Saturday, March 05, 2011

Johnny Preston - Pop Singer - Has Died

Johnny Preston, a protege of the Big Bopper who had three top 40 records, died of heart failure in a Beaumont, Texas hospital Friday (March 4) at the age of 71. He had experienced lingering problems after heart bypass surgery last year. 

Born John Preston Courville in 1939 in Port Arthur, Texas, he attended Lamar State College of Technology (now Lamar University) and sang in a group there called the Shades, who performed at the Twilight Club in Port Neches, Texas. It was there in 1957 that Johnny came to the attention of the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), who was a DJ at KTRM in Beaumont. The Bopper got Johnny signed to his record label, Mercury, and took him into a Houston recording studio in 1958 to cut a song he had written called "Running Bear" (with fellow Texan George Jones providing the Indian cries). Release of the song was delayed for months after the Bopper's death in a plane crash, but when it was released, it traveled to #1 for three weeks in January of 1960, staying on the charts for 27 weeks. It was followed that year by "Cradle Of Love" (#7) and "Feel So Fine (#14). Though follow-ups were less successful ("Charming Billy" #105-1960, "Leave My Kitten Alone" #73-1961 and "Free Me" #97-1961), Johnny continued to perform all his life, recording for the Imperial, Hallway and Kapp labels.