Big Jay McNeely Biography

Cecil James McNeely, 29 April 1927, Los Angeles, California, USA. As a tenor saxophonist McNeely was one of the pioneers of the wild, honking style and acrobatic stage show that emerged in the dancehalls during the late 40s. The definitive tune of this style was ‘The Deacon’s Hop’, which reached number 1 in the Billboard R&B chart in 1949. His ‘Wild Wig’, which went to number 12 in the same chart the same year, was McNeely’s only other chart record in this style. He returned to the charts in 1959 with the classic ‘There Is Something On Your Mind’ (number 5 R&B/number 44 pop), but vocalist Little Sonny Warner was the focus rather than McNeely.

After years spent working as a mailman and promoting the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious sect, McNeely revived his career in the 80s with a series of reissue albums on his own label. His new recordings were mainly released in Europe only. He has an acquired taste, and one that grates after prolonged listening. This type of music should be experienced in a live setting and along with Junior Walker, Johnny Paris and King Curtis, McNeely defined the style.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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