Ivan Neville Has Rock in His Head

There are several things you could say about Ivan Neville’s career, but the most immediately noticeable aspect is that it appears to be a triumph of good bloodlines over bad nutrition.

Sitting in a conference room at his record company in Burbank, discussing the latest entries on his long, varied resume--a new solo debut LP, and recording and touring with Keith Richards--Neville polishes off a lunch of barbecued potato chips, a Hershey bar, Coke, popcorn and M&Ms.;

The wiry singer-songwriter is quick to acknowledge that his eating habits are suspect but quicker to acknowledge the benefits of growing up the son and nephew of the stellar New Orleans-based Neville Brothers, with whom he played keyboards.

“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Neville, 29, says between chips. “They gave me so much knowledge.”


At the same time, his album, “If My Ancestors Could See Me Now,” operates as a declaration of independence from the Brothers’ slithering New Orleans R&B; in favor of gleaming, punchy, modern rock ‘n’ roll--some bouncy, some racing, some hard-edged, some slow and smooth. But definitely rock.

“That’s where I’m from,” he says. “I’m like the extension of the family. I mean, I can play some New Orleans stuff. That’s the reference point. But it’s got to go somewhere else, and that’s where I’m taking my branch of the tree.”

Neville tells of some Doubting Thomases who felt that by peeling off in this musical direction he would hit a dead end. Among their concerns: His music might slip through the crack between white radio and black radio formats, resulting in minimal air play. But the first single, “Not Just Another Girl,” has already cracked the Top 50--and is still climbing--pretty much shooting that theory.

A related concern of these naysayers: “Somebody asked, ‘Who said the black guy can play rock ‘n’ roll?’ ” to which Neville replied: “Keith (Richards) said I could play rock ‘n’ roll. If Keith says I can play rock ‘n’ roll, I’ll play rock ‘n’ roll.”


In fact, he will play it with Keith . After a couple of local shows opening for Eddie Money--tonight at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim and Friday at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles--and some East Coast dates supporting Robert Cray, Neville will hit the road as keyboardist in Richards’ band, the Expensive Winos.

He will pull double duty some nights, opening for Richards before joining him. While another performer might seek as many opening slots as possible, this cool customer wants to use the opportunity sparingly. “I don’t want to do too many of them, make it overkill,” he says, now working on the M&Ms.; “I mean (opening) will be good for my record. But there’s going to be some nights when I want to be strictly a Wino.”

Ivan Neville opens for Eddie Money tonight at 8 at the Celebrity Theatre, 201 E. Broadway, Anaheim. Tickets: $18.50. Information: (714) 999-9536.

LIVE ACTION: Warren Zevon, breaking in a new band he calls the Patrician Homeboys that includes ex-Eagles member Timothy B. Schmit and veteran Los Angeles sideman Dan Dugmore, plays tonight and Friday at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. The Cruzados open. . . . For folk fans, Alistair Anderson, a highly regarded concertina and bagpipe player from northern England, performs tonight at 8 in the cozy confines of the Shade Tree stringed instrument shop in Laguna Niguel.