New Orleans musician/arranger George Davis co-wrote and produced Aaron Neville's 1967 million-selling ballad "Tell It Like It Is." Davis, a childhood friend of Neville and his brother Art, had been a member of the Hawketts, who recorded the classic Crescent City hit "Mardi Gras Mambo." Art Neville joined the group, while Aaron Neville began recording with producer Allen Toussaint. Davis teamed with saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler and ex-school teacher Warren Parker to start a production company, and Aaron, who hit a 1960 number hit with "Over You" on Minit Records, was their first signee.
Davis' writing partner, bandleader Lee Diamond, was a member of Little Richard's Upsetters, a house band for Cincinnati, OH-based King Records. Before he left on a trip, Diamond dropped off a song idea, basically a title, for Davis to work on. The idea was developed into a full song titled "Tell It Like It Is" and became one of four songs recorded by Aaron at Cosimo Matassa's studio in 1965. At the sessions were pianist Willie Tee, trumpeter Emery Thomas, guitarist John Moore, background vocalist Tami Lynn, tenor saxophonist Tyler, baritone saxophonist and Davis. Davis began to shop the recording of "Tell It Like It Is" to various record labels in New Orleans then in New York, but it was rejected.
In 1966, Davis and his partners started Parlo Records and pressed about 2,000 singles of "Tell It Like It Is" and took it to local radio stations. The record took off. Recording studio owner Matassa also owned a record distributor that handled orders for "Tell It Like It Is."
"Tell It Like It Is" held the number one R&B spot for four weeks and went to number two pop on Billboard's charts in early 1967. The flip side was the jubilant "Why Worry." There wasn't a follow-up to the hit and Parlo shortly folded thereafter.
Aaron Neville, who says he never received a gold record plaque for "Tell It Like It Is," was awarded one from Collectables Records on a segment of The Arsenio Hall Show during the late '80s. The singer, who had one of the most amazing comebacks in pop music history, had another gold record with "Don't Know Much," a 1989 number two Pop hit on Elektra and a 1991 number eight pop hit with his cover of the Main Ingredient's gold 1972 number two R&B/number three pop hit "Everybody Plays the Fool" on A&M. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi