Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1959 Preston Epps – Bongo Rock

Preston Epps began playing the drums in the early fifties. His first taste of the big time probably came when he played percussion on the Penguins’ 1955 recording of Earth Angel. While he could have continued as a drummer, he switched to playing Calypso music on the bongo drums.

Preston became proficient on the bongos, and wa soon touring with such artists as Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Johnny Otis, and Sam Cooke. He even played the bongos in the film Calypso Heat Wave in 1957 and headlined in Las Vegas.

Art Laboe began his career as a disc jockey in California in the forties and may have been the first disk jockey to take live requests for dedications on the air. He started Original Sound Records, his own record label, in 1959. When he heard Preston perform a fifteen minute solo on the bongo drums, Art invited him to record a single (but insisted on a much shorter version of the solo). Art and Preston got credit as the co-writers of Bongo Rock. The single reached #14 on the Hot 100 in 1959, making it the first hit single on Art’s new record label.

Preston released a series of bongo-related singles, but the only other single to reach the Hot 100 was Bongo Bongo Bongo, which peaked at #78 in late 1959.

Later in 1959, Art began releasing a series of albums called Oldies But Goodies, starting with volume 1 and going through at least volume 15. The album covers bravely promised “Original Artists Original Recordings,” and many of the songs were in stereo. Art sucessfully trademarked the term “Oldies but goodies.”

The song, Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me Of You) by Little Caesar and the Romans, came out two years later in 1961, not in the fifties!

Preston continued performing until his death in 2019.

Art is still spinning oldies on the air.


My books are on sale on Amazon (or free with Kindle Unlimited) and contain a lot more Lost or Forgotten Oldies. You can visit my author page to see them.

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