Paul's earliest memories of country and western music take him back to when he was about
four years old, living on his family's dairy farm in Norwich, Vermont, where he was born.
His family did the milking very early in the morning and they had a radio
in the barn. Hank's brother, Roland, used to tune in the radio to popular
country shows of that time in our area.
One of those popular artists then was
"Georgia Mae, the Little Cowgirl with the Big White Guitar" on radio station WBZ,
out of Boston, Massachussetts. The two brothers also listened
to "The DownHomers" who were featured on WKNE from Keene, New Hampshire.
Back then, "The DownHomers" featured "Yodeling" Kenny Roberts on their shows.
Another local favorite was Jimmy Packard. Jimmy was a teenager at this time
and had a live radio show over WNBX, Springfield, Vermont.
Jimmy lived in Wilder, Vermont and was extremely popular on the radio in that area
In the early 1940's, the Preston family moved to West Lebanon, New Hampshire.
The family continued to listen to country music broadcasts over the radio such as
the Grand ole Opry and The World"s Original WWVA Jamboree, which
aired from Wheeling, West Virginia.
When Hank was 10 years old, his parents bought him a ukelele.
He took it upon himself to start learning cowboy and folk songs.
On his sixteenth birthday, his mother and sister gave him his first guitar.
It was a mail order guitar from the Spiegel catalog company. The guitar's tradename
was "Old Kraftman" and was manufactured by the Kay Guitar Company.
Hank started taking guitar lessons from a Mr. Conrad Goodrich in Wilder, Vermont.
Hank considered Mr. Goodrich was one of the finest stringed instrument teachers
in New England. He studied with him for almost two years.
However, because Mr. Goodrich did not care for country music, young Hank felt
that he needed to branch out on his own and learn from the local musicians.
He wasn't the only family member to study with Mr. Goodrich. His sister, Helen Smith,
also studied the mandolin and tenor banjo with him.
Hank was in high school when he formed his first country band. The band included
His sister Helen on the mandolin, David Loomis on the autoharp, Jimmy Adams on the
slide guitar, Carl Galfren with the accordion and Billy Poland was the lead vocalist.
Hank played rhythm guitar and did vocals, too. The band was basically
a bluegrass band patterned after Roy Acuff and his Smokey Mountain Boys, one of the
popular Grand Ole Opry acts at the time.
Due to various commitments, that band broke up soon after it was formed.
By the summer of 1954 and still in high school, he reorganized
the band and they played their first dance job at the Grange Hall in Cornish, NH.
This band was known as "Paul Preston and his White Mountaineers".
It was while playing dances there that Goerge Holt, a friend of the family
joined the band playing electric rhythm guitar and upright bass. George
helped Paul to play country music the way the professionals played it.
Under George's guidance and the addition of other musicians our band
started to take form and popularity.
The band was being booked on local shows, benefits and dances.
Paul learned to call square dances - almost a necessity then as square dancing
was very popular in those days.
By this time, he felt he was quite capable of handling the band and
hired various musicians. In his senior year, Shawn and Bill Gaudette came into
the band. Shawn played the accordian while Bill played the harmonica. Paul's sister,
Helen, changed from the mandolin to the tenor banjo.
The band was an authentic "hillbilly music" band. This band stayed together
from 1955 to May 1956.
But that type of music was losing popularity due to rock and roll music
that was sweeping the air waves and capturing the attention of the younger listening
audiences. Country music itself was also changing.
It seemed the pedal steel guitar, lead guitar and fiddle was not the basis of a good
At this time, Paul met lead guitarist, Leon Fournier who was to become
a strong influence on Paul as well has his style of playing.
Leon played single string lead on the guitar, but not only played
country music, he also played rock and jazz swing music.
Leon asked me to join his group, "The Valley Boys". Besides Leon,
Alan Bigelow played drums and did a great job singing Elvis's songs.
Paul played rhythm guitar and did the country vocals.
The Valley Boys played every Saturday night at the American Legion
in Lebanon, NH. They also worked as a backup band for a touring talent show.
Their first show was in White River Junction, VT. The following week they played
for the talent show in Windsor, VT. At this time, the show manager asked the band
to go on the road with them as a regular part of their show.
Paul was very pleased at the opportunity, but Leon and Alan both had good jobs
and could not travel on the road. Paul had his first opportunity to become
a road musician.
Playing in this band allowed Paul to do a good deal of practicing with Leon and
helped him learn a variety of musical styles. Paul mentions he continued to use Leon's style
of guitar playing throughout his musicial career.
Paul's musical career took another step in 1957 when he decided to start
the original "Hank Preston and The Stony Mountain Drifters" band.
