Anyone who frequents downtown nightclubs is likely familiar with the tall, wiry-haired DJ who goes by the name Chuck Money. Specializing in soul, funk and hip-hop from the 1960s through the 1980s, Chuck (real name Charles Denno) has been entertaining area crowds for over a decade, bringing his bottomless collection of great records to the ears (and souls) of local listeners.
Chuck, 32, credits his love for music to his youth in Duluth, Minn. His parents were big R&B fans, and Chuck's wide-open ears absorbed the classic sounds of Memphis, Motown and elsewhere from early on. He stocked up on his favorite genres, including early rap, at a local used record store.
"I was an aspiring hip-hop producer, so I'd buy records for that, and also because I just loved music," he says. "I never thought I'd become a DJ, but with all these records, I just kind of fell into it."
Chuck came to Madison in 1993, attending classes at Madison Media Institute and pursuing his production ambitions. An early experience with a shady client convinced Chuck that music-related work could be a steady sideline, rather than his full-time gig. Soon, he began picking up DJ bookings. Initially he centered his sets on old-school hip-hop, but he began drifting into an R&B-centered sound. His voracious appetite for the funky sounds of yesteryear and his vast knowledge of tracks give Chuck the opportunity to extend his historically minded sets into several hours.
"I want to put out interesting music. I don't want to put them to sleep with stuff they don't know, but I try to mix in a few things they might not be familiar with."
Among his varied selections, Chuck's preference is for James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and the many sounds of Memphis soul. Chuck's a huge fan of the music from legendary Memphis studios like Stax and Hi, and it anchors every set.
Chuck runs a youth photography business by day, but his signature DJ style keeps him well employed in Madison-area venues. Among others, he does a weekly Thursday set at Genna's.
Despite his continuing popularity, Chuck doesn't have high ambitions. "It's fun for me. I'm not trying to make it my career, but it pays for my records."
As long as Chuck Money can afford good records, Madison-area audiences will be the beneficiaries of his passion for America's recent musical history.