When director Spike Lee picked E.U.'s dance tune "Da Butt" for the soundtrack to his 1988 film "School Daze," the song became a No. 1 hit and a national sensation.
Some 20 years later, the anniversary of the film and song now provides the perfect marketing hook for the return of Teddy Bear Records, the label that propelled E.U.'s go-go sound from Washington, D.C., prominence.
A new album, "E.U. and Friends School Daze Revisited . . . 20 Years Later," due Sept. 18, offers an ideal reintroduction to Teddy Bear Records. It features "Da Butt 2008," a fresh remix of the E.U. hit, and heralds the group's new Teddy Bear album "The Mixture" due later this fall.
Also on "E.U. and Friends" are singles from Teddy Bear labelmates Shorty Corleone, Pretty Boy, the Lady Day Experience, DuvSac, Annie Sidley, Earl Carter, Ajani Sekou and Shy Thoro.
The album heralds the return, after a decadelong hiatus, of Teddy Bear as a significant player tapping one of the most distinctive inner-city music scenes in the country.
Teddy Bear's official relaunch took place Feb. 7, 2006, with its pre-Grammy Awards Rock the House artist showcase at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Universal City, Calif. Hosted by comedian Chris Thomas, who was discovered by Teddy Bear co-owner Peter Dean, the event featured performances by roster acts E.U., the Lady Day Experience, DuvSac, Comp and Stinky Dink.
But the label's return to retail commenced this past January with the release of new albums from acts the Lady Day Experience, Sidley and DuvSac. (E.U. guitarist Earl Carter will release an album in April.) And the label's resurgence kicks into high gear with the forthcoming "E.U. and Friends" and "The Mixture."
E.U. has had a key role in the birth of Teddy Bear and its return. The pace-setting go-go group recorded for Teddy Bear during its initial run, then moved to Virgin Records after Lee heard the band at a party celebrating the release of his film "She's Gotta Have It." Lee then used the group's signature tune in "School Daze" with a career-launching impact.
Even the name of Teddy Bear Records derives partially from E.U., as it combines the names of E.U. frontman Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliot and Ted Hopkins, who joined up with partner Dean to launch the label. Hopkins had been involved in nightclub management and artist management of major go-go acts including Trouble Funk and E.U. Dean was a top promoter who had been involved in booking E.U. They joined forces in the late '80s.
The first Teddy Bear release was a reggae-flavored hip-hop single titled "Who Likes to Reggae Down" by MC Mike and DJ Maze, and the label was distributed via Warlock Records. Also signed to the roster early on was E.U., go-go rapper Stinky Dink and "Mayor of Rap City" comedian Thomas.
"Teddy Bear was probably the first regional label out of D.C. that concentrated on more than just go-go," says Paul Walker, a longtime Dean ally who teamed with him on music production projects. "It diversified into the R&B and rap fields, where most other labels that were successful were predominantly successful strictly because of a go-go affiliation.
"But Teddy Bear stood out," Walker adds, "because of its involvement in the R&B and hip-hop genres. MC Mike did pretty good regionally, but there was a singing group named PRS 7 that also gained a bit of noise regionally."
E.U.'s breakout by way of the EMI soundtrack to "School Daze" brought the act to sister label Virgin Records, and eventually led to a turning point for Teddy Bear.
The label had been founded in no small part in order to make music its own way.
"We wanted to do our sound the way we wanted, and the record companies wanted us to sound like something we weren't," Dean says. "We got the deal at Virgin for E.U. and they wanted to make us something we weren't."
After "Da Butt," E.U. scored two more top 10 pop hits for Virgin Records with "Taste of Your Love" and "Butt Wild." The group also was featured on the Salt-N-Pepa hit "Shake Your Thang."
But Dean and Hopkins were also going through personal situations that further affected their label operation. And when E.U.'s stint at Virgin ended, so did Teddy Bear, at least temporarily.
Now, however, the label's principals are a decade older and wiser, and ready to pick up where they left off.
