b. 12 January 1906, London, England, d. 14 November 1978, Majorca, Spain. A pianist, accordionist, and the leader of a fine, swinging dance band for more than 30 years, Preager was playing piano in various outfits while still at school. After working at various jobs, he became a full time musician in his teens, and in the late 20s toured extensively abroad, and formed bands to play at smart London clubs and restaurants, including Ciro’s, the Bon Viveur, Romano’s and the Monseigneur. Several of these ensembles were led or co-led by others such as violinist Eugene Pina and accordionist and composer Billy Reid. Preager’s signature tune around this time was ‘Let’s All Go Down The Strand’, and his first recordings to be released were made early in 1935. During World War II, Preager served in the Intelligence Corps but was invalided out in January 1942 following an accident in which he seriously damaged his right arm. A few months later, he began his association with the Hammersmith Palais, one of the largest dancehalls in the UK, where he led the resident band for some 18 years. In the late 40s he featured the highly popular songwriting contest Write A Tune For £1000, which was broadcast by the BBC, and produced several agreeable songs, including the hit ‘Cruising Down The River’, written by two amateurs, Eily Beadell and Nell Tollerton. In the late 50s Preager ran the successful television competition Find A Singer, in which all the winners received a recording contract. After leaving the Palais in 1959, Preager suffered from persistent ill health, and eventually retired in 1967. During his long and busy career, he won several honours, including three Carl Alan Awards for the Best Palais Band. Over the years, many of Britain’s up-and-coming musicians, such as Don Lusher and Johnny Gray, played with his bands, and his numerous vocalists included Paul Rich, Edna Kaye, Rita Williams, Steve Martin, Elisabeth Welch, Paula Green, Anne Lenner, Judy Shirley, Eileen Orchard, Ken Barry, Helen Clare and many more. Preager was also a shrewd businessman, with interests in book publishing, television, records and film production, and entertainment agencies.
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