This band included his wife, Doris "Bunny" Preston playing lead guitar. Bunny
played in the style of Luther Perkins, who was Johhny Cash's lead guitar player.
Willie Higgins played drums and Paul/Hank played rhythm guitar and covered the vocals.
Later, Ted Lee, a local teenager, joined their group as the featured vocalist
and played the flat-top guitar. Ted's voice was a tenor and fit in well
on the group's harmony singing. Ted did not have any band experience, but they
felt he had great potential and worked with him to help him become a good performer.
Their instincts proved them right as Ted was well accepted by their audiences
and they were getting increasing numbers of show and dance bookings at this time.
However, tragedy struck the following year when Ted's father passed away. His
Mother sent him to New York state to work for his brother there.
But Ted continued his musical leanings and started playing guitar with
his cousin, Louie Sargent. Louie was a professional guitarist and taught
Ted considerable about lead guitar playing. In the fall, Ted returned
home and showed Hank what he had learned. Hank and Bunny decided that Ted should
be their lead guitar player while Doris took up playing the upright bass,
which she perferred to the guitar.
For a number of years this band played throughout the Twin State valley area.
WVTR RADIO SHOW
White River Junction, Vt.
In the spring of 1964, "Hank Preston and The Stony Mountain Drifters" were
featured on a Saturday morning live radio show. We appeared live
on "Uncle John's Country Corner" radio program broadcast over
WVTR, White River Junction, Vermont. The band at that time consisted of Ted Lee,
my nephew Stanley Smith, Ralph Moody, my wife, Doris and myself.
But having live bands on this station became a problem due to the fact that
the radio station studios were small and there was not room to have so many
musicians waiting to their shows. Besides Hank's band, "Sid Grose and The Country
Harmony Boys" also played a live show there. After their contracts ran out,
the station manager decided not to renew the contracts.
The band began to change with the expiration of the radio contract.
Ted and Ralph left to form their own duo act.
Ted Lee was replaced by Bob Morrison. Bob played guitar in the style like
Don Rich, Buck Owens' lead guitarist. Bob also became their lead vocalist.
ALL STAR JAMBOREE
In June of 1964, the All Star Jamboree show began in Hartland, Vermont
at the Hartland Fairgrounds. This was an outdoor country show presenting
big-name acts touring the area as well as local bands.
WVTR radio disc jockey, "Uncle John" Brunnel managed this show and also played
fiddle in his band known as "Uncle John's Country All-Stars" which also included
Buddy Jones along with Bob and Gracie French, well-known bluegrass musicians.
Uncle John asked that Hank's band serve as the opening act for those shows. Also
appearing there was "Duke and his Swingbillies", who had a television show over
WMTW-TV, Poland Springs, Maine.
One Sunday, bluegrass legend, Mac Wiseman was the guest artist.
After his afternoon appearance, Hank visited with Mac about his career.
He told how he had worked for Bill Monroe along with Lester Flatt
and Earl Scruggs. Mac explained he later decided to become a solo entertainer
and for many years appeared alone.
While working on the All Star Jamboree, Hank met Jimmy Stephens from
the WWVA Jamboree. Jimmy Stephens and his band "The New England
Country Gentlemen" were a regular act on the WWVA Jamboree.
Jimmy asked Hank if he was serious about a career playing country music. Hank told
him he most certainly was. As a result, Jimmy asked if they would like to go
to Wheeling and appear on his portion of the WWVA Jamboree.
He explained that he wanted them to join him as his opening act and
if they were received well on their Jamboree appearance, he would
have his manager book the band to work personal appearances with him.
Hank was excited about the opportunity and presented the offer to the band
at their next rehearsal. But Bob Morrison said he could not go onto the road as
he was planning on getting married and did not want to be a
road musician. As a result, Hank and the band chose to not take Jimmy Stephens'
invitation. Shortly after this episode, Bob left the band and Hank quit playing
on the All Star Jamboree. At this time, Hank was discouraged about
playing music and was about to quit the business.
A friend of Hank's, Russell Williams asked him and Doris to come play with him at
the 484 Steakhouse in White River Junction, Vermont. During their time with Mr. Williams,
they went to the Lone Star Ranch in Reeds Ferry, New Hampshire, one sunday afternoon.
They arrived there a little late and Hank did not notice who was
the featuerd artist of the day. During the jamboree portion of the ranch show,
Doris and Hank sang a song that had been recorded by George Jones
and Melba Montgomery. After we finished and left the stage,
Melba Montgomery came over to them and told them how much she had enjoyed
hearing them do the song. She said that when she and George had recorded
the song, the record company thought that it would be the "A" side; however, it turned
out that the flip side, "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds" became the hit.
