Legendary Fiddle Player Hoot Hester Dead at 65
One of the most respected fiddle players in country music has passed away after a battle with cancer. According to multiple reports, Hubert Dwane "Hoot" Hester died Tuesday (Aug. 30), nearly a year after being diagnosed with cancer.
Hester was born on Aug. 13, 1951 on a small farm in Kentucky, and began playing the fiddle as a child.
"I remember picturing my fingers flying up and down the neck of that fiddle and mesmerizing everybody if they would only let me get my hands on that fiddle," he recalled in his official biography. When he was 9 years old, an elderly neighbor told him if he could learn to play, he's give him a fiddle.
He launched his career by playing with Bluegrass Alliance and the Whites, and made his way to Nashville in 1973 after placing fifth in a fiddle contest in which Chet Atkins and other prominent music business people were judges. In Music City he found work as a backing musician for Mel Tillis, Donna Fargo and Jerry Reed, among others.
Hester curtailed his road work after starting a family, beginning a new chapter as a session musician and moving over into television work. His list of credits grew to include Randy Travis, Alabama, Manhattan Transfer, Steve Wariner, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and more, according to Rolling Stone.
He performed on Nashville Alive and Pop Goes the Country, and put the full range of his musical ability to work as the in-house multi-instrumentalist on Nashville Now after it launched in the 1980s. According to WSM DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs, that position probably made Hester "the most visible fiddle player in America at that time: He was on television five nights a week."
"He was always a positive person to be around," Stubbs tells Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. "He was a dependable person, a team player, and a tasteful musician. Whatever was required of him, he did it well."
Hester went on to help found the acclaimed Western swing band the Time Jumpers. He hired on as the Opry house fiddler in 2000, and in more recent years he performed frequently with his daughter, Rachel Hester, and her band the Tennessee Walkers.
Hester is survived by his wife of 39 years, Lola; children, Becca McBride of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Rachael Kingery of Madison, Tenn.; and Jonathan Hester of Denver, as well as grandchildren Keegan and McKenna McBride and Rosie Kingery. Details of a planned memorial service are to be announced.
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