Hooked when he first saw his dad drop a needle on a record
Sitting in the Avenue Eatery on West Broadway, second-generation DJ Chuck Chizzle recently offered his treatise on Black music.
“Music is the only thing in this world that keeps culture together. It’s the great equalizer,” stated the young man whose 40th birthday will be later this summer.
Chuck’s real name is Charles Doughty, Sr., but he prefers his public handle as his calling card. He is a native Northsider who grew up on Black music. “I stayed in the projects,” he continued. “I was goofy and awkward. My clothes weren’t in style. So I would sit there and listen to the radio all day.”
KMOJ, as a result, was his constant companion, recalled Chuck, who can still easily lists the station’s personalities of the day — Chazz Millionaire, Lady L and Travitron. “I couldn’t afford music so I had this tape recorder and started recording all the jams.”
It wasn’t the radio, but rather watching his father and other family members share their love of music that hooked him then and now.
“I grew up in a [musical] family. My Uncle William [Doughty] was one of the original members of Grand Central and Flyte Tyme. My dad [Charles Bell] was a DJ. Music always was in my house,” noted Chuck, who eventually followed in his father’s footsteps.
“When I first saw my dad drop a needle on a record, I was hooked,” he admitted. “Just to watch my dad get [ready]…he didn’t have a car. He had one big purple duffle bag and another arm full of records and he walked to his gig. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. What he played moved people.”
George Clinton’s 1982 “Atomic Dog” was the jam that his dad often used to get the place rocking, Chuck remembered. “As a DJ, you just don’t play music. You have to be in tune with the crowd, and what the crowd wants. It’s energy.”
Besides regularly listening to KMOJ, watching his favorite weekly show, WKRP In Cincinnati convinced the young man to pursue a broadcasting career. He loved the camaraderie that the jocks on the show had, and it seemed the same at his favorite radio station, explained Chuck.
“That had me hooked because radio wasn’t about business,” he said. “Being a personality for radio was about passion. The show spoke to me at a young age, and listening to KMOJ all the time. I [also] lived across the street from Q-Bear [Walter Banks, Jr.]. I could name a whole bunch of people on radio and the passion that they showed.”
Chuck got into radio, and worked at the old B-96.
At the then-hip hop station, “I could be me,” he recalled. “It was fun. [But] then when a company came and bought the station, it got real tight. When I walked into the station you could feel the bad energy.” He eventually left the station.
But like in the movie Brown Sugar, where the Taye Diggs character wanted to stay true to his calling, Chuck never lost his love of music, and it has never abandon him:
“Before I had a girlfriend…God gave me music” to help him through both good and bad times. “It was the one thing that always was a constant. It never talked back to me or disrespected me. It never made fun of me.
“Music was the only thing I understood,” said Chuck. “Music is the best expression.”
When asked why there’s a need for Black Music Month, he pointed out, “There needs to be a point in the year where Black music can [be] highlighted. We celebrate it every day by listening.
“But how many kids today know about Duke Ellington? How many kids know about Earth Wind and Fire or [the] Ohio Players? Since the passing of Prince, everybody has been celebrating the Purple One but how many people know some of his greatest work came on his first album?
“How many people know about Cameo and Cash Flow? Millie Jackson? You have to bring awareness on yesterday’s artists to see how they are today,” contented Chuck. He also pointed out that the Minneapolis Sound, exemplified by the late Prince, is as alive as ever with such artists as Ashley DuBose and Eternal Dope, among others.
“The Minneapolis music scene has grown progressively,” said Chuck. But he also bemoans that too many artists today seemingly are in music for a big payday. “They are here today and gone tomorrow because all they are out there [for] is to get a check,” noted Chuck.
Finally, Chuck Chizzle the DJ is in popular demand. His dream is now fulfilled and he loves every minute of it as well.
“Anything you do in life, you have to have a passion for it,” he concluded. “I’m a very passionate person. And if I can’t be passionate, I don’t have anything to do with it.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.