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Big Jay McNeely

Before Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley, there was Big Jay McNeely, honking and squealing on his saxophone. Rock & roll saxophone pretty much begins with McNeely. At 90 years old, he has been wowing audiences for seven decades, tearing up stages with stellar, energetic live shows that often found him writhing around on his back, jumping into the middle of his enthusiastic audience, walking across the tops of bars, and even leading fans out the front door of clubs, all while never missing a single beat. McNeely is a true original and the last of a generation of blues/R&B musicians who inspired the early rock pioneers, and are still around to remind us where popular music came from. McNeely’s incredible career began in the ’40s and saw him play with major R&B and blues legends of the late ’40s and early ’50s such as Little Richard, B.B. King, Etta James, and Junior Wells. He scored his first No. 1 smash hit with the 1949 instrumental “Deacon’s Hop,” and scored again with the R&B vocal ballad “There’s Something On Your Mind” featuring Little Sonny Warner. He pioneered the flamboyant playing style called “honking” and is widely acknowledged as one of the first musical entertainers to make showmanship an important element of the live concert experience. In celebration of his incredible career and lasting legacy, the GRAMMY Museum welcomes Big Jay McNeely to the Clive Davis Theater for an intimate discussion followed by a special performance. The evening will be hosted by Scott Goldman, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum.

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