View this email in your browser
Billy Preston, circa 1969. (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

“The Beatles: Get Back,” the three-part documentary on Disney+, shows us the fraying band in 1969, at its end stage, grumpily attempting to knit itself back together by preparing for a live concert. Halfway through the series — which is to say, at the point when viewers are nearly as tired of John, Paul, Ringo and George as they are of each other — salvation arrives. Sweet, laid-back Billy Preston pops by.

Preston, born in Houston, was only 23 then, but he went way back with John, Paul, George and Ringo: He’d met them in Hamburg. A teen prodigy, he was touring as Little Richard’s organist; the Beatles were Little Richard’s opening act.

In the documentary’s restored footage, Preston’s gap-toothed smile lights up the studio where the bickering band has holed up. He'd thought he was just stopping for a visit, and is delighted when they ask him to play. With the addition of his electric piano, the troublesome “Don’t Let Me Down” gels – and just as important, the Beatles suddenly look as though they’re having fun again. “You’re in the band!” jokes John.

The Beatles held together long enough for Preston to play the famous rooftop concert with them. Later, he performed with the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Aretha Franklin. He had his own hits – among them, the classics “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing.” He was Saturday Night Live’s first musical guest. His '70s Afro was astounding even by Soul Train standards.

But Preston himself couldn't hold it together. His story ends the way so many musicians’ do. Drugs. Sex charges involving a teenager. Rehab. Bankruptcy. What's unusual, for musicians of that era, is that he came out of the closet – hesitantly, and with great pain. Soon after that, in 2005, he died. He was 59.

But in the documentary, it's still 1969. Preston is still 23. The Beatles are still a band. And it's a joy to watch the five of them play.

Thanks to Russell Contreras, whose tweet alerted us to Billy Preston’s Houston connection.


💉 As omicron nears, will Texas ban vax mandates? At least 25 Republican lawmakers are pushing for yet another special legislative session – this one to stop employers from requiring employees to be vaccinated. State data shows that unvaccinated Texans made up 85% of coronavirus cases and deaths between Jan. 15 and Oct. 1. (Texas Tribune)

💸 The Ship Channel Bridge fiasco: It’s going to cost Harris County almost $300 million to start over on the new Sam Houston Tollway bridge over the Houston Ship Channel – including $50 million to rip out massive pillars already in place. County commissioners blame what they say is a faulty design by engineering firm FIGG Bridge Group, which has been debarred from federal highway projects. (Houston Chronicle)


📕 Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart: Since 2011, when her TEDx talk on shame went viral, the funny, plain-talking UH social-work professor has become a best-selling writer, a business consultant, podcaster and an Oprah favorite. In her new book, Brown precisely defines 87 emotions and experiences “that define what it means to be human” – and explains how emotional near-misses can mess up our relationships.

To attend her Zoom book launch at 7 p.m. tomorrow, buy your $30 ticket from Blue Willow Bookshop, Brazos Bookstore or Katy Budget Books. The price includes a hardback copy, which you can pick up at the store or pay to have shipped.

📺 “Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas”: Raised in Alief, this Arab-American comedian is one of the country’s funniest observers of the ways race and culture play out in real life. He fiilmed his new Netflix special here in Houston, his hometown – where the laughs are knowing.

📺 Good Brick Houston Virtual Tour: The streaming video takes you inside four historic buildings that won Preservation Houston’s 2021 awards: Congregation Beth Yeshurun, a 1962 mod temple in Meyerland designed by Eugene Werlin and Lenard Gabert Sr.; downtown’s National Cash Register building, a two-story 1929 Italianate building designed by Joseph Finger and recently converted to a loft; the Riesner Tenant House, a little Sixth Ward cottage that may date back to 1860; and the Gulf Building, now known as the Jones on Main, an Art Deco skyscraper designed by Albert Finn and once the tallest building south of Chicago. $25.


Bushy Bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), a tall grass native to the Houston area, looks especially handsome in fall and winter, when its leaves and stems turn coppery, and its fluffy seedheads catch the light.

Follow us on social! 👇 You'll feel 87 precisely defined emotions.
Copyright © 2021 City Cast. All rights reserved.
Nothing from nothing, except where prohibited.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.