Melba also remembered that they had been the opening act when she played
the All Star Jamboree. The words of encouragement from Melba were what
he needed to hear at this time, as he was still thinkong of giving up
on his music efforts. On the way home from the ranch Hank told Russell and
Doris. "If Melba thinks we are good, then I am going to keep on playing".
He notes, it is amazing how events can affect our decisions.
Throughout the 1960's Hank continued to perform in bands and also put together
another band. In 1969, Hank moved to Bellows Falls, Vermont. At this time he joined
the "Norm LaFlam Trio". Norm played pedal steel and Alan Bridgeau played drums.
Hank stayed with Norm for several years as they played personal appearances
around southern Vermont.
In 1972, Hank moved to Loudon, NH due to a job change that also meant he couldn't
keep up his musical leanings for a while. Then in the mid 1970's
Don Colby contacted Hank and asked him to be a part of his band,
"The Village Ramblers". Hank played steel and lead guitar for Don's band for
about two years. The band regularly appeared at the Moose Club in Concord, NH
and throughout sdouthern New Hampshire. Don finally disbanded the group and instead
joined a popular group, "The Country Playboys".
In the early 1980's, Hank began playing steel guitar for Johnny Guitar.
Johnny was a popular country singer in the area. Johnny had Leo Fortier playing
drums in their trio. For two summer seasons they played in the White Mountains
at the Mount Moosealauke Inn, located in Warren, NH. They also played many club
They also appeared on the Circle 9 Big Red Barn Sunday afternoon jams.
This show was run by Clyde Joy, TV personality who used to be on WMUR-TV,
In 1982, Hank formed his own band again, "The Westboro Express".
This band was made up of Sonny Davis, rhythm guitar and vocals,
Leo Fortier on drums, Larry Stimpson playing pedal steel and Hank played
the electric bass. The band played numerous engagements throughout southern
New Hampshire for about a year. Then Hank moved to Tampa, Florida.
He joined the Classic Country Music Association of America in Tampa.
This club meets once a week and plays classic country music. It is a variety
of musicians ranging from players who have worked on the Grand Ole Opry
to regular local musicians like myself. Hank met Shirley Escribano at one
of these jams in 2003. It rekindled some memories for Hank as he realized
that Shirley used to appear at the Lone Star Ranch in New Hampshire.
In theose days she was known as "Little Shirley". Shirley had been well known
in the 1960 and 70's throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. Shirley wanted
to play in a band so Hank formed another group called "The Westboro Express"
along with Louie Murray on the fiddle, Maurice Benjamin on drums and
Doris playing bass. I played lead guitar and steel. We did a number
of shows until Shirley's health took a turn for the worse. Shirley passed away
in Apri1,2004. Hank chose not to continue the band at this time.
Hank then became a member of the "Nashville Legends" show band
in September, 2004. The "Nashville Legends" is made up of legendary
lead guitarist, Howard Photon, Nashville songwriter, Larry Kirby, Chance
Chaulder, vocalist, Scott Caldwell playing drums and myself on the
electric bass. At the time of this writing, we are currently taking bookings
in the Tampa Bay area.
Timeline & Trivia Notes
Hank Preston's first band (unnamed)
- Paul "Hank" Preston, rhythm guitar, vocals
- Helen Preston, mandolin
- David Loomis, autoharp
- JImmy Adams, slide guitar
- Carl Galfren, accordion
- Billy Poland, lead vocalist
Hank Preston and his White Mountaineers
Group Members (circa 1955):
- Paul "Hank" Preston
- Helen "Honey" Smith
- Bill Gaudette
- Shawn Gaudette
The Valley Boys
- Leon Fournier, guitar
- ALan Bigelow, drums
- Paul "Hank" Preston, rhythm guitar, vocals
Hank Preston and the Stony Mountain Drifters
Group Members (circa 1964):
- Paul "Hank" Preston
- Doris "Bunny" Preston
- Ralph Moody
- Bob Morrison
- Ted Lee, guitar, vocals
- Stanley Smith
Norm LaFlam Trio
Group Members (circa 1969):
- Norm LaFlam, steel guitar
- Alan Bridgeau, drums
- Paul "Hank" Preston, guitar, vocals
The Westboro Express
Group Members (circa 1982)
- Sonny Davis, rhythm guitar, vocals
- Leo Fortier, drums
- Larry Stimpson, pedal steel guitar
- Paul "Hank" Preston, electric bass