Johnny Preston, 'Running Bear' Singer, Dies at 71
Johnny Preston, 'Running Bear' Singer, Dies at 71

Johnny Preston, who had a No. 1 hit with the song "Running Bear" in 1960, died in Beaumont, Tex., on Friday (Mar. 4). He was 71.

His death was confirmed by his son, Scott, who said Mr. Preston had bypass surgery late last year and suffered from lingering health problems.

Johnny Preston, "Running Bear"

Born Johnny Preston Courville in 1939, Mr. Preston spent most of his life in Port Arthur, Tex. He first performed in a group called the Shades at Lamar University, in Beaumont, in 1957 and was brought to the attention of Mercury Records by the disc jockey and singer J. P. Richardson, better known as the Big Bopper.

Mr. Richardson wrote "Running Bear," which told the story of an ill-fated romance between Running Bear, an "Indian brave," and Little White Dove, an "Indian maid." It spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a million-seller for Mr. Preston the year after Mr. Richardson died in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. Mr. Preston's follow-up single, "Cradle of Love," reached No. 7 on the Billboard chart.

The Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s, from 1 to 1,000

In addition to his son Scott, Mr. Preston is survived by his wife, Sharon; another son, Michael; two daughters, Leslie and Lisa; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.