The Rise and Fall of a Local Bluesman
No matter what genre a musician plays, it all somehow comes back to a couple of origins. One is classical music and the other is the blues, from the Crossroads to the Windy City and all over the World. As local music fans, we try to stay on top of Upstate New York’s music history, as well as, who is currently making waves in the 518 scene. When we discover a new artist, we are ready to share it with like-minded friends. However, for the last few months I have been racking my brain and kind of ashamed of myself for not knowing who Chest’r is and the accomplishments he’s chalked up. As Chest’r took the stage to set up, we were just talking shop, amps and guitars. It did not feel like this was the first time we have met, but it was. Before Chest’r even played note that night at Unihog, I knew this was a story that had to be shared and anyone within earshot was about to find out who this bluesman was.
Chest’r has not only been a local legend for well over 50 years, but he has also performed and toured all over the world From New York to Amsterdam, onto Denmark, Spain, London, and Poland that he booked himself. He was no stranger to Caffe Lena’s in Saratoga and he could be found sharing the stage with the likes of Marshall Tucker Band, Toy Caldwell, or the Mac Davis Band. Scoring multiple victories at the Annual Capital District Guitar Competition, and winning first place in three categories at the National Creative Arts Festival.
Let us take you through a history of the man know as Chest’r and the lifetime of a true bluesman. “I remember wanting to be a musician at the age of 6 years old, we only had a radio then so I would listen to the westerns and music of big bands as my uncle played first trumpet for Tommy Dorsey Band. I had big dreams of being a cowboy, just my horse, my guitar and I”, says Chest,r. He added, “I’d listen to all the popular music like Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams and Hank Snow. I used to dress up like Elvis and perform at church shows. I would sing to his 45s. I started Karaoke,” he chuckled.
He played baseball but music became his main passion, as he continued to learn and take lessons over the years and made his way into his first band, The Morlocks. Chest’r tells us, “I remember playing our first gig for a bunch of lumberjacks and it was the best feeling in the world.”
“I joined the Navy in 1963 while onboard one of my shipmates was a backup singer for the Four Seasons and we started a group. That didn’t last long as another shipmate smashed my Gibson Hummingbird guitar ’cause he didn’t like my playing”, Chest’r said. “I toured on my own 1994 and 1995 backpacking in ’94 setting myself up for gigs in 95, all through Europe”. Chest’r played all over the world up until 2002 when it all came to a screeching halt, as his sister passed away from a flu shot. To make matters worse, his brother, a Vietnam Vet, already suffering from PTSD had taken her loss so hard, he ended up in the psych ward of the VA Hospital as the result of a mental breakdown. More hardships were on the horizon for Chest’r and he now found himself homeless. Chest’r, a Veteran and an award-winning musician with recordings and gigs all over the world suffered multiple tragic events and is still here to talk and sing about it today.
Chest’r has found his way back from that hell and states, “I decided to get my brother situated and we settled in Hoosick Falls, New York. I have been here ever since and I am ready to get back on stages again”.