Previously in the book: Nebraskan Hal Neely began his career touring with big bands and worked his way into Syd Nathan’s King records, producing rock and country songs. Along the way he worked with James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, who referred to Neely as his favorite uncle. Eventually he became one of the owners of Starday-King, until the other owners bought him out.He found himself sitting further back in music industry room. He eventually moved to Florida.
(Author’s note: Chapters in italics are Neely’s memoirs.)
In 1989 we decided to move to Winter Garden, a suburb of Orlando, Florida, where she had friends. We sold our condominium for a good price. Victoria’s college roommate Ann now lived with her husband in central Florida. We gave a lot of our things away, sold the rest of our furniture and shipped the things we wanted to keep including kitchenware, bedding, clothing, etc. We kept only Victoria’s car and headed for Orlando. We took our time and enjoyed the trip. In Florida I became active again in the music business. We did things together with Ann and her husband Charlie who lived close by. Victoria was offered a sales manager job at a new Days Inn on the west side of Orlando. We moved into a large nice two-bedroom apartment in a nice area.
My divorce from Mary was finalized on October 23, 1990. The next day Victoria and I were married in Orlando, Florida. That same year Victoria enrolled at the University of South Florida in Tampa. We traveled three times a week between Orlando and the university. In 1991 I had prostate surgery and a pacemaker inserted. We moved to Tampa into a big rental house with our friend Dr. Arthur Williams. After the house was sold, Victoria and I lived in several Tampa houses and apartments.
Victoria and her best friend Ara Rogers were working for Lee Levengood in the USF student affairs department. In 1992 Victoria became a department head in the USF College of Public Health under Dr. Betty Gulitz. She (Victoria) developed fibromyalgia, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. In 1993 Victoria was appointed on a special grant to be administrative assistant to USF Provost Kathleen Moore, reporting to Dan Gardiner. She fell and broke her foot and was in a wheelchair. I cared for her. In 1995 Victoria graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
In December of 2004 Victoria and I, and two couples who were related to Victoria went on a one-week cruise to the Caribbean. It was a great time and we had fun.
However, on Feb. 12, 2005, Victoria and I had a bitter disagreement. My music business and her career at the University of South Florida were incompatible. She moved out to live with her friend Ara Rogers. I moved out of the apartment in March to stay with Roland Hanneman and to be close to the Clarence Simmons family in Orlando. (Another new friend he had met in Florida.) In April John Wise (Victoria’s brother) came to Tampa and helped Victoria move her stuff into storage. I did not see Victoria for several months. She moved into her own apartment in the Carrollwood section of Tampa.
In the meantime, James Brown worked steady–one nighters and concerts, working out of New York City. His international fame led him to Europe and Africa. He was the most popular American artist on the continent. His American dates diminished, and he spent more and more time abroad in Europe, Africa and South America. He was getting older–but, always James Brown–dancing and singing.
I sued James Brown in Orlando federal court in 2005. On the witness stand under oath he “claimed not knowing a Hal G. Neely or any association with Mr. Neely.” Never even heard of me. My lawyer asked to approach the bench and placed in front of the judge a folder of King legal documents (contracts etc.) signed by James Brown and Hal Neely. The judge awarded all James Brown “phonograph master recordings and tapes to Hal G. Neely, subject only to legal applicable royalties, commissions and fees.” I saw a black man turn white.
He was one of the great icons and talents of our current global music era. It is unfortunate that in his later career and life he became a liar and a cheat. He has not kept faith with those who helped him. So be it.
Roland Hanneman sold his house in Orlando in 2005 and built a big new house off Croom Road in Brooksville, Florida, 40 miles north of Tampa. I rented a nice one-bedroom apartment in the Candlelight Apartment Complex in Brooksville. I lived alone with my music. I didn’t have a car and couldn’t walk, but I had good neighbors. I was 84 years old and living on my Social Security. I had no fear of death, but I didn’t intend on volunteering anytime soon.
Roland Hanneman and Clarence Simmons, music associates and friends for many years, moved me on June 5, 2006, into Tangerine Cove, an assisted living community in downtown Brooksville. By this time I was 86 years young and very happy. With my mobility scooter, I was able to get around.
I had always been an Irish/Scotch Protestant– born a Methodist, joined and supported the Presbyterian Church for years. My friends George and Bobbi Rubis took me to their church several times. Pastor Vic McCormick, his wife LaDonna and Abe Guillermo were its leaders. Abe taught Sunday morning’s lesson. He was a brilliant man and the best Christian scholar I ever met. Abe baptized me in the swimming pool at the home of Gene and Sharon Bell. Most of the congregation attended.
James Brown was getting older too. He spent more and more time on his estate in South Carolina across the state line from Macon, Georgia. His daughters ran his office in Macon. He married again and had a son. A problem arose because his new wife’s divorce had never been finalized.
James died suddenly on Christmas Day 2006. His will left all his assets to his five living children from previous marriages. There was a problem with his new wife and their son because they had not yet remarried. It went to the courts to determine the inclusion of this wife and their young son.
I was invited to his funeral but had to decline. I was 86 years young and could no longer travel. We had known each other for 41 years.