On today's episode, we welcome John Neff, Portland resident recently retired from a very long, productive, and fascinating career in music and recording. John started playing guitar at the age of 10 while growing up in Pontiac, Michigan. He formed The Ascots at 14, writing and recording the garage-rock classic "So Good", hanging out with future Detroit-based rock stars Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, and the MC5, and opening for groups like the Turtles, the Who, Shades of Blue, and the Capitols.
Two more groups followed – The Tribe and Toad and the Mushroom – before he got a steady job playing guitar in Motown/Stax producer Don Davis’s house band, backing some very big names such as Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Mary Wells, the Spinners, and Billy Paul. From there, he played bass guitar for Steppenwolf in the late 70s, then with Hoyt Axton and Redeye.
In 1979, John quit the music business, for the time being, married, and moved to Maui. He was asked to deejay at a local radio station, and that turned into a popular and long-running morning show. John was there for the birth of Jawaiian music, a mix of Jamaican reggae, Hawaiian pop, and a touch of Motown soul.
While living on Maui, John met Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and partnered with him to build a recording studio. There he worked as audio engineer on Becker’s solo album “11 Tracks of Whack” and again on Donald Fagen’s “Kamakiriad”.
After a stint in Phoenix running his own recording studio. John moved to Los Angeles and collaborated with filmmaker David Lynch on the soundtrack and audio for The Straight Story, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire. He also did the sound mix for DVD releases of Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and Eraserhead.
From L.A., John moved to Portland to be closer to family. And here he built and ran a sound studio called The Lab. John retired, or so he claims, just a few months ago. But music’s in his blood, and he continues to take on a few production gigs while also playing bass in the Portland band Christie Josef and the Purpose.