Charles Neville formed Turquoise
with brother Art and some friends in the early '50s. Life and the Navy led Neville out on the road, gigging with everyone from Jimmy Reed
to B.B. King
and Bobby "Blue" Bland
. A member of the house band at the renowned Dew Drop Inn, Neville played with some of the biggest names in his hometown, including Allen Toussaint
, James Booker
, Huey "Piano" Smith
, and Ernie K. Doe
. A drug conviction landed him a stay in Angola prison, whose alumni roster reads like a who's-who of New Orleans musicians. With influences like these, no wonder Charles Neville became the eclectic musician he is today.
He returned to New Orleans to play with his brothers in 1977. Being a member of the First Family of Funk has made him world famous. But for years, the Nevilles
produced great music that was seldom heard outside of the Crescent City. Some of their best work is on Treacherous (1986), which incorporates everything from Mardi Gras Indian songs to Aaron Neville
's top-charted "Tell It Like It Is." Little they have done since can compare with the album's gospel finale. When Aaron Neville
asks his brother Charles the Horn Man to blow for them one time, he really does. Or witness his burning sound on "Fever" on the same CD.
Much as they were revered in their hometown, the Neville Brothers
' ascent to superstardom had to wait until the musical collaboration between Aaron Neville
and Linda Ronstadt
woke up the rest of the world to what they had been missing. Aaron Neville
's career as a soloist points up a key fact about the Neville Brothers
. Each has his own separate musical identity: Cyril Neville
with his reggae rhythms, Art Neville with the Meters
, and Charles Neville with his group Diversity.
Known for ethereal performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Diversity followed the masterful lead of Charles Neville. Drawing from the immense pool of fine musicians in New Orleans, from Johnny Vidacovich
to Michael Ray, anything became musically possible. The group produced a CD in 1991 entitled And Diversity, which gives the listener a good overview of their amazing range.
Diversity is still part of Charles Neville's repertoire, along with the huge body of recordings and personal appearances the Neville Brothers
have made in the past decade. Charles Neville's talented daughter, Charmaine Neville
often joins her father on-stage.
In 2001, Neville released The Painter, in which he truly does paint with music on classics and original tunes. Also released in 2001 was Safe in Buddha's Palm, in which a seasoned and spiritually minded Charles Neville pays homage to eastern philosophy, the healing power of the feminine, and the wealth of his musical tradition. ~ Rose of Sharon Witmer, Rovi