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Neal James (2019), 'Banjo Man' on Animal Planet's 'Call of the Wildman'

Animal Planet / David Yellen

Banjo player turned popular reality-show star dies at 55

Neal James was an American banjo player and reality-show star who appeared on Animal Planet’s Call of the Wildman from 2011-2014, called “The Banjo Man.” He appeared on the show alongside his friend, Ernie Brown Jr., known as “The Turtleman.”  

We invite you to share condolences for Neal James in our Guest Book.  

Died: Friday, February 1, 2019 (Who else died on February 1?)  

Details of death: Died in his home in Kentucky of natural causes at age 55.  

What we’ll remember: Neal James had a natural way of connecting with people and knew just how to entertain a crowd with his curious personality and energetic bluegrass music. Although he suffered from heart-related issues prior to his death, James continued to volunteer at a local addiction treatment center as a mentor for people battling substance abuse. 

Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.  

Memorable quote: ‘There is nothing like the good times I’ve had with music and being able to share it. Music is a language of its own, and when you can share that feeling — that emotion — there’s nothing like a good campfire and having somebody playing banjo or guitar.” (From an interview in Banjo Newsletter.) 

What people said about him: “It’s a sad day because Neal had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever known. He was loved by not only this community but all over the world.” — Jayme Phillips, friend  

Full obituary: Lexington Herald-Leader

Related lives:

• Richard Harrison, (1941-2018), "The Old Man" on the History Channel's "Pawn Stars"

• Joel Taylor (1980-2018), costar of the Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers"

• Dr. Brandon Rogers (1987-2017), contestant on "America's Got Talent"

We invite you to share condolences for Neal James in our Guest Book.