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D.C. Names Street After Go-Go Pioneer, "Little Benny"

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Frank Harley, Little Benny's older brother, says Benny showed musical talent early on.
Rebecca Sheir
Frank Harley, Little Benny's older brother, says Benny showed musical talent early on.

By Rebecca Sheir

A late icon of D.C.’s go-go music scene is about to be commemorated in Northwest Washington. The city is naming a street after Benny Anthony Harley, otherwise known as "Little Benny."

Standing beside the fountains of the U.S. Navy Memorial in downtown D.C., Frank Harley says he recognized his little brother’s musical talent early on when their father bought them guitars.

"And I learned how to play a few songs, and my brother learned how to play it," he recalls. "And then he went into drums, and he went into playing the horn, then he got stuck with the horn, and he started playing two at one time."

Little Benny went on to become a founding father of go-go: D.C.’s homegrown funk music.

"Go-go is a way of life in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and will make you forget about the troubles of the day," says longtime friend, Cherita Whiting.

Whiting’s father, Chuck Brown, often performed with Benny, who died in May, at the age of 46.

"And Benny was definitely a big part of go-go," she says. "So we have a missing link right now to go-go in Washington, D.C."

That’s why Frank Harley is thrilled that a portion of 11th Street Northwest will be named "Little Benny Way."

"It’s going to be great to see he’s been acknowledged," Harley says. "Yeah, the little guy was powerful – like, he could walk on that water, with his horns in his hands! Dancing to the beat."

And thanks to Little Benny, countless people will keep dancing, too... forgetting their troubles, all the while.

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