Lazy Lester brings blues harp to Tucson

2014-08-07T00:00:00Z Lazy Lester brings blues harp to TucsonBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

KXCI (91.3-FM) has some classic blues in store for this year’s House Rockin’ Blues Review at El Casino Ballroom on Friday.

Harmonica player Lazy Lester, a prominent name in the Louisiana “swamp blues” scene, will headline the show that will include performances from Tom Walbank, Bob Corritore, The Rhythm Room All-Stars and Michael P. & the Blue Star Players.

Lester, 81, was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012 for his contributions to the genre, particularly for his work with Nashville-based Excello Records.

Here are three things to know about the musician.

1. Lester is a true-blue swamp-rocker and Louisiana blues player. He was born in Torras, Louisiana, and spent the first half of his life bouncing around the state. Before catching on with Excello, Lester was an odd-job man. His employment history included time spent as a grocery store clerk and gas station attendant.

He also took on various professions during his hiatuses from the music industry in the 1960s and ‘70s, working in construction and lumberjacking.

Lester has lived in Chicago, and spent several years in Pontiac, Michigan, where his longtime pal, Lightnin’ Slim, resided. He currently calls the small town of Paradise, California, home.

2. Lester is first and foremost a country music fan. Country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers is often cited as one of Lester’s early influences. In 2013, Lester told Blues Blast magazine that he was still a huge fan of Merle Travis, George Jones and Charley Pride. Crooner Don Williams, known as the “gentle giant” of country music for his baritone vocals, was Lester’s favorite, according to the article.

3. Lester was the guy who brought the mellow to Excello Records. Through the 1950s and ‘60s, Lester produced several high-profile hits for the famed label, songs such as “Sugar Coated Love” and “Through the Goodness of My Heart.” Lester also lent his talents to the music of others. His work on the harmonica, guitar and percussion can be found on recordings of many Excello artists, from Lightnin’ Slim and Nathan Abshire to Slim Harpo and Lonesome Sundown.

Lester worked with Excello’s primary producer Jay Miller on a string of popular songs at Miller’s Studio in Crowley, Louisiana. It was Miller who first started calling Lester, “Lazy Lester,” because of Lester’s slow delivery when he spoke.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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