Saxophonist Charles Neville, a founding member of the Neville Brothers and the father of singer Charmaine Neville, died Thursday at his home in Massachusetts. He was 79.
His brother, Aaron Neville, told Eyewitness News that Charles had been sick for some time. The New Orleans Advocate reported the cause of death as pancreatic cancer.
Charles was the second-oldest of the four brothers who made up the Neville Brothers. The group for many years was the closing act on the last Sunday of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Neville grew up in the Calliope housing development. He toured with bands in the 1950s that backed up musicians including B.B. King, Jimmy Reed and Johnny Ace.
For all the success he had, Neville also had his troubles.
He served time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in the early 1960s for possession of marijuana. While behind bars, he continued to perform with other imprisoned musicians, including pianist James Booker and drummer James Black.
Shortly after, he moved to New York City to perform with various artists before he returned home to New Orleans.
An album he and his brothers made in 1976 at the behest of his uncle, George Landry, aka Big Chief Jolly, of the Wild Tchoupitoulas, led to the formation of the Neville Brothers, who merged funk, soul and New Orleans rhythm and blues. The group became internationally famous in the decades to follow.
The Neville Brothers stopped performing in 2012, but Charles Neville continued to perform as a member of his brother Aaron’s band as well as with local acts.
Charles Neville moved to Massachusetts after he got married, and his wife’s parents gave the couple land on which to build a house, according to The Advocate. He also said he was ready to get away from the crime in his hometown.
He performed in Massachusetts with two of his sons as the New England Nevilles.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Thursday.