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Li’l Ray Neal is known as The “Gentle Giant of the Blues”. As described by BB King himself as having a big, bold sound, from gentle, soothing solos into raging blues riffs emulating The King with his expressive solos and vocal presentation. He was awarded “Lucille” one of BB King’s iconic Gibson guitars. He was asked to perform on it at BB’s memorial service at the National Blues Museum. When BB’s long-time guitarist fell ill he called in Li’l Ray and stating “he is the man for the job.”
Li’l Ray was brought up in the prolific Neal family. His father, Raful Neal Sr. was a well known bluesman in his own right having performed and recorded with many greats. He insured that each of his children were exposed to the distinctive sounds of Baton Rouge Blues. As Li’l Ray states, “we didn’t get bicycles and baseball bats for Christmas, Pop always gave us musical instruments”. He felt that would get them further in life. For Li’l Ray, that has been the case. He has performed across the world with blues greats like The King himself, BB King, “Little Milton” Campbell. Buddy Guy, “Bobby Blue Bland”, “Big Mama” Thorton, James Cotten, Bobby Rush, his brother Kenny Neal as well as many others.
Right off the stage at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival, Neal has brought the blues to many stages around the world including all the major festivals and venues. From the Apollo Theater to the Chicago Blues festival, King Biscuit festival, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival to the Monterey Jazz festival and the Blues on the Green festival. He has toured Europe many times. He was even petitioned by “Stash” of Guns and Roses to teach him blues stylings and licks for his performances.
Li’l Ray has garnered his own style and said his influences were many, from his own father Raful Sr. to Little Milton, BB King, Buddy Guy and that it was never unusual, while growing up to sit around after dinner talking and jamming with any of these family friends like those and Slim Harpo who would stop in to see his dad. These were the years that the unique sound of Baton Rouge Blues was formed and the Neal family was a major part of that then and they continue to this day.
If you haven’t caught Li’l Ray yet, now is the time as he embarks on his latest tour of the South starting with the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and continuing on though Florida and Alabama.