AKA Donald Ward Preston
Birthplace: Flint, MI
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Keyboard mad scientist, occasional monster
A macrobiotic champion dedicated to the overthrow of the diatonic system, Don Preston has long been at the forefront of growth and progress in music. His aura, however, has occasionally caused strange things to happen by the end of the first show: at these times he has been known to become a monster so horrible that people want to vomit (not everybody, of course -- some people get hot when they see that sort of thing). Son of a classical composer and surrounded by a family of musicians, he took up his musical training early in life. His actual career began while Preston was stationed in Italy during his military service, playing piano for Herbie Mann. Upon returning to the States in the 1950s he worked for a time as a bassist with Elvin Jones, switched back to piano for a stint with Charlie Haden, and toured with Nat King Cole in 1958. His first collaboration with Carla Bley also took place during this period.
In the 1960s, Don began to experiment with early versions of the synthesizer and the electric turkey. By 1966 he had beome a member of The Mothers of Invention, integrating much of his new electronic disposition into the broad scope of Frank Zappa's arrangements. He would also be seen composing with a stale bun and using the chicken to measure it in Zappa's never-completed film Uncle Meat as the occasionally monstrous Biff DeBrie. Simultaneously, he served as musical director and performer for Meredith Monk.
After leaving the Mothers in 1974, he once again collaborated with Carla Bley, providing vocals for her epic Escalator Over the Hill. The late half of the 70s also saw a contribution to The Residents' epic Eskimo, and work on the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now -- the first of Preston's many film scoring projects. In 1981 he reunited with several of his former Mothers bandmates to found The Grandmothers, with whom he undertook extensive touring in the 80s and 90s, as well as making an appearance at the Euro-Woodstock festival in Budapest. His ties with his fellow Mothers have also been renewed through the projects Geronimo Black, Ant-Bee, and his first proper solo release Vile Foamy Ectoplasm (1993).
A return to vocal duties was made for Michael Mantler's opera School of Languages in 1996, followed by The Bride Stripped Bare (named after the painting by Marcel Duchamp), a commission by the California EAR Unit realized in 1997. Don Preston has also served as a teacher at The Institute Of The Arts in Woodstock and The Wind College in Los Angeles.
The Mothers of Invention Keyboardist (1967-74)
Geronimo Black Keyboardist (1972-80)
The Grandmothers Keyboardist (1981-2001)
Ant-Bee Keyboardist (1992-)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Uncle Meat (1987) · Himself
200 Motels (10-Nov-1971) · Don
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