Hoot Hester played fiddle, guitar, and mandolin in Nashville for 43 years. He was born on a small farm near Louisville, KY, and attended Louisville's Southern High School. Although his real name was Hubert Dwane, he got his trademark nickname of "Hoot" from Hoot Gibson, a popular cowboy actor, when he was just a toddler. Hoot developed a love of music from his guitar and fiddle-playing father and four uncles, as well as from his mother's piano playing. He first learned how to play the piano, and by the time he was nine he had picked up the fiddle as well. It wasn't long before he also developed skill on the guitar and mandolin.
When he graduated from high school, Hoot worked for the phone company while also performing with a Louisville group called the Bluegrass Alliance. He came to Nashville in 1973 at the age of 21 playing with Bluegrass Alliance, the Whites, and with Ben Smathers and the Stony Mountain Cloggers. In his early years in Nashville, he travelled the road with Donna Fargo, Mel Tillis, and Jerry Reid. He also played as a studio musician for many popular country music recording artists of the time, including Alabama, Hank WilliamsJr., Conway Twitty, Randy Travis, Bill Monroe, and Ricky Van Shelton. He also recorded with Manhattan Transfer and Ray Charles.
After coming off the road to spend more time with his family, he played fiddle on Pop Goes the Country, Dancin USA, That Nashville Music, and Nashville Alive. In the early 80s, when Nashville Now cast a house band, he was hired as the fiddle player and utility musician. After Nashville Now went off the air, Hoot continued playing sessions and went on the road with Steve Wariner. He also founded the legendary Western Swing group The Time Jumpers.In the early 2000s, he was hired as a fiddle player and utility musician in the house band of the Grand Ole Opry where he played for more than a decade. "Hoot Hester, let's hear that fiddle," became a commonplace saying in those years. He worked regularly with Earl Scruggs until Earl's death in 2012 and remained with the Time Jumpers until 2014. In the final years of his career, he was the bandleader behind Rachael Hester and The Tennessee Walkers-his youngest daughter's band.
Hoot Hester passed away after battling cancer in August 2016; he was 65 years old.
Hoot was a cherished, respected, and revered musician in Nashville and beyond, and will be sorely missed by the traditional country and bluegrass community.