Fiddler Hoot Hester Dead at 65
Well-loved fiddle player Hoot Hester passed away in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday (Aug. 30), 11 months after being diagnosed with cancer; he was 65 years old.
"He was always a positive person to be around," Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs tells the Tennessean. "He was a dependable person, a team player and a tasteful musician. Whatever was required of him, he did it well."
Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester was born on Aug. 13, 1951, on a farm near Louisville, Ky. Growing up in a musical family, Hester began playing the fiddle as a young boy, and in the 1970s, he began his career by traveling with the Bluegrass Alliance and popular country outfit the Whites.
As Hester and his wife Lola began having children, he retired from the road and began a varied and illustrious career in Nashville. He quickly became a sought-after session player and played on multiple television and radio shows. Hester appeared on popular shows such as Nashville Alive and Pop Goes the Country, and in the '80s, he became the house band fiddler and utility player on Nashville Now. After the show went off the air, Hester founded the western swing band the Time Jumpers in 1997, and in 2000, he joined the Grand Ole Opry staff band, where he would play until 2014. He also spent many years collaborating with the late, great Scruggs, right up until Scruggs' death in 2012.
But it was perhaps in the last years of his life that Hester found his most significant job as a musician. Most recently, Hester teamed up with his youngest daughter, Rachael, to produce and write for her band, Rachael Hester and the Tennessee Walkers (see video above). He also became her bandleader, performing with her regularly at Nashville's famed honky-tonk Robert's Western World.
"I can't think of a kinder, gentler soul on this earth than Hoot," Chris Scruggs, grandson of Earl Scruggs and close friend and collaborator of Hester's, tells the Tennessean. "He had the best one-liners for any occasion, and they were always funny no matter how many times you heard them. He wasn't a man of many words, and that showed in his playing. They say musicians show their personality on their instruments, and he was a mater of taste, touch and tone."
Hester is survived by his wife Lola, their children Becca, Rachael and Jonathan, and grandchildren Keegan, McKenna and Rosie. Arrangements have not yet been announced, but tentative plans call for a visitation on Friday (Sept. 2) and a funeral on Saturday (Sept. 3) at First Baptist Church in Dickson, Tenn.
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