He won a talent contest in 1981 which led to an opening gig for his musical idol, Charley Pride. Shortening his name to the phonetic spelling of McGoy, he first recorded for the independent 16th Avenue label (for which Pride was also recording at the time) before said label closed. He then moved to Atlantic Records where he began recording as Neal McCoy.
While his first two Atlantic albums had little success, he would go on to have a commercial peak between 1994 and 1996 with the albums No Doubt About It, You Gotta Love That!, and Neal McCoy. These albums established his musical persona, mixing lightweight uptempo material and impassioned ballads while also finding a calling as an energetic stage performer. Among his best-known songs in the 1990s were the uptempo "Wink" and the smooth ballad "No Doubt About It".
Despite diminishing radio success later in the decade, McCoy has continued to record well into the 21st century. He had a momentary return to radio success with "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" in 2005, and achieved media attention in 2017 for his patriotic Protest Song "Take a Knee, My Ass (I Won't Take a Knee)".
McCoy also has an unusual heritage for a country musician, being of Philippine and Irish ancestry.
From 2005 to 2007, McCoy owned the independent 903 Music label, whose talent roster also included the Drew Davis Band and Darryl Worley.
- At This Moment (1990)
- Where Forever Begins (1992)
- No Doubt About It (1994)
- You Gotta Love That! (1995)
- Neal McCoy (1996)
- Greatest Hits (1997)
- Be Good at It (1997)
- The Life of the Party (1999)
- 24-7-365 (2000)
- The Luckiest Man in the World (unreleased; was slated for a 2003 release)
- That's Life (2005)
- XII (2012)
- Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride (2013)
Tropes present in his work:
- The Alcoholic: The subject of "If I Was a Drinkin' Man" is about a recovering alcoholic and the emotions he feels after his drinking destroyed his relationship.
- Beer Goggles: The subject of "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" is a man who loses all inhibitions when intoxicated.
- Chronological Album Title: XII
- The City vs. the Country: "The City Put the Country Back in Me". The country boy moves to the city, but gains a newfound appreciation for his upbringing when he realizes that city folks listen to country music, too.
- Country Rap: He was known to rap the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies in concert. This later became the "Hillbilly Rap" on his Self-Titled Album.
- "Days of the Week" Song: "Forever Works for Me (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) has the line "I can see you Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday / How 'bout Friday night?"
- Excited Show Title!: You Gotta Love That!, although the title track lacks this.
- Happy Rain: "Now I Pray for Rain": the rain is both a metaphor for him escaping a bad relationship for a good one, and a literal reason for his lover to stay inside and make love.
- How Many Fingers?: Spoken at the end of "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On".
- Listing Cities: "The Shake":Gary, Indiana; Mobile, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona; Bismarck, North Dakota
New York, LA, Houston, Tampa Bay
London, Tokyo, everywhere you go...
- The Power of Love: "Love Happens Like That":In the blink of an eye at the drop of a hat
We went from zero to love in nothing flat
And you smiled at me and before I knew
I was head over heels over you
Love happens like that...
- Spell My Name with an S: His original stage name, McGoy, is a phonetic spelling of his birth name McGaughey. Due to fans interpreting this as the more common McCoy, he chose to adopt this as his name upon moving to Atlantic.
- Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: "The Shake" is about various women turning men on by shaking their butts.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change:
- "Love Happens Like That" shifts from F to G at the last chorus.
- "I Was" shifts from G to A at the chorus, and then back down for the verses.