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    Fred Neil

    Reuters, Monday, July 9, 2001: Fred Neil was found dead on Saturday at his home in Summerland Key, Florida, apparently of natural causes


    The above photograph, captioned "Bob Dylan, Karen Dalton, and Fred Neil at the Cafe Wha?, February 1961" was reprinted in the liner-notes of the Fred Neil compilation album "Everybody's Talkin'' (REVOLA CREV 021CD, 1993) and in several Dylan photo-biographies.

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    Dylan sang at the Commons, the Gaslight, and the Wha?, and occasionally when he backed someone who was getting paid he would share in the wages. But usually he got just a dollar or two. Freddy Neil was one of the first to recognize Dylan's talent and had Bob accompany him as often as he could, but the pay wasn't much.

    Anthony Scaduto, Bob Dylan, London 1972, p. 59.

    All the folk musicians were kinda into camps, right... you were either 'commercial' -- that meant you followed the tag like The Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary -- or you were 'ethnic' and played old-time traditional music the way it was... and that was, you know, the line you stuck to...

    I remember I wouldn't talk to Fred Neil, because he was... he wasn't traditional... you know... I mean, I didn't know what he did... right? And Bob played harmonica for Fred Neil for a buck a night, at the Cafe Wha?, when he first came to New York. That was the gig, right... play harmonica for Fred Neil, for a buck a night and whatever you could get on the side, a floor to sleep on... just think... amazing! Still is amazing, hasn't stopped, still going on... It's even funnier now than it was then...

    'Renaldo and Clara' -- long version -- probably 1975; transcribed by Manfred Helfert.

    I used to play in a a place called Cafe Wha?, and it always used to open at noon, and closed at six in the morning. It was just a non-stop flow of people, usually they were tourists who were looking for beatniks in the Village. There'd be maybe five groups that played there. I used to play with a guy called Fred Neil, who wrote the song "Everybody's Talking" that was in the film "Midnight Cowboy."

    Fred was from Florida I think, from Coconut Grove, Florida, and he used to make that scene, from Coconut Grove to Nashville to New York. And he had a strong powerful voice, almost a bass voice. And a powerful sense of rhythm ... And he used to play mostly these types of songs that Josh White might sing. I would play harmonica for him, and then once in a while get to sing a song. You know, when he was taking a break or something. It was his show, he would be on for about half an hour, then a conga group would get on, called Los Congeros, with twenty conga drummers and bongoes and steel drums. And they would sing and play maybe half an hour. And then this girl, I think she was called Judy Rainey, used to play sweet Southern Mountain Appalachian ballads, with electric guitar and small amplifier. And then another guy named Hal Waters used to sing, he used to be a sort of crooner. Then there'd be a comedian, then an impersonator, and that'd be the whole show, and this whole unit would go around non-stop. And you'd get fed there, which was actually the best thing about the place...

    Bert Kleinman Interview, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, NYC, NY, Jul 30, 1984.

    Bert Kleinman Interview, 1984
    (RealAudio, 924 KB)

    Fred Neil was a local celebrity. He had groupies. He had people carrying his guitars. He had people giving him drugs.

    Freddy Neil was an enigma. He went in until the water was up to his neck and then he got out. And that was every time.

    There were a bunch of musicians who got lost. The first musician that I knew of who got lost was Fred Neil. People like Mike Mann learned a lot at the feet of Fred Neil. When a musician copies somebody's style, like Mike did with Fred. you also copy their lifestyle. You idolize the person. The person is on drugs, then you take this for what the style is as well. Look at Mike now.

    That bass voice Fred had! He'd hit those low notes very clearly and straight ahead. What a great singer. Freddy influenced me a lot as far as singing goes.

    All quotes from Robbie Woliver, Hoot! A 25-Year History of the Greenwich Village Music Scene, New York, NY, 1986, p. 121.

    Freddy Neil never wanted to make it really, although he really tried. With Freddy it was a whole self-destructive thing. Freddy goes all the way back to the days of the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly. As a matter of fact, I think he played in Buddy Holly's band, with the gold lamé suits and everythin'. He ended up in Miami being very carefully fed and cared for by his old lady. He would come to New York really looking fit and it would take about three weeks for him to string himself out completely.

    The Rolling Stone Interviews, Vol. 2, New York, NY, 1974, p. 177.

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