Who was/is Raful Neal ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Raful Neal

One of the few Baton Rouge area blues men not to record for Jay Miller, Raful Neal was born in New Or- leans in 1936, raised near Baton Rouge and came to the city by the time he had taken up the harmonica. He aimed to play like his idol, Little Walter Jacobs, from Louisiana who had moved north and hit with the R&B smash Juke in 1952. In the mid-'50s Neal had a little band with Buddy Guy before forming his own group mainly playing songs by Little Walter and Jimmy Reed, not least because "that's all I could play." Slim Harpo apparently arranged for him to be on EXCELLO but Neal and Jay Miller could not get along and so Neal wound up in Houston recording for PEACOCK RECORDS. He recorded an interesting mix of blues and R&B, with a full band but featur- ing country-sounding harmonica. Crying Hard is taken at a mid- pace and was probably neither down home enough nor rocking enough to make many sales. The flipside was straight out of the New Orleans R&B school and almost too derivative to be true.

Remaining in Baton Rouge with his large family, Neal played lo- cally at regular spots including the white Carousel Club in Port Allen and the Bentley Hotel in Alexandria, along with a residency at the Streamline in Port Allen on Saturday nights. "In those days, the blacks didn't have no money, so I played for them for little or no money and then play for the whites to pay my bills." Neal be- came one of Slim Harpo's closest friends and disciples during the 1960s. Characterized as "a large, burly man with a perpetual twin- kle in his eye," Neal made occasional recording sessions for LA LOUISIANNE RECORDS of Lafayette, WHIT RECORDS in Baton Rouge and SUNLAND in Florida before making a number of albums during blues revivals in later years. He died of cancer in 2004, one of the last authentic bluesmen of his era, but leaving a legacy in the various blues and funk sounds created by members of his family, and in particular by Kenny Neal, who, like his father, has worked to keep not only a blues band together but the sound and spirit of the blues in Baton Rouge.

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Extract from: Various Artists - Blues Kings Of Baton Rouge (2-CD) - BCD17512

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