Billy Preston's Debut Resurfaces After 45 Years
ABKCO Records will release 16 Year Old Soul, the album that launched the recording career of the remarkable Billy Preston on February 22.
The release marks the album's availability for the first time in more than 45 years.
16 Year Old Soul reflects the legacy of Sam Cooke's SAR label, one of the first African American-owned and operated record companies, and was recorded as a result of the enthusiasm that Cooke and J.W. Alexander, his SAR partner, evinced for the young Preston. To their brilliant ears, the teenage Billy Preston was the embodiment of the term "musical prodigy."
In 1958, before his career as a key collaborator with such major artists as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, the Jackson 5, Barbara Streisand and many others, the stage was set when an 11-year-old Billy Preston portrayed W.C. Handy, "The Father of the Blues," as a child in the film St. Louis Blues. Nat "King" Cole starred as the adult Handy. Soon thereafter, and prior to the recording of 16 Year Old Soul, Preston began gaining wider recognition in both gospel and R&B circles.
16 Year Old Soul is an album of percolating organ-fueled instrumentals that offers insight into the roots of one of the music world's most innovative and genre-busting stars who died at the age of 59, in 2006. With songs covering a broad spectrum of styles from country ("Born to Loose") to R&B ("Good News") to jazz ("God Bless The Child") with pop and blues undertones aplenty, 16 Year Old Soul is a preserved-in-amber glimpse of an artist whose musical maturity belied his years.
Shortly after the album's original release, Preston broke through to a national TV audience as the hyperkinetic young keyboard player in the Shin-diggers (later renamed the Shindogs), the house band on Shindig!, ABC's weekly network live music series. His Shindog band mates included, among others, Glen Campbell, Delaney Bramlett, Leon Russell and James Burton.
Preston's strong relationship with the Beatles -- he is the only artist to ever share billing with the Beatles at their direction on a record label ("Get Back" is credited to 'The Beatles with Billy Preston') -- led to an Apple Records contract and the hit "That's The Way God Planned It." His backing band on the record was Keith Richards (bass), Eric Clapton (lead guitar), George Harrison (rhythm guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums). He performed the song at Madison Square Garden at The Concert For Bangladesh. He later toured with the Rolling Stones in the 1970s and backed the group on numerous albums including Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup and Black and Blue, which made Preston the only outside musician to have played with both the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
Similarly, 16 Year Old Soul showcases an all-star backing group featuring legendary drummer Earl Palmer with Clifford Hils on bass and Eugene Edwards on piano. Later in his career, when he was signed to A&M, Preston's instrumental side shone through once more with his #1 Billboard R&B hit "Outta Space."
16 Year Old Soul, a kind of musical time machine, offers Billy Preston fans a unique opportunity to gain insight into the roots of a great artist who can only be defined as the "musician's musician."
16 Year Old Soul - Tracklisting: