Bill Neely: Storied Country & Blues Singer Pioneered the Austin Singer-Songwriter Tradition
Previously Unavailable Recordings from 1965-1985
Austin, TX: Often referred to as Austin's first singer-songwriter, Bill Neely blessed Austin's club and festival stages between 1949 and his death in 1990, bridging the gap between the origins of American country blues and the modern Texas singer/songwriter tradition. Sixteen previously unavailable Neely recordings are included in this CD from Lost Art Records.
The CD captures Neely's best compositions including, Crying the Blues Over You, Blues on Ellum, Satan's Burning Hell, and the autobiographical Blackland Farm, in which Neely recalls his 1930 encounter with Jimmie Rodgers, his biggest musical influence. The CD also includes Rock 'n' Roll Baby, a tune Neely says he penned in 1941, leading to his claim of having "started rock 'n' roll." On the CD Neely covers Jimmie Rodgers' Hobo Bill's Last Ride, and Ella Speed, a song written by Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb, a close friend and musical influence.
Born in McKinney Texas in 1916, William Tom Neely settled in Austin in 1949 after years of "hoboing" the country during the Great Depression and serving in WWII. Until his death from leukemia in 1990, Neely regularly performed an authentic brand of Texas country and country-blues music in Austin's clubs and at it's festivals, setting the stage for a burgeoning scene of notable singer-songwriters to follow.
In his early years in Austin, Neely hooked up with fellow Jimmie Rodgers admirer Kenneth Threadgill, playing often at the informal Wednesday night music sessions that included Janis Joplin and a new generation of musicians at Threadgill's restaurant on North Lamar between 1962 and 1965. A string band called the Kenneth Threadgill's Hootenanny Hoots emerged from those Wednesday night sessions that included Neely on lead guitar and vocals. Playing around Austin from the mid-1960s through the early 1970's, the band performed a variety of traditional country and folk tunes, including a number of blues and Texas-country songs written by Neely.
Neely performed as a solo artist for the last two decades of his life, playing in such colorful Austin clubs as the Alamo Lounge and Spellman's and on stages from Washington, DC, to Paris, France.
The first 12 songs on this CD were broadcast as Live Set on KUT 90.5 FM at the University of Texas, Austin on February 24, 1985. Neely is accompanied by his long-time partner, Larry Kirbo on second guitar. Also included are four songs recorded by musicologist Tary Owens on July 6, 1965. Those songs include a Neely original, two traditional country tunes, and Law & Justice, the words to which were penned by Neely's relative Ira McKee from Huntsville Prison in 1930 while awaiting execution for a crime he did not commit.
None of the sound recordings on this CD have been previously available. Neely's only commercial recording was an album entitled Blackland Farm Boy, which was released on the Arhoolie label in 1974. (Arhoolie 5014, re-released in 2001 as Texas Law and Justice on CD #496.)
For more about Bill Neely, visit www.lostartrecords.com