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Passings: Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers (1938 - 2018)

by VVN Music

Charles Neville, one of the four original Neville Brothers, died this morning at his home in Massachusetts at the age of 79. According to a source, he had been sick for some time.

Charles, born in 1938) was the second born of the four brothers which also includes Art (b. 1937), Aaron (b. 1941) and Cyril (b. 1948). The family was based in New Orleans and, in the early-50's, Charles backed such artists as Johnny Ace, Jimmy Read and B.B. King.

In 1956, Neville joined the Navy and was stationed in Memphis where he continued to be immersed in the music and, when he was done, joined the band of Larry Williams but soon fell into a life of crime and spent time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary for marijuana possession. Once paroled, he went to New York and, eventually, came back to New Orleans.

Meanwhile, his brothers had formed  the Neville Sounds in the early-60's and, in 1966, Aaron had a major hit with "Tell It Like It Is".

In 1976, the Neville's uncle, George Landry, convinced them to come into the studio to back him up for his album The Wild Tchoupitoulas.  The four went into the studio as brothers helping a family member and came out as The Neville Brothers who would go on to decades of success representing R&B and the sound of New Orleans.

Charles played horns with the band who released their self-titled debut album in 1978. While the Neville's, as a whole, never had a major commercial breakthrough, they were always admired critically and kept a core audience through those records and their touring, including a traditional yearly role at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Neville finally beat his addictions in 1986 after going through a program in Eugene, OR and continued playing with his brothers until they broke up in 2012.  Until he became too ill to tour, he was a member of his brother Aaron's live band. He also was part of the New England Nevilles with two of his sons.

Update: Aaron Neville has written a tribute to his brother:

My dear brother Charlie the horn man, just want you to know that if I would’ve had the choice of picking my brothers, I would definitely choose you. You were a great brother. You’ll always be in my heart and soul, like a tattoo. You helped to mold me into who I am today and I’ll always be thankful. I’ll always see your special infectious smile on the stage next to me, it would always give me a smile. I’m happy that we had a long hang together, the ups and downs. It took who we were and where we came from to make us who we are. And you are a great brother Charlie the horn man. I know you have a spot in the heavenly band next to James Booker, James Black, Herbert Hardesty, Fats Domino, Johnny Adams all the jazz bebop players who you turned me on to. Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Miles and the list goes on. Momee, Poppee, Jolly Cookie, they are all waiting on you. Some of my greatest memories are of growing up with you and family. Back in the Calliope projects, whenever I had a loose tooth, I remember you playing Tarzan and knocking it out for me. Or you would tie the string to my tooth and slam the door. Or when Mommee would leave you to watch us, you would play cowboys with us and we’d let you tie us and gag us and leave us in the closet til Momee came home, so you could read your novel. She’d say Charles where are the children? You would say, “oh they’re upstairs in the closet, we were having fun being tied up as cattle rustlers or something.” Lol, so all and all you will be missed deeply by everyone that you came in contact with. The way you brought us around the world with notes from your horn, sometimes. I would forget what I was doing while listening to you blow, like on “Caravan”, that brought us to India or Arabia, or like “Besame Mucho”. Or your solo on “Fever” or anything that came out of your horn. So dear horn man you take your well deserved rest with God in Heaven and play with the heavenly band. I know that you’re whole again. Jesus will wrap you in His loving arms and take away all the hurt of the world. We all love you very much. But I know that Jesus loved you best.

Love and respect always my brother, your big lil brother Aaron.