News & Politics

ESPN’s SportsCenter Is Now Using a Famous DC Go-Go Band for Its Theme Music

Scott Van Pelt challenged Trouble Funk to write a theme for the hometown edition of his show. Challenge accepted.

Photograph courtesy ESPN.

The opening of SportsCenter at midnight Tuesday featured a sound instantly recognizable to fans of DC-area music—the unmistakable pocket beat of Trouble Funk. “That is the legendary sound of go-go royalty Trouble Funk which brings us on the air, the only appropriate way to say hello as we begin from Washington, DC,” host Scott Van Pelt said.  The sound was no one-off, ESPN confirms: “Scott likes the band and they recorded a version of the classic SportsCenter theme just for his show for when it began airing from DC,” says network spokesperson Andy Hall.

Reached by phone, Trouble Funk founder “Big Tony” Wilson Fisher tells Washingtonian that he had heard Van Pelt, a native of Montgomery County, had challenged Trouble Funk provide the music for the new DC-produced edition of the show a few months ago. Fisher was recovering from an accident earlier this summer when he connected with Van Pelt, and he had to write the Trouble version of the theme from his bedside: ” I thank God for technology, I thank God for Zoom,” he says, “because it allowed me to produce it over the phone.”

Fisher was eventually able to go into a recording studio to lay down the tracks for the song, but because of pandemic only three musicians were allowed in at once, a challenge for a band as sprawling as Trouble Funk. “When you’ve been doing it as long as I have you can make it happen,” Fisher says. Those signature SportsCenter horns you hear are all Trouble—”we didn’t sample anything,” Fisher says.

The song’s inclusion on a nationwide show “just shows that go-go music is still alive,” says Bo Sampson, the DC music impresario, music consultant, and an executive producer of the recent documentary The Beat Don’t Stop, which featured Trouble Funk alongside colleagues Backyard Band and E.U.

Fisher says he hasn’t yet met Van Pelt in person, but they’ve spoken on the phone many times. “I was surprised to learn how much he knew about go-go and Trouble Funk,” he says. The anchor has promised to take the group out to dinner as soon as it’s possible to do so.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.