Kenny Neal Biography

14 October 1957, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. The oldest son in Baton Rouge’s most famous musical family, six of whom are professional musicians, Neal was groomed throughout the 90s for blues stardom, but in a time of transition it remains an aim rather than an achievement.

Neal accompanied his father to gigs from an early age, was given his first harmonica by Slim Harpo at the age of three, played piano onstage three years later, and at 13 stepped into the breach when Raful Neal needed a bass player. In 1976, he played bass in Buddy Guy’s band. Four years later, he moved to Toronto and brought his brothers north to work as the Neal Brothers Blues Band. Later, he joined the Downchild Blues Band, then Canada’s top blues band. In 1984, he moved back to Baton Rouge to assemble another band. When he accompanied his father on the Louisiana Legend album, King Snake owner Bob Greenlee signed him to a solo contract. Bio On The Bayou created a stir on its release in 1987; Alligator Records boss Bruce Iglauer leased the album, remixed it and changed its title, and acquired Neal’s contract.

In 1991, Neal took a role in the Broadway production of Mule Bone, a musical version of a play written by poet Langston Hughes and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. He won that year’s Theatre World Award for the most outstanding new talent appearing in a Broadway play. Walking On Fire features two songs, ‘Morning After’ and ‘Bad Luck Card’, on which he set Hughes’ poems to music. Bayou Blood dispensed with the horn sections normally present on Neal’s records, updating the 60s Excello Records sound. Hoodoo Moon reflected the increasing maturity of his talents and the promise of eventual success. Neal has subsequently recorded several albums for Telarc Records, and although Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain disappointed some his 1999 collaboration with Debbie Davies and Tab Benoit, and the following year’s What You Got were well received. His tribute album to Slim Harpo was part recorded when his father died of cancer in 2004 and the project ended up by having a tragic twist with his father being added to the title.

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

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