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Preston Blue was never a go-go star. His name did not appear on the Globe posters or radio spots that advertised upcoming go-go shows. A producer and manager who ran his own label, Bag of Beats Records, Blue instead worked behind the scenes on behalf of local go-go and R&B artists.
Blue died last week at the age of 49, and he is being mourned by the go-go community as someone whose contributions to local music cannot be overstated.
“Preston was one of those unsung heroes who did so much for so many,” says Kato Hammond, who collaborated with Blue on his TMOTTGOGO.com website for much of the past 20 years. “He was the engine behind so many projects. Everybody knew him and had some kind of association at some point with him. Go-go artists would always reach out to him just because of his knowledge.”
Blue grew up in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and between 1997 and 2009, he worked for EMI/Capitol Records, first as a field marketing representative and then as urban marketing & sales manager. A go-go fan from early on, he used both his experience and industry connections to help DMV artists.
In 1999, Blue launched Bag of Beats, a niche label specializing in go-go. The label has released 10 full-length CDs as well as a slew of singles and remixes of high-profile artists such as Pharrell and Common. Local acts on the label have included Intimate Groove, Uncalled 4 Band, Fatal Attraction, OP Tribe, and Frank Sirius aka Scooby. “Bag of Beats was important because it allowed smaller bands to continue to release material,” says Hammond. By supporting those second-tier bands, Blue helped the go-go scene remain viable and vibrant.
Blue managed various artists over the years, including Scooby, who began his music career in the go-go band Lissen. Now, Scooby performs as a vocalist for both The Chuck Brown Band and Team Familiar. “When Preston started managing me about eight years ago, I didn’t really have any direction,” says Scooby. “In addition to being an integral part of my development as an artist, he was able to make a lot of things happen for me in the R&B world.”
Growing up, Blue was a dedicated go-go fan, and his love for the music never waned. “Go-go was his first love, and he wanted so badly to see it recognized and respected across the nation,” says Scooby. “He made sure that we got played on radio, and he got us shows that we normally wouldn’t get.”
Donnell Floyd, the longtime Rare Essence member who now leads Team Familiar, has been planning a series of digital downloads in collaboration with Blue. “Everybody liked Preston, which is rare in D.C.,” says Floyd. “In D.C., it can seem like everybody has some reason not to like somebody else, but Preston was a guy everybody loved.”
Blue was an innovator, constantly seeking new ways for local artists to connect with audiences. His “D.C. Symphony” series of recordings and videos featured The Crank Brothers along with an array of local rappers and go-go talkers. The first one featured Muggsy Malone, 32, Mo Chips, Mo Million, Dayo, and Killa Cal. “D.C. Symphony 3 (A Pocketful of Dimes)” featured female talent: 99, Cedes, Karis from Bella Donna, Kacey from Black Alley, and Queen Aida of Proj 360.
While Blue’s aim was greater exposure for these artists, he was also hoping to promote an interconnection between them. “Unity was important to him…and he was the guy that knew how to put things in motion, says Calvin “Killa Cal” Henry, who describes the Symphony series as “basically genius.”
“He was a visionary, and he had a keen eye for talent,” adds Killa Cal. “If he thought highly of you and wanted to work with you, that really meant something.”
Blue was also admired by friends and colleagues for his devotion to his family. “He never wanted to put an F on his chest for being a great father and husband, but he was,” says Scooby. “He coached his little girls in basketball and soccer, and they always came first. Despite his busy schedule, and despite him having to babysit his artists like me, he always made sure his baby girls were looked after.”
And perhaps it took Blue’s death by a heart attack to make his family understand how much he meant to the local music community. “Going on his Facebook page and seeing what everyone has written about him, it’s like he was an icon,” says Donna Blue, who would have celebrated 20 years of marriage with Preston this week. “There’s so much praise that they are giving him for his help. I didn’t realize he had that big of an impact on the community. It’s amazing—I’m in awe.”
Along with his wife, Blue is survived by their daughters, Taylor and Ava, his father, two sisters, as well as an extended family. For the past year, he was employed at Covenant House working with homeless teens.
A homegoing service will take place at Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale on June 23rd. The viewing begins at 10 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m. service.
TMOTTGOGO has been collecting “reflections, stories, pictures and memories” of Blue, which will be compiled into a video montage that will be shown during the service. So as friends and colleagues say goodbye to Preston Blue, for once, he will be the center of attention.
“He never wanted to be in the spotlight, but he deserved it,” says Killa Cal. “He’s the kind of guy that needs to be put there–in the spotlight where he belongs.”