From left: Maurice "Mighty Mo" Hagans, Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliott and William "JuJu" House strike a pose. (Courtesy of Experience Unlimited)
From left: Maurice "Mighty Mo" Hagans, Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliott and William "JuJu" House strike a pose. (Courtesy of Experience Unlimited)

In 1988, after being tapped by Black film producer and director Spike Lee, the world would be introduced to the electrifying sound of Experience Unlimited (EU) as they struck gold with a song entitled “Da Butt” in the film “School Daze.”

The song, with lead vocals performed by EU’s frontman and guitarist Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, became a Billboard megahit helping the band achieve worldwide acclaim.

But for native Washingtonians, as well as a growing cadre of fans from outside of D.C., all drawn to the unique sound of go-go, a relatively new style of music formed in the District, EU had already claimed a prominent place in their hearts and minds – a band with a powerful onstage presence, an energy that few could match and a repertoire that included funk, rock and, of course, go-go.

And while the band has seen multiple iterations since their formative years when a dedicated group of students from Ballou Senior High School in D.C.’s Southeast neighborhood of Anacostia teamed up in 1971, EU has weathered the storm and continued to scale new heights.

The band celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2021, albeit much quieter than such an achievement deserved and with little fanfare because of the pandemic.

But a year later, with more people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and infection rates on the decline, officials in cities throughout the U.S. have lifted restrictions. And EU has wasted little time, already returning to the road and making appearances in the DMV much to the delight of their hometown fans.

And on Friday, June 10, they will officially drop the re-release of a song which appeared on their very first album back in 1977. But this time, “Peace Gone Away” has a slightly different vibe, updated for a new generation and produced by the legendary Roy Battle, along with an accompanying video that will make its debut on the same day on YouTube.

The song was written by Donald Fields and Melva “Lady” Adams.

The band believes it’s vital for people to reunite for a more peaceful society and to frown upon the recent increase in violence. They chose the release date of the song to coincide with the many observances that will be held throughout the month of June which serves as Black Music Appreciation Month – an annual celebration of African-American music in the U.S.

EU legend Sugar Bear strongly believes that music is most effective when it promotes positive messages. He said “Peace Gone Away” represents such an example.

“During our reunion activities last year, we looked back at our past and after several discussions, we decided to redo “Peace Gone Away,” one of the songs from our first album,” Sugar Bear said.

“I thought it was a great idea and timely because I was becoming so concerned about the level of violence and the number of murders that were occurring in our communities here in the District,” he said. “We all agreed that with just a few changes, the song could serve as an excellent means of deterring negative behavior.”

EU’s longtime manager, Charles Stephenson, Jr., said returning to the studio to record the song served as an unforgettable experience with musicians from the band’s past and present all rocking to the beat once again.

The vocals of Melva “Lady” Adams and Cleve Battle soared to the heavens; the triumphant horns, led by Greg Boyer, hit it with only one take; JuJu and Mighty Mo held things down while Donald Fields let his guitar assume a new persona; Roy Battle tickled the ivories; and Sugar Bear unleashed his positive energy as the collective band forged a new moment in history.

To assist in documenting EU’s musical history, Dr. Natalie Hopkinson, who leads Howard University’s Traditional Arts Program, along with her staff, have begun the task of chronicling the story of Experience Unlimited.

“Generations have been partying with EU but what is publicly known about their story barely scratches the surface,” said Hopkinson, who’s anchoring the project along with other partners and sponsors including the District of Columbia Office of Cable, Television, Music and Entertainment, the Go-Go Museum & Café, Don’t Mute DC, DC Office of Creative Affairs and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

“EU epitomizes excellence, longevity and art with a community purpose … and they’re one of music’s great, untold stories,” Hopkinson added.

More information about EU can be found on their website, www.EU50yearsofgogocrank.com.

Additional information about Sugar Bear can be secured by visiting his website, www.EUSugarBear.com.

Scheduled events for EU’s spectacular summer include: July 10: Virtual EU Reunion – streamed live on Facebook @MakeGoGoForeverDC; July 25: Sugar Bear’s birthday celebration; and August 20: EU in concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Northwest.

To download EU’s new song, visit music platforms including iTunes and Spotify. You can also tune in to local radio programs whose DJs will be showcasing “Peace Gone Away.”

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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