Guitarist/Songwriter/Producer. I have been in the recording industry for over 35 years and have seen the world and lived my life through music. I believe that inspiration is the byproduct of hard work. I thank my friends, family and fans plus, all the amazing musicians I have worked with over the years for all that I have…
Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Jeff’s earliest musical influences came via his parents record collection, his favorites being The Everly Brothers and Chubby Checker. However, it was the British Invasion of 1964 and primarily The Beatles, that really inspired Jeff. By the time he was 11, Jeff was playing bass and singing in any neighborhood band that could perform recognizable versions of Foxy Lady by Jimi Hendrix or You Keep Me Hangin’ On by the Vanilla Fudge. It was also during those early years that Jeff discovered two of the greatest things about being in a rock and roll band… girls and cigarettes.
At 14, Jeff switched from bass to guitar. He went down to the local pawn shop/pool hall and traded in his bass for a cheap electric six string. It was a shrewd business move that he would inform his parents about a week or so later. Always supportive, Mom and Dad weren’t quite sure about this but after an energetic version of Hendrix’s “The Star Spangled Banner” they were truly convinced… it was already too late.
By the mid 70’s Jeff was enjoying success on the Western Canadian club scene with his band Shama. Another popular band on the circuit was Kenny Shields and Witness. It was during this time that Jeff met Kenny, Daryl, Spider and Bob and he got to see for himself how good those guys really were. When Streetheart came out, Jeff followed the band’s career as both a friend and as a fan and when Jeff was given the opportunity to audition for Streetheart in the spring of 1981, it was likely his passion and knowledge of the band that secured him the job. Jeff’s debut album was the self titled “Streetheart” and this record would go on to become the band’s biggest seller of all time. Jeff co-wrote all of the songs on that album with Kenny, Daryl and Spider and it would be the first in a series of platinum awards that Jeff would subsequently earn throughout his career.
After Streetheart broke up in 1984, Jeff returned to his home in Vancouver and began building a reputation for himself as a session guitarist. In the spring of 1986 he was asked to do a tour in the US with Australian icon Jimmy Barnes. What started out as 3 months of shows opening for ZZ Top grew into an 11 year career that would ultimately see Jeff move to Australia and tour worldwide with Jimmy. Jeff lived in the south of France and London during the early 90’s as they focused on Jimmy’s expanding European market. Jeff would earn several multi-platinum records as a writer and guitarist with Jimmy and together they would headline hundreds of shows and share the stage with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Sting and INXS amongst many others.
Jeff Neill returned to Canada in 1997 and put his energy back into the recording studio working as a writer and arranger for Disney. He was also a featured composer and performer on numerous international television and radio advertising campaigns during that time period. Jeff had been doing some Streetheart shows off and on until late in 2003 when he and Kenny agreed to have at it one more time and Jeff has been back with the band since then. Jeff Neil brings his considerable experience and influence to the stage every night and his enthusiasm for the music and the fans is obvious. When he isn’t involved with Streetheart’s business or renovating his house and studio, Jeff continues to work as a music producer/composer and plays an active role in artist development and management.
Jeff chillin with musicologists/DJ’s in Canadian FM radio, Howard Mandshein. Howard is an ardent and extremely knowledgable scholar of rock and roll, its history and its culture. Over the years I have had the privilege of countless discussions with H about music and its influence both off the record and on air @ CITI-FM in Winnipeg.
Thank you Howard for all that you have done in keeping Streetheart on the airwaves and in the hearts of our fans and for reminding me of the power within the music. It is my great pleasure to call you a friend and I look forward to the next time we get to catch up. Here’s H and myself backstage at Assiniboine Park earlier this month just before he brought us on for our show.
Photo courtesy of Brenda Craig Werntz .
Jeff intends to break par this year and knows that two of the most important things about being in a rock and roll band are, always remember where you come from and if you ever get lost, stop soloing and get back to the groove.