Interview with Preston Love, August 6, 1982
Scope and Contents
An oral history interview with Preston Love, concerning his status as a jazz musician. Love was born in Omaha in 1921. Over the course of his life, he became one of the most well-known jazz musicians in the Midwest. The Love family, like many black families during the 1930's, knew economic hardship. However, Love recounted a day that his older brother Thomas "Duke" Love brought home a newly purchased saxophone. Thomas went on to learn how to play from other musicians and Love eventually followed in his older brother's footsteps. Love remembered significant music groups from his childhood, such as Ted Adams, Dan Desdunes and the Dixie Ramblers. He also recalled visiting the Lake Theater, a building that later became a night club known as Jim Bell's Harlem. For Love, the great swing musicians of the 1930's were Earl "Fatha" Hines, Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie. Whenever a new record was released by his favorite artist, Love would buy it for the price of 37 cents. He would then listen to the music and learn it by ear, though he could also read music.
Love's first big career break came in 1942 at the Dreamland Ballroom. Earl Warren recruited Love to play for Count Basie's orchestra as an interim member. From Omaha, it was on to Chicago and then to New York. Love had vivid recollections of black life in New York during the 1940's. In Harlem, Love sometimes stayed at the Theresa, Braddock and Cecil Hotels. Though many jazz historians cite a club below the Cecil Hotel as the place where the Be Bop style began, Love disagreed with this viewpoint. He also did not feel that Charlie Parker, who is often credited with the birth of the Be Bop style, had any political intent when creating his music. Love recalled other major figures form 1940's Harlem, including Willie Bryant, Adam Clayton Powell and his wife, Hazel Scott. Love later moved to Los Angeles and became familiar with night clubs like the Alabam and the Plantation Club. He also became acquainted with celebrities like Lena Horne, Louise Beavers, and Billie Holiday.
In 1948, Love left Count Basie's band and returned to Omaha where he organized his own group. He played at the Dreamland and the Carnation Ballroom, as well as throughout the Midwest. Love disagreed with the division between East Coast and West Coast jazz musicians in the 1950's that many historians claim to have existed. He also felt that the real creators of rock 'n' roll were black musicians like Little Richard, rather than white performers like Elvis and the Beatles. He felt that most of the famous white artists were media creations who became popular because of the images they projected. After the Preston Love Orchestra disbanded in 1962, Love returned to the west coast and began working for Motown Records. He felt that there were great contributions by black musicians in the 1960's that led to the creation of a rich rhythm and blues style of music. However, he did not consider later movements, such as disco and Reggae, to be truly valid expressions of culture.
In the late 1970's and early 1980's, Love went on multiple European tours. He was impressed with Europe's great appreciation and knowledge of jazz music. He felt that this was very different form Omaha, where people did not value the historical significance of North 24th Street and its contributions to the national music scene. He felt that this lack of knowledge inhibited efforts to revitalize the area, by locals and officials alike. Love was a man who spoke frankly. He was sometimes described as opinionated and even anti-white. While he admitted that he had strong opinions, he denied that he was against white people. However, he was convinced that the misuse of black culture was part of a broader pattern of subjugation of black people in America. As an artist, he was angered by what he saw as the corruption of creativity and talent by capitalist industries. The interview was conducted by Alonzo Smith on August 6th, 1982.
- August 6, 1982
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Original format: audiocassette tape; Digital format: mp3
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