Granite Gate resident turns to writing music for kids
Dave Preston never studied music. He cannot read music or play an instrument, but he always had an uncanny knack for an infectious melody.
Preston, who recently released "Imaginary Zoos," a CD of 14 tracks of children's music, said he discovered his lyrical talent while serving in the Marine Corps in the Philippines at the end of World War II.
Listening to Armed Forces Radio on a buddy's transistor radio, Preston said he experienced an epiphany.
"One day I heard this one song, and I thought 'My God, that's such a lousy song. How could anybody publish something like that,'" recalled Preston, 87.
Preston said he did not know the first thing about writing music, but started "coming up with different combinations of notes" that sounded good to him, writing lyrics to help him remember the melody.
"By the time I got back home, I had about three or four songs all written out, not in my mind," but his mother wrote them out for him - she translated the tunes to the piano while Preston whistled the melody, he said.
"She got me started, so I could work myself up and down a scale. That's about it. I didn't know what else to do once I got a song written. I didn't even know about demos, and things like that," he said.
Decades later, after retiring from a career in recreation therapy in New York, Preston said he moved to Prescott with his wife, and learned from a custodian at the public library - who wrote songs on the side - about making and selling demos.
"I sent three away to one of these companies, and a few months later they sent me a letter saying that they had placed two of three songs. One was placed in 'Saturday Night Live,' and one was 'Passions,' I think it was a soap opera," he recalled.
Preston said he received royalty checks from the two songs every month for about a year.
The song that proved particularly successful for Preston was a song he called "Virginia," that he wrote for his wife, he said.
Preston said he later wrote five country songs for an Alabama-based publisher and a few other pieces "sporadically sent here and there," and nearly gave up on the business until he found a publisher who wanted to put out a children's CD, his first full release of songs.
"I still have some right now I think are the best ones I've done, right there in my apartment, that nobody's ever looked at. One of these days, I'll get around to doing that," he said.
Preston said he thought writing children's songs would be a "nice departure from the boy-meets-girl" subject matter he typically wrote about.
"I wanted it to have something to do with animals, so zoos came to mind," he said of the disc a Hollywood-based publisher put out.
"Imaginary Zoos" is available through Allegheny Music Works and other outlets.