Preston Love Sr.

Preston Love Sr. was an American saxophonist, bandleader, and songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska, United States, best known as a sideman for jazz and rhythm and blues artists like Count Basie and Ray Charles.

Preston Love grew up in North Omaha and graduated from North High. He became renowned as a professional sideman and saxophone balladeer in the heyday of the big band era. He was a member of the bands of Nat Towles, Lloyd Hunter, Snub Mosley, Lucky Millinder and Fats Waller before getting his big break with the Count Basie Orchestra when he was 22. Love played and recorded with the Count Basie band from 1945–1947, and played on Basie’s only No. 1 hit record, “Open The Door Richard.”

Love eventually became a bandleader himself, playing with Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, his friends Johnny Otis and Wynonie Harris, with whom he had several hits. In 1952, he launched the short-lived Spin Records, as a joint effort with songwriter Otis René (“When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”). The label released material by the Preston Love Orchestra, among others.

In the early 1960s, Love worked with Ray Charles in California, and Aretha Franklin, eventually becoming Motown’s West Coast house bandleader, playing and touring with The Four Tops, The Temptations, Tammi Terrell, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and others. Love also recorded with Nichelle Nichols, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa (Freak Out), Shuggie Otis, T-Bone Walker, Charles Brown, Ruth Brown, and many others. Love also appears in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me with the Johnny Otis band. Love continued touring the U.S. and Europe into the 2000s, additionally lecturing and writing about the history he was part of. Other legends he played with included Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder.

In his later years Love moved back to Omaha, wrote a book, led bands, the last of which featured his daughter vocalist Portia Love, drummer Gary E. Foster, pianist Orville Johnson, and bassist Nate Mickels, and was an advertising agent for the Omaha Star, a local newspaper serving the city’s African American community. He also is father of the singer, songwriter and bass player Laura Love. In February 2004, Love died after battling prostate cancer.

Preston Love Sr. was a world-renowned alto saxophone player. He was born and raised, in Omaha where he attended a Omaha North High School. Love grew up and watching jazz concerts at such venues as the Orpheum Theater and the Dreamland Ballroom and became a self-taught at such musician at a young age. His first professional role was with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1945 where he was featured on the group’s number one hit album, “Open the Door Richard.” He went on to work with such acts as Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, the Supremes, the Temptations, and many others. He eventually moved back to Omaha where he continued to lead bands, became a published author, and worked for the Omaha Star, a local newspaper serving the City’s African American community. Love unfortunately passed away in February of 2004, this commemorative designation would honor Preston on 24th Street from Lake Street to Ohio Street.

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