A Thousand Honey Creeks Later: My Life in Music from Basie to Motown--and Beyond

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Preston Love's resume reads like a Who's Who of American music: member of the Count Basie Band during its heyday in the 40s, studio musician in Los Angeles, cohort of Jo Jones, Lester Young, Ray Charles, and Dizzy Gillespie, and back-up player for Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder. In this autobiography Love shows that, while the music centers of New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Kansas City nurtured the development of those uniquely African American forms, jazz and the Motown sound, significant contributions were also being made by territory bands tirelessly performing in outposts like St. Cloud, Minnesota, Guthrie, Oklahoma, and Honey Creek, Iowa.

It was in the latter town where Love, a 15-year-old from the black ghetto of Omaha, made his musical debut. Captivated by the sweet alto sax sounds of Earle Warren, Love took up the instrument and within a decade was sitting in Warren's chair. But Love's personal odyssey is more than a chronicle of endless bus rides, bad crowds in backwater clubs, and feast-or-famine finances endured en route to the top. In a distinctive and passionate voice he outlines significant facets of African American history: the central importance of the family in musical development, institutional racism in American popular culture, and the interracial nature of the music world. He also describes the growth of the music industry, especially Motown, what he calls "the powerful colossus from Detroit." Love's story, told with uncanny memory and unfailing honesty, provides an important view into the career of a musician and the evolution of a major musical form.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Love has a rare gift for storytelling, recounting details of his life with such focus and intensity that the reader can almost feel the bus bumping along the Midwest highways of the 1930s . . . [A] bittersweet love letter to the good old days." —Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Love has a rare gift for storytelling, recounting details of his life and career with such focus and intensity that the reader can almost feel the bus bumping along the Midwest highways of the 1930s. Love, as Lipsitz says, was "one of the truly great lead-alto saxophone players of all time," and he knew many of the finest jazz musicians of the big band era. His story is intrinsically linked with his hometownOmaha, Neb.to which Love has been devoted all his life. Love's refusal to abandon his beloved Omaha even when larger cities beckoned, is indicative of the warm-hearted idealism that marks the early part of this autobiography but also of the prickly, bitter arrogance that threatens to overwhelm the second half. Love is a devoted disciple of the Count Basie-style of big band jazz of the 1930s and `40s; for a short time, he even played with the orchestra, replacing his idol Earle Warren on alto sax. That seems to be the last time Love closely followed contemporary music. He is joyously anachronistic whenever his topic is big band's bygone era, but blithely unconcerned with bebop, soul, rock 'n' roll, rap and current jazz trends. Unfortunately, the longest and final chapter is an incoherent and self-contradictory diatribe against every subsequent development in American musicwith the exception of Motown, where Love worked in the '60s and '70s, and which he feels represents pure, undiluted African American music. However, even the sad final chapter does not diminish the pleasure of reading this bittersweet love letter to the good old days. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In the latest entry in Wesleyan's "Music/Culture" series, alto saxophonist and bandleader Love (b. 1921) presents a narrative of his experiences. He details his early ventures in and around Omaha, Nebraska; subsequent work with luminaries such as Count Basie and various Motown performers; and the later European tours, educational residencies, and workshops. His descriptions of the people he encountered and their contributions to the evolution of jazz or big band music are delightful, combining a warm enthusiasm with an unpretentious colloquial flavor. Also valuable is his representation of the hardships of life on the road as well as his characterization of the relations between African Americans and the members of the dominant culture. Although a somewhat bitter tone is at times evident, it is softened by Love's genuine appreciation for the talents of the various artists and by his acceptance of the challenges of being a performing musician. Recommended for jazz, African American studies, and American popular culture collections.Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819563200
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 11/10/1997
  • Series: Music Culture
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 1,500,499
  • Product dimensions: 5.95 (w) x 8.89 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Preston Love, a distinguished musician and jazz/Motown authority, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Creighton University and the Urban League of Nebraska's National Prominence Award.

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Table of Contents

The Love Mansion
Enter Earl Warren
The Beginning of Career
The Count Basie Band
Preston the Bandleader, Part 1
Preston the Bandleader, Part 2
My Year with Motown
Basic Revisited

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