Big Jay McNeely Biography
An influential tenor saxophonist, Big Jay McNeely formed a band with Sonny Criss (alto sax) and Hampton Hawes (piano) while he was still in high school in the mid-1940s. In 1948 he began recording for Savoy Records, scoring a #1 R&B hit with "Deacon's Hop" in 1949. He pioneered a raucous, honking style of playing, and his acrobatic stage antics were well known. While performing, he would often leave the stage and play from the audience or on top of the bar. In the 1950s he performed with vocal groups, then retired from the music business in the early 1960s. In 1983 he began performing again.