LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) Preston Epps, 88, known for bringing the sound of bongos and congas to mainstream pop music, died May 9 of natural causes in Los Angeles, according to daughter Kathy Epps-Powels.
Epps played percussion on The Penguins’ hit “Earth Angel” in 1954 and tour with the like3s of Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Johnny Otis and Sam Cooke. He is credited with discovering Lou Rawls in the 1960s, signing the singer to Majesty Records, and helped establish and manage the West Hollywood nightclub Pandora’s Box, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Epps’ big hit was the 1959 instrumental “Bongo Rock,” which brought the sound of the percussion instrument to the general public. He was signed to Original Sound, a label founded by disc jockey Art Laboe after Laboe watched Epps play a 15-minute percussion solo at a Hollywood coffeehouse. Epps cut down the solo to two minutes for the record.
The single was followed by songs like “Bongo Bongo Bongo,” “Bongo in the Congo,” “Bongo Rocket” and “Bongo Boogie,” according to THR.