November 12, 2016


Singer Aaron Neville's Rough Road to Salvation : The New Orleans icon on poetry, grief, and praying twice. (JACOB BLICKENSTAFF, OCT. 23, 2016, Mother Jones)

MJ: Tell me about your relationship with Larry Williams.

AN: Larry came to New Orleans around '56 and took the Hawkettes out on the road with him, but he told me, "I'll be back for you." When I got out of jail, he got me in the studio to record and took me on the road. He got tired of being misused, so he says he's going to be a pimp--he went to California and started pimping. When I went out there, he was going to manage me, but I had a contract with Minit records, so I did a few gigs with him and Etta James and Johnny Watson at the 5-4 Ballroom.

I had to do something to earn my keep. Since I didn't want to pimp, he said we've got this guy who will book some burglaries. We'd go and clean the place out, and we had rooms in a hotel out on the highway and we'd fill it up with clothes and suits and whatever. The whole time I'm saying to myself, "Lord, get me out of this, send me back home, please." So when I did get busted, I said, "Thank you, Jesus." I ended up doing time in '63 and part of '64 fighting forest fires. It was dangerous. That's when I first got into the weights. I was looking like the Hulk up in there. I was 22 years old.

MJ: The success of 1966's "Tell It Like It Is"--another local New Orleans production--caused problems in that the label, Parlo, couldn't keep up with the demand. Was that frustrating for you?

AN: They were trying to make it look like they knew what they were doing, but they didn't. They had to declare bankruptcy, so hey. I was fresh out on the streets with a hit record. I didn't have time to really think about that. I had people coming at me to manage me--they didn't have nothing to offer, they were just telling me crazy stuff. They were going to send me on the road with no music, no stage clothes, no nothing. This guy Joe Jones, who was managing the Dixie Cups and Alvin "Shine" Robinson, was a shyster, but he kinda saved the day because he came in and made sure that I had music, clothes, and pictures and stuff. He was a professional but, like I said, a shyster--he was looking out for his interests. At the time, Frank Sinatra wanted to do something with me but Joe didn't let me know about it, and messed it up. 

I never really got paid for "Tell It Like Is," but I look back at it and say God knew what he was doing; he probably figured that if I had got money back in them days I wouldn't be here now. That's okay. I'm here. And I'm still singing the song. 

Posted by at November 12, 2016 12:20 AM


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