Meet Charles Kester, Piano Entertainer

By Rick Runion
The Ledger

Published: Saturday, September 6, 2008

Charles Kester, 73, has been playing piano since he was 8 years old and stills plays every day for his own enjoyment.

 

 

CHARLES KESTER has been playing the piano since he was 8. Now he’s 73.

” I love music, that’s all there is to it”

Kester, who was born in Yeddo Indiana in 1935, is the subject of this month’s “Ageless Aging” series. Through this special project, Ledger videographer Rick Runion provides a look at older adults who have gifts and dreams they refuse to give up.

Kester has been married to Linda for 54 years and has two children, son Larry Kester of Lake Wales and daughter Jane Stringfellow of Winter Haven.

Kester worked for the railroad for 43 years and starting as a telegraph operator.

The Kesters started spending the winters in Polk County in the 1990s and moved here full-time in 2002.

Kester doesn’t read music but plays by ear. He has his own system of writing cords symbols, which helps him remember the key of the music he plays.

In the 1950s, Kester and his fellow musicians in Indiana began playing nursing homes and found out senior adults liked the same music he liked and says he is “not much up on the new music”. Some 50 years later Kester is still playing senior facilities and does not charge for his performances.

“My pay is they come up afterward, or you can go and shake their hand and (they) tell you they enjoyed it. That to me is the reason I do it”.

He passes out song books and calls his act “Sing along with Charlie”.

His audiences sing along with the songs of the 1930s and 1940s.

“They call out numbers and away we go”.

He says that even Alzheimer patients remember words to songs when they can’t remember a lot of things: “That’s one of the good things”.

Kesters even throws in jokes, “so it’s more of a show than it is straight music all the way.

“If you can make them smile or sing along with you, that’s what I was meant to do, I really feel that.”

This story appeared in print in The Ledger

July 30 ~ Today in Music History

today

 

• 1899 ~ Gerald Moore, British pianist and accompanist

• 1909 ~ Adolph Baller, Pianist

• 1926 ~ Martin Bookspan, American music critic, administrator and broadcaster

• 1929 ~ Christine McGuire, Singer with The McGuire Sisters

• 1936 ~ Buddy (George) Guy, Blues guitar, singer, on BBC TV

• 1941 ~ Buddy Guy, Blues Musician

• 1941 ~ Paul Anka, Canadian singer and songwriter of popular music. He composed Johnny’s Theme (Tonight Show Theme) and had 33 hits over 3 decades, including “Diana” and “Puppy Love”.

• 1942 ~ Frank Sinatra recorded the last of 90 recordings with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on Victor Records. His last side was There are Such Things, which became number one in January of 1943. Sinatra moved on as a solo singing sensation.

• 1942 ~ Stagedoor Canteen was first heard on CBS radio. The show was broadcast live from New York City and 500 servicemen were entertained each week by celebrities who freely donated their time for the war (WWII) effort.

• 1945 ~ David Sanborn, Grammy Award-winning musician, saxophone, flute, composer of the TV movie score to Finnegan Begin Again

• 1947 ~ Marc Bolan (Feld), Singer with T. Rex

• 1956 ~ Singer Brenda Lee recorded her first hit for Decca Records. Jambalaya and Bigelow 6-500 started a new career for the petite 11-year-old from Lithonia, GA (near Atlanta). Brenda Mae Tarpley (Brenda Lee) had been singing professionally since age six. She recorded 29 hit songs in the 1960s and became a successful country singer in 1971. Brenda Lee had a pair of number one tunes with I’m Sorry and I Want to be Wanted. She recorded a dozen hits that made it to the top 10.

• 1958 ~ Kate Bush, Singer

• 2002 ~ Leonard Litman, who ran two top Pittsburgh entertainment venues in the 1940s and ’50s that attracted stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Bill Haley’s Comets, died of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88. Litman owned Lenny Litman’s Copa, a nightclub that flourished in the city’s downtown from 1948 to 1959. Earlier, he ran the influential Mercur’s Music Bar. After the Copa closed in 1959, Litman continued to promote concerts and made a brief foray into sports in the 1960s when he and his brothers invested in an American Basketball League team. Litman worked as the Pittsburgh correspondent for Billboard Magazine from 1948 to 1960 and as a correspondent for Variety for decades.