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R.I.P. Charles Neville

We at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of Charles Neville of pancreatic cancer at age 79. The second oldest of the Neville Brothers, Charles appeared on the show with his siblings three times, in 1979, 1986 and 1995. The sax-wielding New Orleans native began his career backing various New Orleans-based R&B acts, before enlisting in the Navy. Upon release, he joined songwriter Larry Williams’ band before moving to New York, gigging constantly and building his jazz chops. He returned to New Orleans in the mid-70s at the behest of his uncle, Big Chief Jolly of the Wild Tchoupitoulas, to form the Neville Brothers with Aaron, Art and Cyril. Acclaimed albums like Fire On the Bayou and Yellow Moon and many celebrated tours and performances followed. The Brothers dissolved as a unit in 2012, but by then the Massachusetts-based Charles had already established himself as a jazz artist, as well as leading the New England Nevilles with his sons.

“Charles Neville was ‘the horn man’ ​in The Neville Brothers,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “​Each of the four brothers had their own distinct sound, but Charles, with his saxophone, brought a uni​que energy to what was to become one of the most popular and influential bands ever to emerge from the New Orleans music scene. ​They were one of the first acts I booked in my first year as ACL Producer, and we were honored to induct them into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame last year.”

Here are Charles and his brothers performing “Yellow Moon,” with his snaky sax giving one of the Nevilles’ most famous songs its signature sonic stamp.