Often referred to as Austin’s first singer-songwriter, Bill Neely blessed Austin’s club and festival stages between 1949 and his death in 1990, bridging the gap between the origins of American country blues and the modern Texas singer-songwriter tradition.

Born in McKinney, Texas in 1916, William Tom Neely settled in Austin in 1949 after years of “hoboing” the country during the Great Depression and serving in WWII. 

Until his death from leukemia in 1990, Neely regularly performed an authentic brand of Texas country and country-blues music in Austin’s clubs and at it’s festivals, setting the stage for a burgeoning scene of notable singer-songwriters to follow.

In his early years in Austin, Neely hooked up with fellow Jimmie Rodgers admirer Kenneth Threadgill, playing often at the informal Wednesday night music sessions that included Janis Joplin and a new generation of musicians at Threadgill’s restaurant on North Lamar between 1962 and 1965.  A string band called the Kenneth Threadgill’s Hootenanny Hoots emerged from those Wednesday night sessions that included Neely on lead guitar and vocals.  Playing around Austin from the mid-1960s through the early 1970’s, the band performed a variety of traditional country and folk tunes, including a number of blues and Texas-country songs written by Neely.

Neely performed as a solo artist for the last two decades of his life, playing in such colorful Austin clubs as the Alamo Lounge and Spellman’s and on stages from Washington, DC, to Paris, France.

Bill Neely at My Space

The Handbook of Texas: Bill Neely