October 25, 1942 – May 2, 2014 Remembering “Lonesome” Armistead

Remembering “Lonesome” Lester Armistead (October 25, 1942 – May 2, 2014) was a joyful onstage presence who blew the jug, played banjo and hollered tenor vocals as a founding member of The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Mr. Armistead was steeped in old-time country music. His father co-owned a bait store with Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff’s fiddle player, Howdy Forrester, and Acuff’s Dobro player, Bashful Brother Oswald, taught him to sing. With the Jug Band, Mr. Armistead buzzed his lips just above the mouth of a vintage jug that Oswald played on the Opry with Acuff in the 1930s. “Lester, how’s your jug?” Marty Stuart would often ask Mr. Armistead on episodes of RFD-TV’s “The Marty Stuart Show.” Mr. Armistead would reply, “’Bout half.’”
A retired printer, Mr. Armistead lived on a farm north of Nashville. His homestead included a converted store called “Lonesome Lester’s Loafin’ Lounge,” where the Jug Band practiced. The Lounge featured a large picture of Acuff, and the band sought to recreate the clattering spirit of southern roots music made in the days before electric guitars and music videos.
With the jug band, Armistead propelled both the comedy and the old-time music with his percussive jug blowing. His powerful tenor singing recalled the late great Bashful Brother Oswald, (comedian and Roy Acuff’s longtime dobro player), from whom Lester learned to sing. Lester himself was an accomplished musician. The band has performed worldwide including performances on the Grand Ole Opry and as regular guests on the Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV, playing boisterous songs like “Too Old to Cut the Mustard,” “What a Waste of Good Corn Liquor” and “Slide Them Jugs Down the Mountain.”

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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