Johnny Preston

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Johnny Preston
Birth nameJohn Preston Courville
Born(1939-08-18)August 18, 1939
Port Arthur, Texas, U.S.
DiedMarch 4, 2011(2011-03-04) (aged 71)
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.[1]
GenresRock and roll[2]
Years active1959–2009
LabelsMercury, Imperial, Kapp, TCF Hall, ABC

John Preston Courville, known professionally as Johnny Preston (August 18, 1939 – March 4, 2011),[3] was an American rock and roll singer, best known for his international number one hit in 1960, "Running Bear".[4]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Port Arthur, Texas,[5] of Cajun ancestry, Preston sang in high school choral contests throughout the state of Texas.[5] He formed a rock and roll band called the Shades, who were seen performing at a local club by J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

Richardson offered Preston the chance to record a teenage tragedy song he had written, "Running Bear", which they did in Houston, Texas, in 1958.[6] The "Indian" sounds on the record were performed by Richardson and George Jones.[7] The record was released after the Big Bopper's death in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.[5] It entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in October 1959, reaching number one in January 1960 and remaining there for three weeks.[5][7] It was a transatlantic chart-topper, reaching #1 in the United Kingdom in March 1960.[8] The sales of the record exceeded one million copies, earning Preston his first gold disc.[5]

Preston quickly followed up with another hit called "Cradle of Love," (Billboard #7, UK # 2) and made several other records during the early 1960s that met with modest success. "Cradle of Love" was a hit in both the UK Singles Chart and in Athens, Greece.[9] Preston's "I'm Starting to Go Steady", a song on the flip side of "Feel So Fine", (Billboard #14), was released in June 1960. Preston made appearances on American Bandstand (ABC-TV) and The Milt Grant Show and also The Buddy Deane Show (East Coast, United States).

Preston's pioneering contribution to the genre was recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He also performed at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri.[10]

Preston had coronary artery bypass surgery in 2010.[1] He died of heart failure in Beaumont, Texas, on March 4, 2011, at the age of 71,[3] after years of heart-related illnesses. He was survived by his wife, Sharon, two sons and two daughters.[11] Preston was buried at Oak Bluff Memorial Park in Port Neches, Texas. A tribute concert was performed on November 5, 2011, featuring guest artists Gene Bourgeois, Johnny Tillotson, Dickey Lee, and Chris Montez, along with LSCPS's Touring Band, under the direction of Aaron Horne.



Year Album Record label
1960 Running Bear Mercury Records
Come Rock with Me


Year Title Peak chart
Record Label B-side Album
1959 "Running Bear" 1 3 1 Mercury Records "My Heart Knows" Running Bear
1960 "Cradle of Love" 7 15 2 "City of Tears" Come Rock with Me
"Feel So Fine" 14 18 "I'm Starting to Go Steady"
(UK #49)
"Up in the Air" "Charming Billy"
(US #105, UK #34)
"New Baby for Christmas" "(I Want A) Rock and Roll Guitar"
1961 "Leave My Kitten Alone" 73 "Token of Love" Come Rock with Me
"Willy Walk" "I Feel Good"
"Let Them Talk" "She Once Belonged to Me"
"Free Me" 97 "Kissin' Tree"
1962 "Let the Big Boss Man (Pull You Through)" "The Day After Forever"
"Let's Leave It That Way" "Broken Hearts Anonymous"
1963 "This Little Bitty Tear (It's Gonna Dry)" Imperial Records "The Day the World Stood Still"
1964 "All Around the World" Hall-Way Records "Just Plain Hurt"
1965 "The Peddler Man" Hall Records "I'm Kicking Myself"
"Running Bear '65" "Dedicated to the One I Love"
"Good Good Lovin'" TCF Hall Records "I'm Asking Forgiveness"
1968 "I'm Only Human" ABC Records "There's No One Like You"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b [1] Archived March 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Leggett, Steve. "Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Doc Rock. "2011 January to June". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  4. ^ "Johnny Preston". Telegraph. 2011-04-06. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  5. ^ a b c d e Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 127/128. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  6. ^ "Johnny Preston". Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  7. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 562. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  8. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 108. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 437. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  10. ^ [2]Archived February 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Leigh, S. (2011). Johnny Preston: Singer who had a No. 1 hit both sides of the Atlantic with 1960 death disc 'Running Bear'. The Independent, 8 March 2011, London.