Billy Preston

It is advantageous to have a head start in your chosen career. But Billy Preston went beyond that. He was already playing keyboards with Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer, by age ten. Two years later, in 1958 Hollywood’s film bio featured him as W.C. Handy, St. Louis Blues, as young Handy himself. Preston was an organ and piano prodigy, recording in the early ’60s with Vee-Jay. He also toured with Little Richard. He was an ABC TV show Shindig’s mid-’60s regular, showing his talents as both a vocalist and pianist. He also built a prestigious reputation as a session musician, backing the Beatles on their Let It Be record. Preston’s breakthrough as a solo artist was due to his Beatles connection. But it was his early-70s soul hits “Outa Space” and “Will it Go Round in Circles?” for Apple that brought him his biggest break.

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