Born James Preston, 18 August 1913, Chester, Pennsylvania
Died December 1984, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Alto sax blower Jimmy Preston is another one of the legion of postwar R&B figures that can accurately be cited as a genuine forefather of rock & roll. His chief claim to fame: the blistering 1949 smash "Rock the Joint" (# 6 R&B), which inspired a groundbreaking cover by Bill Haley & the Comets in 1952. "Rock the Joint" wasn't Preston's first trip to the R&B Top Ten. Earlier in 1949, he'd hit with "Hucklebuck Daddy" (# 4). Both were cut for Ivin Ballen's Philadelphia-based Gotham logo. The scorching sax breaks on "Rock the Joint" weren't Preston's doing, but tenor saxist Danny Turner's. Preston cut rather prolifically for Gotham through much of 1950 (including a session with jazzman Benny Golson on tenor sax) before switching to Derby Records and scoring his last hit, a cover of Louis Prima's "Oh Babe" (with a vocal by Burnetta Evans, # 5 ). The moment for Jimmy Preston soon passed. By 1953 he had given up music for the church. Meanwhile, a Chester homeboy named Bill Haley had recorded a hopped-up country version of his record. The guitar solo on that version of "Rock The Joint" would be repeated note for note on "Rock Around The Clock".

Further reading: Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, What Was the First Rock 'n' Roll Record? (Boston : Faber & Faber, 1992), page 52-54.

Available CD's: Rock The Joint (Collectables, 1991, 14 tracks) 1948-50 (Flyright, 1995, 20 tracks).

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