Life, Legacy & Lessons
of Frances W. Preston
The rights of every songwriter were in jeopardy. At stake was the very
soundtrack of modern life. Capitol Hill wasn’t budging. Then, out of this
chorus of confusion a voice that couldn’t carry a tune …spoke up.
In the history of the music industry only one woman has risen from the mailroom to the top chair of the international boardroom. It is unlikely that there will ever be another leader with the same rare mix of confidence, insight, grit and grace as Frances Williams Preston.
A student’s summer adventure, as an insurance company ‘mail girl’, led Frances to the receptionist desk of famed 1940’s-50’s clear-channel radio station WSM. There, her natural skills put the 22 year old on a first name basis with the on-air entertainers of the day; Bing Crosby, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and the entire cast of the original ‘Grand Ole Opry’.
She couldn’t type a letter, but she knew how to correspond. And in no time The Receptionist became the ‘Go-To Girl’ – centrally located at the intersection of American Music’s multiple crossroads – WSM’s lobby desk.
Her affection for the plight of ‘The Writer’ – and her motivational talents behind the scenes were eventually noticed by the powers-that-be. And, in the male-dominated world of the late 50’s, Frances was offered the unprecedented task of opening BMI’s first regional office in Nashville, Tennessee.
It was a challenge…
From her parents’ dining room table in the Civil Rights South, this young white girl assembled a team that literally kicked opened the door of opportunity for rising writer-performers like Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. And over the following five decades of Civil Rights, Equal Rights, Human Rights and Copyrights, the efforts of this singular woman shattered the glass ceiling for both song writers and women-in-the-workplace everywhere.
Facets of Frances
Although this overview was compiled by Nashville’s Junior Achievement in 2001, it details many of the historic facets that comprise the legacy of Frances Preston.