Kellie Pickler was named 'Dancing With the Stars' champion on Tuesday (May 21), with…
- Posted on Mar 7th 2011 11:40AM by Brian Voerding
Preston was born Johnny Preston Courville in Port Arthur, Texas in 1939 and lived there most of his life. His first foray into performing was as a college student at Lamar University, where he played with a band called the Shades. During a show at a local nightclub, he caught the attention of DJ and producer J.P. Richardson, better known as the Big Bopper.
Richardson announced Preston to Mercury Records in 1958, and wrote and produced a number of singles for him before Richardson died in the infamous plane crash in February 1959 that also took the life of Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
One of those singles, 'Running Bear,' came out later that year. The lyrics told the classic Romeo and Juliet story of unrequited love, between Running Bear, a "young Indian brave," and the "Indian maid" Little White Dove. During the teenage tragedy, Richardson, along with country singer George Jones, shouted war cries and chants in the background. The single's content, which may sound outrageous today, mirrored much of the cultural attitudes toward Native Americans at the time and generated little controversy.
The song was tremendously popular, charting in the top position of Billboard's Top 100 for three straight weeks in January 1960. It also topped charts in England and was released in several countries. It was covered frequently in the ensuing years, most notably by Led Zeppelin, who often performed it live during tours in the 1970s.
Preston followed with a few more hits, including 'Feel So Fine' and 'Cradle of Love' in 1960 and a cover of 'Leave My Kitten Alone' the following year. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and continued to perform as late as 2009, when he played a show in his hometown.
"He was my best friend in the world," his son, Scott Preston, told KFDM. "We were just friends. He was a great family man. He was the moral compass for the whole bunch of us. His persona was always pretty cool. That was him in real life, too. He never got rattled."
Peterson is survived by his wife, Sharon, four children and a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.