Peter Dean and Ted Hopkins have been key players in the Washington, D.C., R&B music scene for more than two decades.

Hopkins had worked with local labels and owned and managed the Club LeBaron nightspot before moving into management with D.C.'s legendary go-go groups Trouble Funk and E.U.

Dean was a top local promoter who had discovered comedian Chris Thomas. Joining forces, they formed Teddy Bear in the late '80s as a production company and record label.

After taking more than 10 years away from the business, the partners have now reunited with a new Teddy Bear Records-with none other than E.U. as its flagship act. Here they discuss their history together and goals for the rejuvenated label, as well as the continuing appeal of go-go music.

So why did you call the label Teddy Bear?

Dean: [E.U. frontman Gregory] "Sugar Bear" [Elliot] was the leader [of his group]. So we [used that] label name because it was me and Ted and Bear that started the thing.

When did the label start?

Hopkins: It started in 1989. Prior to that I was one of the owners of Chocolate City Records and then D.E.T.T. Records and that's when I managed Trouble Funk and some smaller bands before getting into E.U. back in '81. [Then I started] to manage them and then I started with Teddy Bear.
How far back do the two of you go then?

Dean: Maybe 25, 30 years. We were both doing different things: Ted was also running a transportation company way back in the old days, and owned some clubs including the Club LeBaron. I promoted shows and we met when Trouble Funk was doing things and we did a few shows together.

We're talking go-go music now, obviously, with Sugar Bear and E.U. and Trouble Funk. How did go-go develop?

Dean: Chuck Brown is considered the godfather of go-go. He really started it. The other original bands include E.U., Rare Essence, Hot Cold Sweat-the early bands, when the sound was developed and put out there.

But it was more like a regional sound until Trouble Funk had some success with Sugar Hill Records back in the day, and then Spike Lee came down and heard E.U. It wasn't until then that a go-go group reached the level they did with "Da Butt" in [the film] "School Daze."

If you play "Da Butt" today, you still fill the [dance] floors, pretty much because it was in the movie. I can't think of too many records other than Chubby Checker and "The Twist," and maybe some of Elvis' tunes that have survived the test of time.

What made "Da Butt" and other go-go songs so special?

Dean: I'm from Massachusetts, and when I first got to Washington [D.C.], I couldn't understand what that sound was. When I went to a go-go show and walked into the room and everybody in the place was jumping up and down, I couldn't understand it because I'd never heard it.

But now I think it's something that you can't be in Washington and not enjoy that music and not feel it. It has all those things that make you want to bop your head and stomp your feet and you just work up a sweat when you hear it.
It's hard to explain, hard to put in words. When they made the [1986 film drama featuring go-go music] "Good to Go," they tried to make it create and capture the essence of the music-and that's something that needs to be elaborated on further because it's had those successes and is such a live sound that people enjoy.

But is it a sound that is still relevant and viable in today's marketplace?

Dean: It's still making an impact today because a lot of the newer artists are taking and putting the go-go sound in some of their stuff, and then Chuck is having success now. So it's far from just a flash in the pan.

Hopkins: You go to some of the younger generation who prefer rap, but the majority of them just want that D.C. style. That's their style, no one has it but them. It's full of percussions and rhythmic grooves, and calling out different segments of the city. They hit the floor with that dance-funk music and they go crazy.

Why did you start Teddy Bear?

Dean: [After E.U. went to Virgin] we more or less decided to do our own thing and make the sound the way we wanted, and if it happens, it happens. In those days it was easy to sell 20,000, 30,000 go-go records right in our region-Baltimore, Washington and Richmond [Va.]-and make a decent living.
But this region would have happened anyway, so we decided to go back to our roots and just keep things simple. Then we jumped out there and some other acts wanted to get on. So we ended up with [pressing and distribution] deals with Warlock and Luke Records at the time for artists we put out, and kept on going from there.

Was it strictly a go-go label?

Hopkins: No. We mixed it up and had some rap going there. We had an artist called Stinky Dink who mixed rap with go-go and some R&B.

What made you decide to stop running Teddy Bear?

Hopkins: I had a son to raise and he was going buck wild. So I took a job in security and stayed around the house and kept him on the right road.

Dean: After a while we became old men and started doing other things. I opened up a transportation company, then I ended up getting ill three or four years ago and they retired me. They said I couldn't take that stress no more. But I realized I had nothing to do. Then I got a pacemaker eight months ago, and me and Ted started talking and he said, "Let's go ahead and put the label back together."

Hopkins: After my son grew up I was ready to do my own thing again, and called Peter and said, "Let's start Teddy Bear up again."

Dean: I didn't tell the doctor! I figured it wouldn't be work but a hobby of ours and fun to do. But now I'm realizing it became work. Ted deals with lot of the stressful stuff. I just handle the stuff that don't talk back.

What's the new version of Teddy Bear Records like, then, musically?

Hopkins: We're doing the same thing pretty much. But we've even got gospel now, and country music. We have a young lady who just turned 20, Sasha Eleyce. We have seven tunes finished on her and are looking for three more. And we went to Nashville and had her record down there. They're phenomenal down there.

Dean: We got a pretty good cross-section of artists to be a full-fledged label with all types of music. We have E.U., and then we have Annie Sidley, who's more of a pop artist with R&B, like Teena Marie. But we have a dozen acts on the label now, including motivational speakers like Willie Jolley. That's one thing that Washington never really had-a label that had more than one or two kinds of acts. Maybe now's that time.

But isn't it a different time now, especially in terms of the marketplace?

Hopkins: There are so many changes in the marketplace. I started back in the '80s when there wasn't [the] Internet and you didn't have to worry about any of that. But now I'm looking at it as a handy tool: If you don't have a distributor, you can always get it online and sell one song at a time. That's what a lot of kids are buying, anyway. Most times they're not buying the whole CD now but buying the one song they like.

Why did you do a remix of "Da Butt"?

Hopkins: Everybody remembers "Da Butt" and is kind of hoping for something in that same vein. That's why we redid it, hoping for something marketable.
We know there's a 20-year difference, but we hope to get that new generation, because it's constantly being played in clubs and people are dancing to it. So there's a new mix to it on the new record.

Dean: We're just trying to take the sound of Washington to whatever level we can and get as many people involved and create a movement-like rap with the Fresh Fest. Maybe we can take our own people out of D.C. and do our own thing, create the same kind of magic. And this being 20 years after the fact, E.U. is probably the best they've ever been. So we're all settled, we're all older. We're all going to try to make it the best we can.

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