Oral History Spotlight: Leo Nocentelli

Elizabeth Dale

For NAMM’s Oral History Program, one new and much anticipated interview to be collected among the many others at The 2020 NAMM Show was that of Leo Nocentelli, best known for his work as a musician and songwriter for the popular funk band, The Meters.

Leo Nocentelli

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Nocentelli hails from the musical streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, and spoke at length during his interview about what it was like to grow up in a city with such deep musical heritage. His journey as a musician began by learning the ukulele and making the switch to guitar at the ripe old age of 12, which led him to cross paths with icons such as Fats Domino when he was just a boy. At age 14, Nocentelli was backing notable musicians such as Otis Redding and Clyde McPhatter and you could even hear the sounds of Nocentelli’s guitar on the session work of the Supremes, Temptations, and Spinners.

Drafted into the Army in 1964 didn’t slow down the work of Nocentelli as he spent his leave recording session work in New Orleans. After his two years of obligated service, Nocentelli joined Art Neville and the Neville Sounds, a seven-piece band that two years later whittled down to Nocentelli, Art Neville, George Porter, and Ziggy Modeliste. These musicians would form the foundation for The Meters when they recorded “Sophisticated Cissy” and “Cissy Strut,” both of which were penned by Nocentelli, under The Meters name. After the commercial success of “Cissy Strut,” The Meters went on to record eight studio albums until the band parted ways in the 1970s.

Since then, Nocentelli has remained a staple in the music scene touring with Jimmy Buffet in the 1980s, influencing the Los Angeles session scene, continued to perform with George Porter, and still performs with Meters-inspired lineups.

  • Leo Nocentelli BIM
  • Leo Nocentelli BIM

Nocentelli was honored at The 2020 NAMM Show with a “Believe in Music” Award which is presented to individuals or NAMM Member Companies that have made a meaningful impact on the music products industry. During his Oral History interview, which can be seen in its entirety at https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/leo-nocentelli, Nocentelli reflects on what this award among others means to him and his NAMM Show experience.