|Oral History, Preston Epps talks about being discovered while playing his bongos in the shed of the service station. Interview date May 20, 2013, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Oral History Library|
Epps learned to play percussion instruments, including the bongos, while he was stationed in Okinawa during the Korean War. After his tour of duty he settled in Southern California, playing in coffee shops and working odd jobs. Arthur Laboe, a local disc jockey, signed him to Original Sound Records, which released his single "Bongo Rock" in 1959. The tune became a hit in the U.S., reaching #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year. The follow-up, "Bongo Bongo Bongo", reached #78 the following year. Original Sound released a full-length LP in 1960, which reached #35 on the Billboard 200. However, further bongo-themed singles, including "Bongo in the Congo", "Bongo Rocket", "Bootlace Bongo", "Bongo Boogie", "Flamenco Bongo", "Mr. Bongo", and "Bongo Shuffle", did not result in any further success.
Epps reappeared in 1969 as a bongo player in the film Girl in Gold Boots. He continued on as a session musician in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1973, the Incredible Bongo Band covered "Bongo Rock" and released it as a single.
Epps continued playing in clubs in Southern California into the 1990s.
Discography w/Billboard chart peak positions
- Bongo Rock (#14)/Bongo Party—Original Sound 4 -- 1959
- Bongo Bongo Bongo (#78)/Hully Gully Bongo—Original Sound 9 -- 1960
- Bongo Shuffle/Bongo In The Congo—Original Sound 14—1960
- Blue Bongo/Bongola—Top Rank 2067—1960
- Bongo Hop/Caravan—Top Rank 2091—1960
- Bongo Boogie/Flamenco Bongo—Majesty 1300—1960
- Bongo Rocket/Jungle Drums—Original Sound 17—1961
- Rockin' In The Congo/Sing Donna Go—Embassy 203—1961
- Mister Bongos/B'wana Bongos—Donna 1367—1962
- Bongo Express/Flamenco Bongo—Admiral 901—1963
- Bongo Rock '65/Bongo Waltz—Polo 218—1965
- Afro Mania/Love Is The Only Good Thing—Jo Jo 106—1969
- Bongo Bongo Bongo (#35) -- Original Sound LPM-5002 (Mono)/LPS-8851 (Stereo) -- 1960
- Bongola—Top Rank RM-349 (Mono)/RS-349 (Stereo) -- 1961
- Surfin' Bongos—Original Sound LPM-5009/LPS-8872—1963