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Big Jay McNeely

As one of the titans who made tenor sax the solo instrument of choice during rock's primordial era, Big Jay McNeely could peel the paper right off the walls with his sheets of squealing, honking horn riffs. His mighty tenor sax squawking and wailing with wild-eyed abandon, McNeely blew up a torrid R&B tornado from every conceivable position -- on his knees, on his back, even being wheeled down the street on an auto mechanic's "creeper" like a modern-day pied piper.

Cecil McNeely and his older brother Bob (who blew baritone sax lines with Jay in unison precision on some of Jay's hottest instrumentals) grew up in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, where jazz reigned on the bustling nightlife strip. Inspired by Illinois Jacquet and tutored by Jack McVea, McNeely struck up a friendship with Johnny Otis, co-owner of the popular Barrelhouse nitery. Ralph Bass, a friend of Otis, produced McNeely's debut date for Savoy Records in 1948 (Savoy boss Herman Lubinsky tagged the saxist Big Jay, in his eyes a cooler and more commercial name than Cecil). McNeely's raucous one-note honking on "The Deacon's Hop" gave him and Savoy an R&B chart-topper in 1949, and his follow-up, "Wild Wig," also hit big for the young saxist with the acrobatic stage presence.

From Savoy, McNeely moved to Exclusive in 1949, Imperial in 1950-1951, King's Federal subsidiary in 1952-1954 (where he cut some of his wildest waxings, including the mind-boggling "3-D"), and Vee-Jay in 1955. McNeely's live shows were the stuff that legends are made of. He electrified a sweaty throng of thousands packing L.A.'s Wrigley Field in 1949 by blowing his sax up through the stands and then from home plate to first base on his back. A fluorescently painted sax that glowed in the dark was another of his showstopping gambits.

In 1958, McNeely cut his last hit in a considerably less frantic mode with singer Little Sonny Warner. The bluesy "There Is Something on Your Mind" was committed to tape in Seattle but came out on L.A. disc jockey Hunter Hancock's Swingin' imprint the next year. McNeely's original was a huge smash, but it was eclipsed the following year by New Orleans singer Bobby Marchan's dramatic R&B chart-topping version for Fire. Since then, it's been covered countless times, including a fine rendition by Conway Twitty.

Honking saxists had fallen from favor by the dawn of the '60s, so McNeely eventually became a mailman and found religion, joining the Jehovah's Witnesses. Happily, his horn came back out of the closet during the early '80s. McNeely went on to record for his own little label and tour the country and overseas regularly. Big Jay remained active well into the 21st century; in 2014 he released a collaboration with the group the Engenius, and in 2016 he dropped an album that mixed re-recordings of his classic hits along with new material titled Blowin' Down the House: Big Jay's Latest & Greatest. ~ Bill Dahl
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Life Story

1. Rock And Roll

2. Mellow Dry

3. Go On

4. Funky Bug

5. We Gonna Boogie

6. Deacon In Minor

7. That's Bad Boogie

8. Blow Your Brains Out

9. The Jam

10. The Story Of Big Jay's Life

11. 1-2-3-4

12. Da Groove

13. We Gonna Boogie (Bonus Cut)

x

Track List: Welcome To California

1. Palomino Ride

2. Welcome To California

3. Estrella

4. There Is Something On Your Mind

5. Rockin' On A Rainy Night

6. I Can't Stop Loving You

7. Coop Deville

8. Whirlwind Woogie

9. A Funk South Of Bakersfield

10. Chantilly Lace

11. Big Jay Shuffle

x

Track List: Nervous

1. Nervous Man Nervous

2. Big Jay Shuffle

3. 3-D

4. Roadhouse Boogie

5. Real Crazy Cool

6. Body And Soul

7. Deacon's Hop

8. The Goof

9. Insect Ball

10. Tenderly

11. There Is Something On Your Mind

12. Back…shack…track

13. I Got The Message

14. Nervous Man Nervous (Undubbed Original)

15. Texas Turkey

16. She Don't Work

17. 3-D (Alternate Version)

18. Nervy Man Nervy

19. Deacon's Hop (Live)

x

Track List: Crazy (More 50's Hits, Rararities, Live Cuts, And Alternative Takes)

1. Blow,Blow, Blow

2. Salt & Pepper

3. Tall Brown Woman

4. Deacon Blows For Ray

5. The Goof

6. Mule Milk

7. Texas Turkey

8. 3-D

9. Rock Candy

10. She Don't Work

11. Hot Cinders

12. My Darling Dear

13. Minnie (45 Version)

14. Beachcomber

15. Just Crazy

16. Penthouse Serenade

17. Psycho Serenade

18. I Got The Message

19. Bamboo Vamp

20. Oh, What A Fool

21. You Send Me

x

Track List: The Best Of (1948-1955)

1. Rock Candy

2. Three Blind Mice

3. Big Jay's Hop

4. Just Crazy

5. Blow Blow Blow

6. Insect Ball

7. Boogie In Front

8. Blow Big Jay

9. Hot Cinders

10. Strip Tease Swing

11. Junie Flip

12. Sunday Dinner

13. Cherry Smash

14. All That Wine Is Gone

15. Hardtack

16. Barrel House Stomp

17. Willie The Cool Cat

18. Deacon Rides Again

19. Jay Walk

20. She Don't Work

21. Mule Milk

22. Road House Boogie

23. The Goof

24. Night Ride

25. Man Eater

26. Nervous Man Nervous

27. K & H Boogie

28. Don't Cry Baby

29. Big Jay Shuffle

30. Ice Water

31. 3-D

32. Old Black Mule

Comments

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I only wish I could forget you will live with me in my mind and heart for ever
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I know when I look at you I have something on my mind
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now this is what you call an oldie this is a bad song
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now this is what you call oldies this a bad song
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Now that's musics para abailar heart to heart hush ur fuss and swing it round e round the bound ,but not a bounty in this here country,texa s , i miss the beach in sunny California riding with my honey on the side walking in to the sun set.
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Rdd
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Skating ring in Central LA
The Savoy

Karen
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This song reminds me of my Tia Prieta...lol yup.....you go Tia sing it!!!
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Is there is something on your mind........ . . good old days
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Awesome
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bandafamily1 1 1
Firme
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I had a chance to see Big Jay perform ,86 years old and was on top of his game ! , Now i am a fan for life !
Report as inappropriate
Lol I'm second :) bt this song is one of many great oldies songs
Report as inappropriate
Yay my favorite song and the first to comment :)

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