Johnny Neel is a singer/songwriter/musician based in Nashville, Tennessee, but had humble beginnings in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was born on June 11, 1954. He is widely known for his time spent writing, singing and touring as a member of The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and the Dickey Betts Band.
Although he is best known for all of that, Neel has written many songs that have been recorded by Gov’t Mule, The Oak Ridge Boys, Delbert McClinton, Travis Tritt and many more. He has also appeared on recordings with The Allman Brothers Band, David Allan Coe, Michael McDonald, Warren Haynes, Gov’t Mule and others. His discography is quite impressive and lengthy regarding the number of projects he has either written, co-written and or recorded on all over the country.
He got a very early start as he cut his first single at the young age of 12. “Talking About People” was the title and it got lots of radio play in the Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania areas and became a hit. Then later on in 1984, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and his talent was quickly noticed by another Nashville resident at the time, Dickey Betts.
Betts asked Neel to join his touring/road band and away they went. That relationship was quite successful as it lead to recording an album with Betts. Neel’s talent of being a keyboard player, harmonica player and writer prompted Gregg Allman to invite him to be a member of his touring/road band, and later he was asked to join The Allman Brothers Band. Neel co-wrote several songs with Allman, Haynes and Betts that were recorded on the album “Seven Turns,” released in 1990. The big hit and chart-topper that he co-wrote on this album was “Good Clean Fun.”
After accomplishing all of this there was more to come of him playing and recording with other musicians. One that comes to mind is Blue Floyd, which was a star-studded lineup covering Pink Floyd tunes like nobody has ever done before in such a cool way with their twists on the music and actually making it their own.
Since then, Neel has toured with many musicians and recorded several projects of his own and has brought in many great players from past relationships. One that comes to mind is former member of The Allman Brothers, Jack Pearson. Pearson appeared with Neel and it helped put his music back into a more blues-based format.
In a previous article, I made mention of Johnny Neel and said “more on him later.” Well, this is now later and I must say, Johnny is one of the nicest, most humble “rock stars” one would ever want to meet.
I arranged for him to join Idlewild South for a show at The Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro on Oct. 26. We had him flown in from Nashville on the day of the show.
Being blind since birth, Johnny must have some assistance so we brought in two very good friends of the band and they took care of him and his needs. They picked him up at RDU Airport in Raleigh, took care of his meals and transported him to and from the venue and then back to the hotel and then back to RDU for for his return to Nashville the next day. So many thanks to Beth Brooks Gardner from North Carolina and Luchas Manus from Texas for taking very good care of our special guest.
Once again, Idlewild South went above and beyond to give our fans what they want and that is a quality show — and one never knows who might be on the stage with us as a special guest. Bringing Neel in certainly brought many of his fans out to see this show and from the response everyone was super pleased — and some very surprised — for us to have him on the bill with Idlewild South.
Bringing in musicians from the inner circle of The Allman Brothers Band is one of the many ways we try our very best to continue the legacy of that band and the music that fulfilled the hearts and minds of so many for decades.
Johnny sent me a message and he said, “Thanks John, it was a pleasure to share the stage with Idlewild South who truly represents the love The Allman Brothers were all about. Can’t wait to do it again.”
I was very happy to have received this heartfelt message from him. I must say it was quite special for Idlewild South to have had the honor of spending so much time with him and sharing the stage with such a large talent with a resume like his.
After some recent phone discussions, we are actively working on a few more dates with him in 2019. As many of you are aware, this is a very large family of musicians and loyal fans of this great music. We intend doing our part of keeping it alive and fully expect to extend it into generations to come. As we all know “The Road Goes On Forever.”