ABKCO Records has released “16 Year Old Soul,” the album that launched the recording career of the remarkable Billy Preston.The release marks the album’s availability for the first time in more than 45 years. The album is available digitally at all online music retailers.
‘Soul’ reflects the legacy of Sam Cooke’s SAR label, one of the first African American-owned and operated record companies, and was recorded as a result of the enthusiasm that Cooke and J.W. Alexander, his SAR partner, evinced for the young Preston. To their brilliant ears, the teenage Billy Preston was the embodiment of the term “musical prodigy.”
Cooke and Alexander had, in fact, tapped Preston to play on the sessions for Cooke’s legendary Nightbeat album, recorded in February of 1963. They were so taken with his manifest talent that they immediately signed him to a recording deal with Derby Records, SAR’s sister label.
Just one month later, the sessions for Preston’s very first album, 16 Year Old Soul, took place and the record was rush released that June. Thus, this historic album highlights the brilliance of a pop/rock/soul/gospel legend at the start of his ascent to stardom.
This is an album of percolating organ-fueled instrumentals that offers insight into the roots of one of the music world’s most innovative and genre-busting stars who died at the age of 59, in 2006.
With songs covering a broad spectrum of styles from country (“Born to Loose”) to R&B (“Good News”) to jazz (“God Bless The Child”) with pop and blues undertones aplenty, 16 Year Old Soul is a preserved-in-amber glimpse of an artist whose musical maturity belied his years.
Shortly after the album’s original release, Preston broke through to a national TV audience as the hyperkinetic young keyboard player in the Shin-diggers (later renamed the Shindogs), the house band on Shindig!, ABC’s weekly network live music series. His Shindog band mates included, among others, Glen Campbell, Delaney Bramlett, Leon Russell and James Burton.
Preston’s strong relationship with the Beatles — he is the only artist to ever share billing with the Beatles at their direction on a record label (“Get Back” is credited to ‘THE BEATLES with Billy Preston’) — led to an Apple Records contract and the hit “That’s The Way God Planned It.” His backing band on the record was Keith Richards (bass), Eric Clapton (lead guitar), George Harrison (rhythm guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums).
“16 Year Old Soul,” a kind of musical time machine, offers Billy Preston fans a unique opportunity to gain insight into the roots of a great artist who can only be defined as the “musician’s musician.”
16 YEAR OLD SOUL - TRACKLISTING:
1) Greazee (Alexander, Preston, Smith)
2) Lost and A’ Lookin’ (Alexander, Jordan)
3) I Can’t Stop Loving You (Gibson)
4) Born To Lose (Brown)
5) Ain’t That Love (Smith)
6) Bring It On Home To Me (Cooke)
7) God Bless The Child (Holiday, Herzog)
8) Pretty Little Girl (Jordan, Alexander, Redmond)
9) In The Spring (Jordan)
10) Good News (Alexander, Smith, Preston)
11) Sweet Thing ( Unknown)
12) Win Your Love For Me (Sam Cooke)
Album produced by J.W. Alexander and Fred Smith
Recorded at RCA Studios, Hollywood March 1963
Engineered by Dave Hassinger