Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Billy Preston Legacy: Will it Go Round in Circles?


The great and legendary musician Billy Preston would have turned 64 on September 2nd. He died in June 2006, however, leaving a crazy legal entanglement.

Billy was the real “Fifth Beatle,” the only artist ever to have his name on a record with the Beatles–“Get Back.” He played on many of their hits, and with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. Of course, he’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Billy’s hits included “Will it Go Round in Circles,” “Nothing from Nothing,” and “Outta Space.” He co-wrote the classic hit song, “You Are So Beautiful to Me.”

I knew Billy, and I know his manager, Joyce Moore, who’s been a musicians’ advocate for over 30 years. When Billy died, it was after an eight month coma that may have been caused during a hospital mishap. Prior to that, Billy was on dialysis for kidney failure. Three times a week Moore drove him to treatment, and took exceptional care of him.

Since Preston‘s death, Moore has lived with a massive set of legal issues that would cripple a normal person. Four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, she’s now represented by a cool lawyer– Bruce Fein, former general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and a regular witness before Congress on a wide array of constitutional and international law matters.

Fein says:   “I am optimistic that the courts will do justice to Billy Preston’s legacy once the true facts are exposed.  His music is a national treasure which rapacious litigants are attempting to hijack under the aegis of law.”

Fein is standing up for Preston and for Moore (the wife of R&B legend Sam Moore) against a variety of people including Preston’s two half sisters whom he’d disavowed long ago. One of the sisters’ sons-in-law represented the family until he was recently disbarred.

Moore and Fein are also up against Los Angeles’s perennial celebrity bankruptcy trustee, R. Todd Neilson.

A major point: Billy Preston never filed for bankruptcy. A bankruptcy  was filed in his name one month before he went into an unexpected coma— by an attorney who may not have been licensed at the time. It’s unlikely Preston’s signature on the papers is real.

Neilson is an interesting guy. He’s automatically handed every major celebrity case in Hollywood. He’s a Director (aka senior partner) with LEGC, an international sort of combination management consultancy and tax accountant. On the LEGC website he’s listed alternately and enigmatically as “R. Neilson” and “tneilson”.

R. Todd Neilson is also Chairman of the very exclusive Private Bank of California, which describes itself as “a full-service commercial bank that focuses on high net worth and high income individuals; business professionals and their professional service firms; and business owners, particularly of family owned and closely held businesses.” Translation: it’s for the very rich. It’s unclear what if any conflicts occur between Neilson’s bankruptcy business and his bank life.

Happy birthday, Billy, and here’s hoping that your legacy gets its proper solution soon.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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