Washington DC trumpet player Anthony Harley, better known as “Little Benny,” has died at the age of 46.
Harley was influential in developing the “go-go” style of funk popular in the region:
The result was an incessant beat — a genre of funk featuring conga drums, cow bells and call-and-response chants brought to life by an engaging bandleader — that gained widespread attention in the late 1970s with Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose,” the first go-go hit.
Little Benny and his band, Rare Essence, are said to have helped define the style of music pioneered by R&B artist Chuck Brown:
“When you look at go-go from a historical standpoint, Little Benny, he stands out as one of the founding fathers,” said Kato Hammond, the founder and editor of a magazine about the go-go scene. “Chuck Brown laid the foundation, but Rare Essence — and Benny was part of it during that time — built the house.”
Harley left Rare Essence in the 80s to form Little Benny and the Masters. After that, he played with Proper Utensils, and reformed several times with members of Rare Essence. He’d been playing with Brown recently, including a Capitol Heights show the night before his death.
According to his friend and former business partner Keith Galloway, “Little Benny” died in his sleep. Cause of death is not yet known.