Fiddle player Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester, a 43-year veteran of the Nashville music scene, whose work included 14 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry staff band and stints backing a wide range of acts from Ray Charles to Hank Williams Jr., died Tuesday, following an 11-month battle with cancer. He was 65.
Hester was a co-founder of Western swing group the Time Jumpers in the Nineties and appeared on several Music City-based TV series, including Nashville Alive and Pop! Goes the Country. He also served as fiddle player for the house band on Ralph Emery’s TNN series Nashville Now – a role, WSM DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs tells the Tennessean, that made Hester “the most visible fiddle player in America at that time: He was on television five nights a week.”
Born and raised near Louisville, Kentucky, Hester’s earliest professional gigs included playing with Bluegrass Alliance, one of the first “progressive” bluegrass bands, as well as the Whites. Relocating to Nashville in 1973, Hester would go on to do session and band work with Randy Travis, Alabama, Donna Fargo, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed, Manhattan Transfer, Steve Wariner and Bill Monroe, among others. He worked with Earl Scruggs until the bluegrass icon’s death in 2012. His most recent work found him playing with daughter Rachael Hester and her band the Tennessee Walkers, regular performers at Robert’s Western World on Nashville Lower Broadway.
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Hester is survived by Lola, his wife of 39 years, and their three children, Becca McBride, Rachael Kingery and Jonathan Hester, along with three grandchildren.