nervous for the last 48, 49 years. But once I get rockin' on that mike, I'm good.

I know this is your first late night television gig, but not your first time on TV.

I've been on TV more times than I got fingers and toes. I've been on "Soul Train" and on some shows that I can't even remember... I was supposed to go on Johnny Carson's show one time, but that was quite a long while back. It never came back around.

People have been hearing you a lot on television lately. You recently licensed "Bustin' Loose" for a Chips Ahoy advertisement that's gotten tons of airtime How did that come about?

I got a good business manager. And he took care of business!

How's the response been?

People are excited about it. Matter of fact, it's gotten me some gigs.

Do you like Chips Ahoy cookies?

Yeaaahhh, man.

I bet they sent you a big old box.

Oh, I buy 'em anyway!

By Chris Richards  | September 28, 2010; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  Chris Richards  | Tags:  Chuck Brown  
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