Don Preston

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For the American guitarist, see Don Preston (guitarist).
Don Preston
Don Preston at Knuckleheads Saloon.png
Don Preston at
Knuckleheads Saloon in
Kansas City, Missouri
August 2, 2012
Background information
Born (1932-09-21) September 21, 1932 (age 84)
Flint, Michigan
Genres Rock, jazz Electronic Music, Experimental
Occupation(s) Band leader, session musician
Instruments Piano, keyboards, Moog synthesizer, double bass, drums
Years active 1950–present
Associated acts Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention

Donald Ward "Don" Preston, also known as Dom DeWilde or Biff Debrie, is an American jazz and rock and roll musician.


Preston was born into a family of musicians in Detroit[1] and began studying music at an early age. His father played saxophone and trumpet, and had been offered the lead trumpet chair in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.[2] Upon moving the family to Detroit, Don's father became the staff arranger for NBC, and was the composer-in-residence for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Don took sporadic lessons on the piano from the age of about five.

In 1950 Preston began a stint in the Army, serving in Trieste, Italy and playing in the Army band (initially piano, bass drum and glockenspiel) alongside Herbie Mann. In Trieste he shared a barracks with fellow recruit Buzz Gardner, who introduced him to contemporary classical composers such as Bela Bartok, Anton Webern, Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg. Preston took up the bass while in the 98th Army band.

Upon his return to Detroit in 1953, Preston started playing bass with pianist Tommy Flanagan. He also sat in with Elvin Jones and others at the city's West End Cafe where Yusef Lateef conducted twice-a-week jam sessions with Milt Jackson's brother, bassist Alvin Jackson (musician). Moving to Los Angeles in 1957, Preston played with the Hal McIntyre Orchestra and toured Canada backing Nat King Cole. Between 1958 and 1965 Preston played with a number of jazz artists, including Shorty Rogers, Charlie Haden, Paul Bley, Emil Richards and Paul Beaver.

in 1966 Preston began a long collaboration with Frank Zappa as the keyboardist of the original Mothers of Invention. Preston performed and recorded with Zappa until 1974. During that time he was music director for Meredith Monk[3] (with whom he had previously shared a house) and started recording and performing electronic music.

He is a co-founder of the Grandmothers and is still active with the band, completing an extensive tour in 2000 and later tours through 2016.

Don Preston 2009

Preston also appeared on-stage as a guest keyboardist with the Zappa tribute band Project/Object (featuring Zappa alumni Ike Willis and Napoleon Murphy Brock) for several shows in 2001, 2002 and 2016

From his Cryptogramophone Records biography: "Often compared to Cecil Taylor for his style of attacking the keys with intense passion, Preston’s solos also reflect intellect, technical skills and a storyteller's way with a line. His playing, like his compositions, ranges across panoramas of mood and emotion, all colored with the freedom that comes from possessing remarkable facility.

Preston has played and recorded with the likes of John Lennon, Peter Erskine and John Carter. He also has scored more than 20 feature films and 14 plays. He's the winner of numerous awards, and has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and London Philharmonic. Known to jazz and keyboard aficionados for his pioneering contributions in the use of synthesizers and piano, legendary clarinetist and composer John Carter dubbed Don Preston the "father of modern synthesis."[4]

Don has performed with artists like: Frank Zappa, Lou Rawls, Al Jarreau, Nat King Cole, Billy Daniels, Johnnie Ray, Vaughn Monroe, Connie Francis, Herbie Mann, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden, Art Davis, Paul Bley, Carla Bley, Joe Beck, Shorty Rogers, Leo Sayer, Charles Lloyd, Nelson Riddle, J.R. Monterose, Flo & Eddie (Howard Kaylan & Mark Volman of The Turtles) Yusef Lateef, Don Ellis, Meredith Monk, Bobby Bradford, Michael Mantler, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Don Preston is no relation to the Don Preston who played lead guitar for Joe Cocker and Leon Russell in the 1970s. However, the former has admitted to accidentally receiving and unwittingly cashing a royalty check intended for the latter some years ago.[5]

In 2002, Don Preston joined forces with Frank Zappa alumni Roy Estrada and Napoleon Murphy Brock, along with guitarist Ken Rosser, and drummer/percussionist Christopher Garcia to form the Grande Mothers Re:Invented.

Since then they have performed at numerous concerts and festivals throughout America, Canada and Europe, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland. (In 2005, guitarist, Miroslav Tadic replaced Ken Rosser in the lineup.) Guitarist/Bassist Robbie "Seahag" Mangano has filled in for Miroslav Tadic on Grande Mothers tours in 2009 and 2010, and Tom Fowler is scheduled to replace Roy Estrada. Recently Preston has lectured at Cornell, Harvard, Yale, Sarah Laurence, University of Arizona, and the University of Belfast.

In 2010 Preston, together with his lifelong friend Bunk Gardner, started a collaboration with guitar player/composer Jon Larsen and Zonic Entertainment. The first recordings were an audio-autobiographical production, The Don Preston Story, followed by the electronic music, contemporary space drama Colliding Galaxies. Preston released his own book entitled "Listen". At this time Preston and Bunk Gardner began touring as the Don & Bunk Show and have two tours under their belt in the eastern part of the US. They are now touring as a trio with Chris Garcia as The Grandmothers Of Invention. Preston is now writing the music for the film "Dancing With Were-wolves." which will be released in July 2016.



  • 1992: Dom De Wilde speaks (interview)
  • 1993: Vile Foamy Ectoplasm (jazz, rock, electronic)
  • 1997: Hear Me Out (solo piano)
  • 2001: Io Landscapes (experimental/electronic)
  • 2001: Corpus Transfixum (software photo album w/music)
  • 2001: Music from Blood Diner & other films (film scores)
  • 2002: Transcendence (meditation music)
  • 2004: Aysymetrical Construct (experimental jazz with Bobby Bradford & Elliot Levine)
  • 2007: Works (compilation)
  • 2007: Vile Foamy Ectoplasm (greatly expanded from 1993)
  • 2009: 26 Pieces For Piano & Violin (with Harry Scorzo)
  • 2010: Colliding Galaxys (Zonic Entertainment)
  • 2011: Escape From 2012 (electronic music with percussionist Andrea Centazzo)
  • 2012: The Don Preston Story (with Jon Larsen, interview)
  • 2012: Filters, Oscillators & Envelopes 1967-1982 (archival electronic works)
  • 2014: Out Of The Vault (compilation)

As Don Preston Trio (with Joel Hamilton and Alex Cline)[edit]

As Don Preston's Akashic Ensemble[edit]

  • 2003: Inner Realities Of Evolution
  • 2005: Tetragrammaton

As The Don & Bunk Show (with Bunk Gardner)[edit]

  • 2000: Necessity Is...
  • 2002: Joined At The Hip
  • 2014: The Don and Bunk Show

With Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention/The Mothers[edit]

With The Grandmothers[edit]

As a guest on other people's albums[edit]



  1. ^ "Don Preston 15-April-2007 interview". Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "Necessity Is..: The Early Years of Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention" by Billy James, page 30
  3. ^ Slaven, Neil (2003). Electric Don Quixote : the definitive story of Frank Zappa (New ed.). London: Omnibus. ISBN 9780711994362. Don Preston went to New Your to work with Meredeth Monk's multi-media musical theater. 
  4. ^ "Cryptogramophone bio of Don Preston". Cryptogramophone. Retrieved November 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Don Preston". United Mutations. Retrieved 2007-07-03.