A Surprise Visit With Aaron Neville

I had just walked down the stairs from the second floor studios of WTIX, a major Rocker in New Orleans, and into the blindingly bright Louisiana sun when I heard a voice behind me say: 'Hey are you in the record business?' Since there weren't many other folks in the Citie's Business District wearing stacked heeled, bubble toed blue boots with yellow roses embroidered on the sides, tight jeans, a Three Dog Night T-shirt and leather messenger bag on his shoulder, and long, but thinning hair, I figured he was talking to me.

I turned around to see a big, pumped up black man, in jeans, a white t-shirt, and his body including face decorated with prison tattoos. He held up a paper bag and said: "My name's Aaron Neville and I have 2 hit records in this bag I'll sell you for $500 dollars." I asked if he was the same Aaron Neville who had recorded the great ballad, "Tell it like it is," and he replied that he was, and had served some time in prison but was on the street and ready to sing again.

I explained that it wasn't my job to buy masters or sign artists, but would be happy to send the tapes into our A&R department in Hollywood. Aaron shook his head and said that he needed the money right now and would try to sell them somewhere else.

I more or less forget about the meeting until I saw in the trade mags that he'd been signed to a recording contract, and began a meteroic comeback with his near soprano vibrato voice suddenly on the radio again. In 1989 he teamed with Linda Ronstadt for some wonderful duets that took him to super star status, and later united with his musically talented brothers for recording and tours. Truth is, if I had been in a position to try to sign him I probably wouldn't have, and that would have been a huge mistake.

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