November 2008

LUCY: Hi Jimmy. You've drummed on so many great records. Let's give our readers a little history. Was the Rhythm Rockers your first band?

JIMMY: It was the first band I played in that got paid to play in bars and frat parties. From there, I moved on to play with Billy Joe Shaver. I wasn't into country music, but I wanted to go on tour and move to Austin, Texas, and he was kinda famous, so I thought it could help my career. But also I discovered that he was a great songwriter and American Poet. Really. I also played on some of his records - Salt of the Earth - and Freedom's Child, the first record he did after Eddy died. R.S. Field, who I worked with in Webb Wilder, and who produced Tramp on Your Street did it.

LUCY: How did you get involved with Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks?

JIMMY: Drummer/Producer & songwriter R.S. Field had seen me play with Billy Joe, and asked me to replace him on drums in Webb's band. He wanted to focus on writing and producing and I wanted to play Rock 'n Roll. Steve Earl took me to see the band one night, and they were playing a Johnny Horton medley "Pre Dwight Yokum" - that blew my mind! It was the fastest version I'd ever heard! I knew then I had to be in that band. That was twenty-five years ago and I just finished my ninth record with Webb.

LUCY: Tell us about Scattergun [to be released 2009]. I just watched the preview and it looks like a really fun movie.

JIMMY: That WAS fun. August in the deep south, wearing a wool suit ... HELL YEAH!

Webb's third film with Producer/Director Steve Mimms. Webb's a rock 'n roll musician/Private Eye, whose nephew gets caught up in the seedy underworld of custom engine builders for dirt track auto racing. R.S. Field and I play Mississippi Mafia hit men whose boss is owed an engine that Webb's nephew "Abner" didn't deliver. "Abner" is Adam Bednarik our young engineer friend.

LUCY: You were the original drummer for Los Straitjackets?

JIMMY: Yes. Eddy, Danny and I started the band in 1989 - regrouped in 1994 and added bass player Scott Esbeck. He recorded the first two records and a few songs on the third, The Velvet Touch, before he quit the band to persue another gig. Pete replaced him in 98, 99? I can't remember.

LUCY: You drummed on Los Straitjackets' version of "Black is Black," (with Raúl Malo of The Mavericks) didn't you? God, I love that song. The drumbeat on that one is so perfect. Tell us about making that recording and working with Malo.

JIMMY: Yes, those were the Nashville sessions for "Sing Along." I really like that song. I think we cut the basic track and Raúl sang to it. He's a real gentleman. Great singer. I also really liked "End of the World" interpreted by Leigh Nash, who was/is in Six Pence None the Richer.

LUCY: Out of all the Straitjackets I've talked to, we haven't really talked about the aspect of Mexican wrestling. How much is the actual wrestling an influence on the band?

JIMMY: I don't know if there is any influence. Minutes before our first gig at Lucy's record shop in Nashville, we opened for "Man or Astroman" and Danny brought these masks in for us to wear. I think we were a little apprehensive at first, but when we stood together in front of the mirror and saw ourselves, we realized there was no way we could NOT wear the masks.

As Danny would say when asked "they look cool."

LUCY: And why did you end up leaving Los Straitjackets, any chance of a reunion?

JIMMY: Well, I guess we were growing apart.

It was always fun going to California, but being a Surf Rock/Instrumental band that wore Mexican wrestling masks from NASHVILLE, TN made it even more special. As far as a reunion ... who knows. Eddy and I still work on musical projects together.

LUCY: What kind of drums do you play and why?

JIMMY: LUDWIG for the last forty-three years. If they're good enough for Ringo and Joe Morello, they're good enough for me.

LUCY: Your favorite drummers?

JIMMY: Earl Palmer and Dino Danelli. This month anyway.

LUCY: Please tell us some of your favorite recordings you've drummed on so we can make sure our readers get hip to those tunes (if they aren't already).

JIMMY: With Los Straightjackets: The Velvet Touch, The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sounds of Los Straitjackets, both produced by Ben Vaughan, Mark Linnet, and Brad Jones engineered respectively; Supersonic Guitars in 3-D produced and recorded by Mark Neil of Valdosta, Georgia (but he lives in San Diego), and Sing Along ... produced, independent of each other by Mark Linnet and R.S. Field.

With Webb Wilder: It Came From Nashville, Hybrid Vigor, Town & Country, About Time and Tough It Out, the live DVD we did. Also, Baby Please Don't Go off of DooDad.

Other stuff? Little Rock by Hayes Carll, Freedom's Child by Billy Joe Shaver (both Americana Chart #1s), Calling Doctor Strong by the RRAF (R.S.'s solo record), Rock & Roll City by Eddie "the Chief" Clearwater (2004 "I think" Grammy nominee for Best Contemporary Blues), and very recently I made it to College Radio with a young band The Sways. I'm real proud of that record and it was a great group of musicians including producer/songwriter/guitar player Adam Landry and his wife Carey, the great Lloyd Green, Dan Baird ...

LUCY: This might seem like a silly question, but have you heard about The Monkees getting blocked from the so-called Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? If they were to disallow every band that used Hal Blaine to record drum tracks there would be far fewer 60's rock & roll bands in the hall, correct? Opinion?

JIMMY: They should just induct Hal Blaine into the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame if they haven't already. I'll be playing at it next week. I'll find out for you.

LUCY: Thanks. What album are you working on right now?

JIMMY: I'm working on Webb Wilder's new record. I think it's going to be really good, I'm excited. Joe McMahan is producing. I start work on another R.S. Field record soon, and a singer/songwriter's record by the name of Mark Huff.

LUCY: Any Psycho Beach Party memories? I love those kinds of shows. You did a fantastic job on the theme.

JIMMY: Well, I actually played on the whole soundtrack with bassist Pete Curry and Ben Vaughn (with the exception of tracks done by other bands entirely). They didn't want us to use our original masks because they were too shiny, so wardrobe made us masks that were understated visually for filming reasons and of course mine was too tight, so that, coupled with a serious hangover from The Galley the night before -- caused severe discomfort.

LUCY: Oh, that's so lame. I would hate to wear a tight mask on my face. All right, what else should we know about the great Jimmy Lester?

JIMMY: Ringo played songs. Levon played songs. I love to play songs and I love to play chain-gun Rock & Roll drum solos. I also like to play Soul, Jump, N.O. Jazz, Country, Tango and Blues.

LUCY: Thank you so much, Jimmy!



“Jimmy Lester Interview" by Lucy Hell.
Edited/formatted by Bradley Mason Hamlin. © 2008 by Mystery Island Publications. Published: 11.10.08.
All rights reserved.

Photos of Jimmy Lester from the collection of Jimmy Lester. Used with permission.