Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ringo's All-Starrs: A Postcard from the Top of the Heap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ringo's All-Starrs: A Postcard from the Top of the Heap

Article excerpt

IN the beginning, it was fate that launched the association between noted session player Billy Preston and the rock 'n' roll band that many rank as the greatest ever.

Preston was a 16-year-old keyboard prodigy when he joined Little Richard in 1962 for what they believed to be a gospel tour of England. It wasn't until the tour began that they discovered their co-stars included the legendary Sam Cooke, and a couple of local acts - Gerry & The Pacemakers and the Beatles.

Preston recalls establishing a friendship with George Harrison and Ringo Starr even then. Harrison invited the young black man to sit in with the Beatles, but Preston declined. Still, his performance on the tour left a lasting impression. Not only did Cooke sign the musician to his record label, but a lifelong relationship with the Beatles began.

Over the years, Preston was a valuable sideman for the Fab Four, appearing on such songs as "Get Back" and "Let It Be." He was the first American to receive label credit on a Beatles recording, and earned the right to be called the "fifth" Beatle.

So it came as no surprise when Preston accepted Ringo Starr's invitation to join his first All-Starr Band in 1989. However, in 1992, other commitments kept the keyboard player off the tour. This year, no such conflicts existed, so Preston will be on the Budweiser stage at 2 p.m. July 2 when Ringo and company roll into St. Louis.

One look at the group of backup musicians assembled for this outing confirms the respect Starr has earned among his colleagues. This year's ensemble includes guitarist Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the Guess Who; guitarist Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad; keyboardist Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals; and bassist John Entwistle of the Who. Completing the lineup are sought-after sax player Mark Rivera and drummer Zak Starkey, Ringo's son.

Speaking by telephone from Japan, where the tour began last month, Preston explained his feelings for Starr. "He's been my buddy for a long time and I love him so. We're like brothers. We kind of grew up together. In the early days, before they (the Beatles) made it big, we became friends, and we remained friends all these years. …

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