Lazy Lester plays that easy rolling Swamp Blues that always makes you want to move your feet. Blowing a mellifluous harp and occasionally strumming a guitar or even a washboard, his laid back vocal style meant that Leslie Johnson of Torres Louisiana was given the name Lazy Lester.
Legend has it that, in around 1955, Lightnin’ Slim was riding a bus on his way to Excello’s studios when he complained to fellow passenger Lester about his harp player, who kept disappearing. Lester went along to the session just to ‘sit in’, and Slim liked his harp playing so much that Lester became his sideman for many years.
Producer Jay Miller immediately gave Leslie that new ‘Lazy Lester’ tag and used him as a studio musician, exploring all his multi-instrumental talents, for more than ten years. Lester’s solo singles during this time included his own compositions, ‘I’m a Lover, Not a Fighter’, ‘I Hear You Knockin” and ‘Sugar Coated Love’, all of which were successful and all were covered many times. He also released an album in 1967 called ‘True Blues’. Lester continued to play the Louisiana club scene for many years with men like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Slim Harpo and the young Buddy Guy. ‘Retiring’ in the late 60s, Lester moved to Pontiac Michigan where he lived with Slim Harpo’s sister, worked a manual job and enjoyed his fishing!
Two of Lester’s biggest hits;
In the late 80s, Lester joined the Blues revival with an album ‘Lazy Lester Rides Again’, recorded in Britain for Mike Vernon‘s Blue Horizon label. The same year he did ‘Poor Boy Blues’ for Flyright and then the following year brought out ‘Harp and Soul’ for Alligator. This flurry of activity got Lester noticed, and he has continued to play his way around the club scene ever since. His fine collection of Excello singles were compiled on ‘I Hear You Knockin’ ‘, in 1994 and he cut an album for Antone‘s label called ‘All Over You’ in 1998. Further gigs and recordings have followed including work with Louisiana Red, Lucky Peterson and Jimmie Vaughan.
Lazy Lester died at his home in Paradise on Wednesday, August 22 2018. He was 85 years old.