One of the most revered and longtime members of the Grand Ole Opry house band, founding member of the supergroup the Time Jumpers, and fiddler for dozens of important country music stars including Bill Monroe, Hank Williams Jr., and Randy Travis just to name a few, and a favorite of bluegrass fans, has passed away. 65-year-old Hoot Hester died on Tuesday (8-30) after battling Cancer.
Hubert Dwane Hester was born August 13, 1951 on a small farm just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and later attended Louisville’s Southern High School. In 1973 he moved to Nashville after competing in a fiddling contest where Chet Atkins was one of the judges, and took his first job as a fiddle player for The Whites. Over his career, Hester played in the bands of Bill Monroe, The Compton Brothers, Donna Fargo, Conway Twitty, Ricky Van Shelton, Mel Tillis Jerry Reed, and many others. But Hester was not much for touring, so in 1980 he began to focus on becoming a studio musician, and his work can be heard on scores of recordings from the era.
In 1997, Hoots helped form the Time Jumpers with Dennis Crouch, and he appears on the band’s first record. Hoots regularly played on the Grand Ole Opry throughout his career, and officially became part of the Opry’s house band in 2000. Hoot was fired from the Opry in 2014 in the one of the institution’s many controversial moves over the years, but Hoot remained active in and around Nashville.
Later in life, Hoot worked regularly with Earl Scruggs up to his death in 2012. He also was the bandleader behind Rachael Hester and The Tennessee Walkers—the band of his youngest daughter.
Hoot was a cherished, respected, and revered musician in Nashville and beyond, and will be sorely missed by the traditional country and bluegrass community.