Lester Estelle’s father worked the late shift, so Lester would sneak his dad’s guitar out of the closet and play it every evening after school. At ten years old, his only music teacher was the television set – Porter Waggoner and Hee Haw.
His father had an unconventional style. He used an open C tuning (CEGCEG) and barred with his thumb. Of course, Lester didn’t bother to change the tuning and quickly learned to imitate the sounds he heard on the music TV shows.
Since he was watching television he held the guitar left-handed, even though he is right handed. This caused the guitar to be strung reversed since it was a right-hand guitar. But listening to his heroes Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, and later Phil Keaggy, Lester developed a unique style and a sound all his own. He no longer uses and open C tuning, but is a master of several other alternate tuning.
Lester became self-conscious that his playing was weird and that he didn’t fit in with what was expected of him. But he eventually realized that God made each of us unique and he was the person, and that he played, exactly like God had intended.
His father was a pastor and Lester knew from an early age that he wanted to be involved in ministry. One time while he was serving as the worship pastor at an area church, the entire praise band quit; quite possibly because Lester didn’t have the vocabulary to explain what he was doing or what he wanted. Keys, chord structure, and time signatures were pretty fuzzy to him at the time and this was a frustration to other musicians. He took his two young sons to a music store on Saturday and bought a set of drums, a bass, and a bass amp, and along with his wife, Pat, singing, they led worship on Sunday morning. His son Lester Jr. was the obvious drummer because he was always beating on things anyway. Lester Estelle Jr. is now the drummer for the band "Pillar" and his brother, Brandon, is the drummer for the band "Superchick."
Though Lester never learned to read music, he learned enough music theory to communicate with other musicians. He also spends countless hours listening to all kinds of music, especially guitar players. His love of jazz is evident to anybody who has seen or heard him play.
Whether he is leading worship on Sunday morning or playing with Lynda Randle and the Bill Gaither Tour in huge arenas or on television specials, Lester is amazed at how he got here and the graciousness of God to allow him to do what he loves.
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