Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jackie Neal -- Gone Too Soon

Daughter of internationally renowned Baton Rouge blues man Raful Neal, "Jazzy Jackie" was born on July 7, 1967, the eighth of ten children.  A hairdresser and owner of Jazzy Jackie's Beauty Salon in Baton Rouge, Neal released four CDs on small independent labels (The Blues Won't Let You Go, 1995; Lookin' for a Sweet Thang, 2000; Money Can't Buy Me Love, 2002; Down in da Club, 2005) all characterized by an eclectic blend of soul, pop, funk, and blues.  Since the mid-1990s, Neal's career was steadily building in the Southeast thanks to airplay on black radio stations in cities such as Mobile, Birmingham, and Baton Rouge.  In support of songs like "Nooky Thang," "Right Thang, Wrong Man," and "Twurk It," Neal crisscrossed the region by bus often playing weekend gigs.  In early-2003, Neal met James Haskell White at her concert in Baton Rouge.  White wooed the singer with flowers and for a time drove her tour bus until his increasing jealousy over her access to fans prompted the entertainer to end their relationship in December 2004.  Unwilling to accept the breakup, the 39 year old threatened to kill Neal and, in early March 2005, punched the windows out of her car in the parking lot of a local nightclub.

On March 10, 2005, Neal, 37, was getting a manicure at T'Nails and Hair Salon on 4369 Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge prior to a weekend tour in Alabama.  At 6:00 P.M. White entered the crowded shop and calmly talked to Neal before leaving without incident.  He returned ten minutes laters, however, fired a shot from a .45-caliber revolver into the ceiling, and yelled "Get the fuck out of here!"  During the mass exodus out the front door, White shot customer Angela Myers, who survived the attack.  Neal, now alone with White in the shop, was not so fortunate.  The singer's estranged lover shot her three times, laid on her body, then shot himself in the chest.  Neal was pronounced dead at the scene while White, briefly hospitalized under police guard, survived and was charged with first-degree murder (Neal) and attempted murder (Myers).

As the killer recuperated in hospital with a cop posted outside the door of his room, Baton Rouge said goodbye to a performer many felt was just beginning to be recognized as a major talent.  Nearly 3,000 mourners thronged Neal's funeral service in the Great Hall at the Bellemont where the singer, her lips and eyelids painted red and her hair close-cropped on the sides and spiked on top, lay in state for hours.  The massive turnout led one family member to comment, "I just wish they could have turned up for her like that while she was living.  If she could have had this much love when she was living, how great would that be?"  Neal was buried in Roselawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum.

Photo:  William Tatum
Found mentally competent to stand trial in December 2005, White was advised by counsel to accept the D.A.'s offer of life imprisonment rather than risk a proceeding where death by lethal injection loomed as a probable outcome.  In January 2006, Neal's family (who approved the plea offer) was in a Baton Rouge courtroom where they expected White to accept the generous deal.  At the last minute, however, the killer stunned everyone by insisting that he go to trial.  White's attorneys were busy preparing for a pre-trial hearing in February 2006 when he informaed them that he was now ready to accept the deal.  Later that month, White pleaded guilty to the original charges and was sentenced to a prison term of life plus 50 years.  As of March 2014, Inmate #507066 was incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.


  1. Great research and writing of this article! I love me some Jackie! I blast her music every day.. Gone too soon. RIP

    -Gildra, Birmingham, Al

  2. Beautiful music - I wish I had knew about her long before. Her music is played in Houston, TX and Tucka radio station on google music like it is brand new.