Happy Birthday Art Neville. The founder of the New Orleans funk band the Meters would have been 84 today. Growing up in the city Neville and his brothers started performing at an early age with Art playing piano. Influenced by R&B, doo-wop and local piano giants like Professor Longhair, Neville joined the Hawketts in high school and recorded Mardi Gras Mambo with Art on vocals.

In the early 1960s he and his brothers formed the Neville Sound and after some band mates left the group, they changed their name to the Meters. Early on the band was mostly improvisational and they developed a sound later referred to as New Orleans funk.

The Meters developed a following amongst the rock stars of the day, and in 1975 Paul McCartney invited The Meters to play a party on the Queen Mary in California.  Mick Jagger was at the party and was enamored with the Meters and their sound. From that exposure the Stones invited the Meters to tour with them in the US in 1975 and in Europe in 1976.

After the Meters run ended, Art and his brothers went on to form the Neville Brothers and win two Grammys with the group. Art Neville and the Meters also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The improvisational style that emphasized rhythm over melody employed by the bands had a lasting influence on hip hop and even more so on jam bands. Art Neville described his love of improvisation as “The best part, to me, is when the [rhythm] just evolves into some other stuff.”

The man known as “Poppa Funk” retired from performing in 2018 and passed away the following year.