Courtesy photoHoliday show: Aaron Neville’s concert at the Palace

Aaron Neville gets back to his doo-wop roots

In junior high, rhythm and blues singer Aaron Neville chose an unusual location from which to launch a career — the boys’ lavatory. But that’s where he and his first teenage doo-wop group hid to practice their intricate harmonies.

“We loved the bathroom because it had good acoustics, and you’d get a sound like the Flamingos or Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels,” says the 71-year-old. “Sometimes a teacher would run us out, but he’d always stand back and listen awhile before he let us know he was there. Then he’d bark ‘All right, you kids! Get back to class!’ But he didn’t realize that I was in class at the time.”

Indeed. Neville, either with his familial outfit the Neville Brothers, or solo, as on the breakthrough 1967 hit “Tell it Like it is” — went on to become one of soul’s most definitive stylists. His crystalline quaver is recognizable in a single note.

Fans can savor that voice tonight in a Christmas-themed San Francisco concert, and also marvel over it in January upon the release of his debut disc for Blue Note, “My True Story.” The recording of all doo-wop covers was co-produced by Don Was and Keith Richards, who plays guitar on every track.

The Richards-Neville match is made in retro-rock heaven. They tear it up on “Money Honey,” “Be My Baby,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Work With Me Annie,” with backing vocals from Richards-recruited doo-wop kingpins Bobby Jay (The Teenagers), Dickie Harmon (The Del-Vikings) and the Jive Five’s Eugene Pitt, who originally co-wrote the title track.

Was, recalling that Richards was a huge Jive Five fan, suggested him for the sessions. “We did 23 songs in five days, and everyone was just having a ball. You can actually hear the musicians smiling on this record,” says Neville.

Neville has always been fascinated with this genre: “My brother Art had a doo-wop group, and they would sit out on the park bench at night and sing harmonies, where they taught me those harmonies, as well,” he says. “And me and my sister used to sing along with the radio while we were washing dishes. We’d harmonize on everything with anybody. She sings with the Dixie Cups today.”

The team may continue the series, even recruit Dion and Paul Simon for duets. Neville is glad for the early washroom training, during which he was never once bullied. “Back in those days, I was a singer, but I was a fighter, too,” he says. “So if anything, I would’ve been doing the beating up!”

IF YOU GO

Aaron Neville

Where: Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. today

Tickets: $55 to $75

Contact: (415) 567-6642, www.ticketmaster.com

Aaron NevilleartsentertainmentmusicPop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police release an image a cracked windshield on a Prius that Cesar Vargas allegedly tried to carjack. Vargas, who was shot by police a short time later, can be seen in videos jumping on the windshield and pushing a Muni passenger who disembarked from a bus. (Courtesy SFPD
SFPD releases videos of deadly police shooting

Cesar Vargas killed after reports of carjacking with knife

New legislation would make sure supportive housing tenants don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner))
Supportive housing tenants could get more help paying the rent

Supportive housing tenants struggling to pay rent could soon see their payments… Continue reading

Organizers of the San Francisco International Arts Festival had planned to use parts of Fort Mason including the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery to host performances by about a dozen Bay Area arts groups. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Arts festival sues city over permit denial

Organizer says outdoor performances should be treated like demonstrations, religious gatherings

An oversight body for San Francisco’s mental health programs may be restructured after questions were raised about its management and lack of effectiveness. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Behavioral health oversight body looks for new start — and staff — after mismanagement

Members of an oversight body for San Francisco’s behavioral health programs said… Continue reading

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

Most Read