From Omaha to Hollywood: The Incredible Journey of Musician Preston Love, Sr.

 From Omaha to Hollywood: The Incredible Journey of Musician Preston Love, Sr.

By: Jacob Gonzales, A Student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as part of Heather Nelson’s Service Learning Academy class


Preston Love, Sr. was a musician, band leader, and composer who played a significant role in shaping the sound of jazz and R&B in the mid-20th century. Born in Omaha, Nebraska on April 26, 1921, Love, Sr. began his music career in the 1940s, playing with some of the most legendary musicians of his time. He was a versatile musician who played the saxophone, clarinet, and flute and was known for his distinctive sound and improvisational skills.


Love, Sr. began playing music at a young age and was influenced by the vibrant jazz scene in Omaha, which included artists such as King Oliver and Earl Hines. He started playing professionally in the early 1940s, performing with various bands in the Midwest. Love, Sr. served in the military during World War II and continued to play music while stationed in California. After the war, he returned to Omaha and quickly established himself as a prominent musician in the local scene.


Love, Sr.’s big break came in 1947 when he was hired to join the Count Basie Orchestra, one of the most famous and influential bands of the era. Love, Sr.’s powerful saxophone playing and dynamic stage presence quickly made him a fan favorite and he remained with the band for two years.

In 1949, Love, Sr. moved to Los Angeles, where he quickly became a sought-after session musician, playing on recordings by artists such as Ray CharlesB.B. King, and Johnny Otis. He also formed his own band, the Preston Love, Sr., Orchestra, which became a popular act in the local clubs and dance halls.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, Love, Sr. continued to be a major figure in the music industry, both as a performer and as a composer. He wrote and arranged music for a variety of artists and bands, including Little Richard, Solomon Burke, and Lloyd Price. Love, Sr.’s compositions, which blended jazz, R&B, and blues, were best known for their catchy melodies and soulful rhythms.


In addition to his work as a musician and composer, Love, Sr. was also a passionate advocate for civil rights and social justice. He was an active member of the civil rights movement and played an important role in organizing protests and demonstrations in Los Angeles. Love, Sr.’s commitment to social justice is felt in much of his music, which often dealt with issues of race, poverty, and inequality.


Despite his many accomplishments, Love, Sr. remained humble and dedicated to his craft throughout his life. He continued to perform and record well into his 80s, playing with the same energy and passion that he had displayed throughout his career. Love, Sr. passed away on February 12, 2004, leaving behind a rich legacy of music and activism.


Today, Love, Sr. is remembered as one of the most talented and influential musicians of his time. His innovative approach to jazz and R&B helped to shape the sound of popular music in the mid-20th century, while his dedication to social justice and civil rights serves as an inspiration to generations of musicians and activists. One of Love, Sr.’s most enduring legacies is his ability to blend different genres of music and create something new and exciting. His compositions were characterized by their eclectic mix of jazz, blues, and R&B, and he was known for his ability to seamlessly transition between different styles and tempos. Love, Sr.’s innovative approach to music was ahead of its time and has continued to influence musicians and composers to this day. 


About Freedomtainment: Freedomtainment is a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Omaha, Nebraska established to educate, empower and entertain the Omaha Nebraska community about North Omaha Culture while bringing awareness to local, social and business resources.  It hosts the Omaha Freedom Festival to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday and the Level Up Career & Housing Fair on Labor Day Weekend.


About Omaha Freedom Festival: The 2023 Omaha Freedom Festival is taking place on June 17th at the Malcolm X Outside Event Plaza to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday from 12noon – 12midnight to honor the emancipation of those enslaved in the United States.  See website for event schedule and how to obtain tickets.