"It's our time to go back national again," E.U.'s Elliot says. "It's 20 years [after the group's high-water mark] and a lot of groups don't even stay together and we're still going strong with it. One of my goals is to go national again for one more round."
The return of E.U. and Teddy Bear is also the latest chapter in a 20-year professional relationship between Elliot and Dean.
"Peter's a go-getter and not a quitter, and that's what motivates me to go out there and perform my best and stay in the public eye and please the crowd," Elliot says.
"He works hard to make deals happen-that's why we stayed together so long. So in a way it's like a blessing that we were brought back to earth from a No. 1 record and a major company: Boom! The world is pulled out from under you, but you show you're a true soldier. Can you handle it, or will you destroy yourself and fade away? We're in to win it, and here we are."
Elliot's positive outlook is shared by other Teddy Bear business associates.
"Peter Dean's experience as a successful promoter with E.U. and Chris Thomas is an advantage and will help Teddy Bear Records in successfully marketing and promoting their titles in the marketplace," says Gerald A. Wiggins, founder/CEO of Wiggins Music Group Worldwide. Teddy Bear has a sublabel agreement with WMGW, which uses CBuJ Entertainment for traditional retail and Independent Online Distribution Alliance to handle their digital content.
"With over 50 years of experience between the parties involved we anticipate successful results in introducing E.U. to an entire new audience," Wiggins adds.
Eddie Harris, GM of Tulsa, Okla.-based booking agency Campus Concerts, echoes Wiggins' prediction.
"I booked E.U. several times, so it's very exciting to have Teddy Bear back," Harris says. "It has a brand that is easily recognizable and people relate to it, so the whole project to me has an immense amount of positives attached to it."
Speaking of E.U. specifically, Harris adds, "They created a certain unique style of music. Besides Chuck Brown, they were the ambassadors, the biggest go-go band to come out of the D.C. area and more representative of go-go than anybody else. So they're special, and there's a whole generation of people who are conscious of them."
But Harris doesn't think the go-go sound has hit its full potential nationally.
"Hip-hop has reached its zenith and people are looking for another genre, and I think go-go-and E.U.-is the genre that a lot of people are looking for," he says. "To me, it takes us back to a more festive time, where people want to get together and have good clean fun. It's high energy and infectious, just fun music."
Back on Teddy Bear's home turf, Danny Lamb, co-owner of the Kemp Mill Music stores in Washington, D.C., says that go-go music "is always significant for us in this market since it's a D.C.-born music with pockets here and there throughout the country where people listen. And people who leave D.C. for other parts of the country take it with them."
The music retailer also has seen out-of-town fans come in looking to buy go-go recordings, Lamb adds.
"Certainly there's still a lot of us who listened to it in the '80s who will welcome the return of E.U.," he says. "Most definitely there's a huge market here. I think a lot of people like it and embrace it because it's our music, a D.C. thing, and people just like the way it makes you move and that funky groove that only go-go music has."
Lamb also notes the appearance of numerous up-and-coming go-go groups that are taking popular R&B and rap tracks and "doing their go-go thing over the top of them and making them even more contemporary and fresh-sounding." Even veteran go-go group Rare Essence scored a hit a couple of years ago with a go-go version of Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me."
"A go-go band takes hold of it and all of a sudden Ashlee Simpson is selling to the go-go community, which probably never would have happened unless she did a striptease or something," Lamb says. So he's "most definitely" eager to support the new Teddy Bear Records, and is planning a promotion around the street date of "E.U. and Friends," "possibly doing something with Sugar Bear and a couple people in the original movie. I think people will welcome us doing something with that."
Hopkins says Teddy Bear will also look at cable TV for time buys, and "do some videos and whatever it takes" to get his label artists out there.
"I hope programmers will be more responsive to some of the newer artists," he says, "and that people don't miss out on anything by not getting on the bandwagon when we come out Sept. 18."
Dean says: "You have to realize that the average person that remembers E.U. is now 34, 35-the class of '88 that will be celebrating next year with all types of reunions. So I feel we'll fill that [go-go music] void pretty good, and in the same token, we're developing so many younger artists who can fill that void."