Since I was an early teen, I wanted to meet a bongo man named Preston Epps. I was first made aware of him when I was about 13 years old, sitting on the floor of my uncle's house and listening to records. My uncle played several of his 45s for me that he had kept since he was about my age. I recall watching the label spin around and around while I listened to some of the coolest music I had ever heard! One such record was “Bongo Rock” by Preston Epps. I recall thinking, "It sure would be nice to meet that man." Fast forward to my 30s when I was conducting interviews for NAMM, I asked several friends if they could help me locate Mr. Epps and to my great surprise, I not only got to interview him, but we became friends.
Meeting Preston was everything I had hoped for, he was so kind to me and the warmth of his personality made me enjoy every minute of our time together. What followed was equally wonderful to me, Preston called me, ME, and asked how I was doing. A friendship developed and I soon learned even more about the compassion and gentleness behind the man. He was just what he appeared to be, honest, funny, charming, and genuinely interested in the views and ideas of his friends. It was a real pleasure to spend time with him and each time I did, I was eager to arrange our next get together.
The last time I saw Preston, I knew it was likely our last, a feeling that made saying our goodbyes so difficult. He always made me feel so good, ever since I was 13 years old.
I miss Preston and am grateful and humbled every day to have been his friend.
Over time, I got to know about his struggles, successes, and the way he approached both, with courage and gratitude. Preston may not have always been treated with the respect he deserved, yet in keeping with this personality, he forgave. He was discriminated against and yet he forgave again. He walked on by and let it go.
When assessing the impact people have in our lives, I often consider what traits I can glean from someone I respect and incorporate those traits into my way of being. What did I learn from Preston? Among many lessons: I forgive. I walk on by and I try to let it go. I also take a moment while in deep and meaningful conversation with a friend to look in their eyes and connect with the soul of the person, just like Preston did. While I have a long way to go to be the person I want to be, I sure have had a few good role models. One such role model was a bongo man named Preston Epps.
Click here to watch a segment from Preston's 2013 NAMM Oral History Interview
Dan Del FIorentino