There aren’t many families with roots as deep as the Nevilles have in the New Orleans music scene. It’s a whole lot of talent: The family that originated with Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril back in the 1950s has spread out to include Ian and Ivan Neville. Together, they currently play in Dumpstaphunk, a funk group hitting the stage at the Essence Music Festival this weekend.
It’s precisely because of the breadth of that spread that we’re now presenting an informal guide to the Nevilles, New Orleans’s first family of music, ahead of Essence Fest.
The core Neville Brothers grew up playing in and around New Orleans, and each took circuitous routes to making music together. They finally came together unofficially as The Neville Brothers in 1977 and released their debut album as a group in 1978. Here’s a closer look at the group’s individual efforts.
The eldest Neville, Art was a founding member of pioneering funk band The Meters, whose loose-limbed instrumentals you have definitely heard in any number of films and TV shows, even if you didn’t know it was them. Art got his start as a session musician in the 1950s and has steadily continued to record and perform, including on Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade.”
You’ve probably heard Aaron’s quavering falsetto on “Tell It Like It Is,” a vintage piece of New Orleans R&B that was on the R&B chart for five weeks in 1967 and sold over a million copies. But did you know that Aaron met his second wife, Sarah A. Friedman, on a PEOPLE photo shoot in 2008?
Primarily a percussionist, Cyril played with his brothers in both The Meters and The Neville Brothers. As of late, he’s worked with funk band Galactic and Gregg Allman’s son Devon.
Ivan, Aaron’s son, has his own band, Dumpstaphunk, who are playing Essence Fest this weekend. He formed the group in 2003 – after a career that saw him contribute to two different Rolling Stones albums and play in Keith Richards’s solo band the X-Pensive Winos.
Art’s son Ian (the youngest Neville) grew up steeped in New Orleans funk: He was playing in his dad’s bands by his early teens and learned guitar from Meters members Leo Nocentelli and Brian Stoltz.