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John Preble ~ About
John Preble, b1948, artist, musician

John Preble was born in 1948 in New Orleans Louisiana to Warren G. Preble, a mathematician from Kansas and Marie Louise Soperri from Basel Switzerland. He grew up in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, a working class suburb of New Orleans. His mother encouraged him to pursue his interest in art and he had informal electric organ lessons for about a year as a teenager when the family purchased an electric chord organ. He developed an interest in film-making during high school when independent film during the independent filmmaking craze in the mid 1960s. He was inspired to write music by listening to the Beatles. His achievement on the organ was nothing special and only occasionally played with other musicians, however he continued to write songs.

He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now known as the University of Louisiana in Lafayette where he planned to study architecture. His mischievous behavior resulted in him being dismissed from the university his first year. He returned the following year and completed a semester; however he was not allowed to return the following semester because of his low grades from the previous semester. After sitting out a semester he took a job with a motion picture studio in Dallas. He was there less than a year and returned to Lafayette to complete his Fine Arts degree program. Upon returning to Lafayette, he met Margareta Lahme, a divorced German who had 2 young sons and was thirteen years his senior. They shared a house that was a popular meeting place for artists and it was there where he met Ann O’Brien, who would become his wife years later. He was a popular student with his professors and very outspoken. His interest in music continued and his friends were mostly musicians and artists. During this period he had befriended Ed Pramuk, an art professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; Pramuk encouraged him to transfer to the Baton Rouge school where after attending two semesters he graduated.

In the early seventies, Preble, Lahme, O’Brien, and John Hodge, an artist friend of the couple, moved to Abita Springs, Louisiana, with the idea of being able to live close to each other for artistic inspiration. While renovating the house Lahme had purchased, Preble learned the skills of electrical wiring, plumbing, and basic carpentry. These skills would later allow him to purchase and renovate his own “fixer upper” houses. Preble and Lahme separated a few years after moving to Abita Springs, and he purchased his first house across the street from Lahme’s home. Preble started Abita Springs Pottery that lasted only a couple of years; he stopped making pottery when he accepted a position on the faculty at Loyola University in New Orleans. Preble was relieved of his position because his aesthetic beliefs were not shared by his fellow professors – it was a mutual parting.

Preble and O’Brien began dating shortly after her divorce from her first husband, Jerry Thomas. O’Brien had been making art jewelry since she was a teenager and had a successful career as a jeweler. They were married in 1979 and a few years later had their first son, Andrew and five years later their second son was born, William. The Preble-O’Brien household was the center of the artistic community in Abita Springs for many years; they hosted numerous holiday parties and had a guest house that was often occupied. During this time the couple succeeded in “flipping” houses in the local booming real estate market. Dub Brock (Bobby Lounge) became a friend at this time when the two discovered a common interest in the piano and songwriting. With a partner, Edward Deano, Preble purchased a music venue in Mandeville to create a venue for Bobby Lounge to perform in. He had encouraged Lounge to write and perform with the goal to become a popular regional entertainer. Unfortunately Lounge soon after was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – this disability put his career on hold for the over twelve years. In the 1990’s Preble created a series of paintings of Creole women that were very popular with art collectors. When Bobby Lounge became well enough to perform once again, Preble became his manager and he parlayed Lounge’s absence from the music scene into a local “come back” phenomena.

In 2000 he opened a curious tourist attraction called the UCM Museum in Abita Springs Preble renamed it the Abita Mystery House after he realized that the word ‘museum’ was not an accurate description of his odd enterprise. Preble’s home was partially destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and shortly after, O’Brien was diagnosed with cancer and died five months later in 2006. Preble was devastated by the death of his wife of 27 years, but the small town community helped him survive while, as he said, “walked through the desert” for a year. Preble kept busy with parenting and stabilizing their damage home. Because of the lost of his wife and the hurricane resulted in Preble becoming more introspected and interested in the human experience. The lack of tourism resulted in a shift of focus for Preble and once again he pursued music business interests.

http://abitian records