Proudly Canadian: Ed Preston

Station to Station Tour in 1970's David Bowie and Ed Preston Photo Credit John Rowlands.jpg

Courtesy of Andrew Merey - This Week
Photo at right: Station to Station Tour in 1970's David Bowie and Ed Preston
Photo Credit John Rowlands

Ed Preston, who was born in 1931 in Hamilton, had a very stable, long-lasting tenure in the early, developing days of Canadian music of the ’50s and ‘60s and through the ‘70s.

His first vocal group, The Count Four (Johnny MacDonald, piano; Roy Bueley, sax and clarinet, Johnny Bell, bass and Ed Preston, drums), was formed in 1951 at the urgency of legendary Canadian music promoter Harold Kudlets, himself the subject of one of my previous profiles.

Ed Preston with John DenverEd Preston with John Denver“There was a high demand for local groups during this time because bars started opening to entertainment -- The Flamingo, Jockey Club, Duffy’s, Fisher’s Hotel and The Golden Rail,” Preston explains. “We first performed at the Congo Room of the Stafford Hotel, Main and Charles Street in Hamilton, guided by Harold Kudlets. When I arrived home from my honeymoon in July 1952, a note was left on our front door telling me we (The Count Four), were booked again there for the next two weeks. We were held over for six -- what a way to start a marriage. Fortunately, it lasted 61 years.”

Later on, Preston obtained employment with the Orion Quintet, which consisted of Alf Borsellino (piano/leader), Chip Marcellini (guitar), Rudy Cortiulla (accordion) and Reg Button (bass). At first Preston would fill in for the original drummer, eventually fully replacing him.

Main Street Jamboree, originating from CHML in Hamilton, was a very popular Canadian country and western show, first on AM radio during the early ‘50s, then television, starting in 1954. Preston played extensively on the show and recorded with some of the primary members of the group such as Jack Kingston, Bill Long, Wally Traugott and from Buffalo, Peggy Jo Stewart. Some of these recordings appeared on Sparton and Quality record labels. Jumping ahead, he also played on the 1968 RCA Camden long-play, Joe Carlo, So Nice by Joe Carlo, formerly with CHML. Jack Feeney, then RCA Ontario branch manager, produced the album.

The Count Four The  Ed Preston (seated right) with John McDonald Roy Bueley and Johnny BellThe Count Four The Ed Preston (seated right) with John McDonald Roy Bueley and Johnny Bell“The show launched the careers of several members of the Canadian Country Music Association Hall Of Fame,” says Preston. “People like Gordie Tapp, Maurice Boyler, Tommy Hunter, Carroll Baker, Dallas Harms, The Mercey Brothers and me. I was inducted in the Builder Category in 2003. I am told that I am the only Hamilton-born member of the CCMA Hall of Fame.”

Preston was with CHML radio from 1947 to 1958. He went on the road with the Jamboree show for about a year or so, then returned to the station and stayed there until 1967. At that point he became involved with record labels, first hired by RCA Records Canada in the promotion department, covering all of Ontario. He climbed up the corporate ladder as he became manager of sales and promotion. In 1976, Preston moved right into the executive suite at RCA, having acquired the prestigious role of vice-president/general manager. It wasn’t long before he put his drums away to better concentrate on the new position, which lasted until 1982.

Preston also made a significant mark in promotion and production of Canadian music, by supporting and successfully pushing forward the careers of several country acts. Additionally, he became president of international singing star Roger Whittaker’s Tembo Entertainment Company and his Tembo Records label.

David Bowie receiving Canadian Gold from RCA president Ed Preston Photo Credit John RowlandsDavid Bowie receiving Canadian Gold from RCA president Ed Preston Photo Credit John RowlandsRecently, Preston caught up with an old friend from way back, Harold Kudlets.“He is as sharp as ever,” Preston says. “We reminisced a bit about the bands he brought to Hamilton. In particular, Tony Pastor Band at the Barton Street arena. I was there and it was the first introduction Pastor made with his singers, Rosemary and Betty Clooney. What a great night.”

Today, Preston stays in touch with many of his old friends in the music industry and is keen on reading good bios of people in the business that he met or knew. He is enjoying retirement and spending lots of time with family, which includes 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Editor’s Note: Andrew Merey is a Whitby resident who’s interested in music and movie history. He has contributed articles to This Week since 2003. You can reach him at amerey@rogers.com

I had the distinct pleasure of being hired by Ed Preston and Andy Nagy at RCA in Montreal, Quebec; Linda Dawe was my counterpart in Toronto, Ontario. Ed and Andy were two of the first to hire females in the positions of Promotions Managers at a Canadian Record Company. Thanks to men like Ed Preston women were given a chance in the industry and many of us excelled because of his insight. Thanks Smiling Ed! Sandy Graham