By July 2, 2018 Read More →

InterView American Made Ingenuity

American Made Ingenuity – Eli Lester
By Chris Murphy

From the blues, rockabilly, to chrome, steel and environmental lubricants, Eli is the classic renaissance man. Born and raised here in Modesto, Eli went to Davis High and earned a degree from San Francisco State. Eli lives life surrounded by his wife Jaci and their kids, classic cars, station wagons and the most beautiful vintage guitars and his own custom cars. To this amazing list, we now add amplifier development expert with his acquisition of the Two-Rock Amplifier company.

ModestoView: You just may be one of the most versatile people I have met. Chopping cars, working with designer oil & chemicals, blues guitar virtuoso, amplifier maker, parent and so much more. How do you prioritize all of the things in your life?

Eli Lester: I’m very fortunate that I’m passionate about so many things that I do, so none if it ever really seems like ”work”. But being a husband and father while running 2 businesses and a gigging musician is a constant struggle that I know you can relate to, there just never seems to be enough hours in the day but if you love what you’re doing you always seem to make it work.

MV: How did you meet Jaci?
EL: Ironically we grew up 5 doors down from each other as kids, we moved away went to school etc. I moved back to Modesto and few months later I walked out of my apartment complex and she was my next door neighbor. If she tells the story, I was stalking her, I’m going to take the 5th on that one. But we’ve been married for 15 years now so I guess it worked.

MV: What were the things that fascinated you growing up?
EL: My parents were both musicians and I always played and gigged with my father as a young child but as soon as I heard BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughn it was over for me… I was obsessed and it’s been the only constant thing in my life, I’ve always been a blues guy. One day I had saved up enough gig money and bought a 1961 Chrysler and I was hooked with my next big obsession or passion in life. Building hot rods and custom cars just became a passion and what I would do to unwind. I don’t know why cars and guitars go so well together, but it just seems to work.

MV: What characteristic do you hope to pass off to your kids?
EL Passion for what they do including living life. I have great kids and the coolest part is they are all so different and have completely different interests and characteristics than I do. I just want them to be good open minded honest people.

MV: You have always made really cool amps, how did you have the opportunity to purchase Two Rock Amplifiers?
EL: It is a very long story but short of it is: I’ve been a Two-Rock artist since about 2006 and in that time I became great friends will the original founder Bill Krinard. He started using me as someone to play all of the new amps, take them on the road and give him feedback. Eventually I started tweaking and modifying them with him and went down this long tone quest that has lasted for over a decade. The company was sold and was just treading water for a few years. In 2016 myself and longtime friend and Two-Rock general manager Mac Skinner got first right or refusal to buy the company and we took it, we brought back Bill Krinard and have been having an absolute blast.

MV: What is it like to be making amps for the best guitarists in the world?
EL: It’s awesome! We’ve been building and designing custom amps for guys that have inspired me my whole life. Sitting in the studio with guys like Eric Johnson and Doyle Bramhall II have been great people to get ideas and learn from.

MV: What is something that surprised you in this industry?
EL: Like a lot of industries it is a very small community and everyone knows everyone. The world is actually a very small place!

MV: What is next for you and Two-Rock.
EL: Continue to work on being one of the industry leaders in hand wired, hand built, boutique tube amplifiers.

MV: You are also on the founding team of the Plink a new musician networking ap, as am I; what do you hope to accomplish with Plink.
EL: To develop a professional platform for musicians to help them work more and make more as well as helping them be found. As a music lover as much as I love playing, I love going to shows, to be able to find exactly who’s playing in any city that you’re in is going to be amazing for both musicians and music lovers.

MV: You travel everywhere and what keeps you so connected to Modesto.
EL: I love Modesto, I love the community and people’s willingness to join in and be part of the community. We have a great mix of people with brilliant, passionate and artistic minds here. I have my shop in Santa Rosa but my wife and I have a house here and we love coming home to Modesto, it’s our home.

MV: You have been a two-time ModestoView cover subject for our Graffiti Summer issues, what does the spirit of American Graffiti mean to you.
EL: Anyone that knows me knows my car issues…. LOL There is nothing better than putting your family in an old vintage hot rod and cruising downtown. Nothing else matters and everything just seems simpler when you’re doing that. It’s hard to explain but you can just have conversations and enjoy the vibe and company.

MV: How do you keep everything in check an in balance for your family while having so many interests?
EL: That is a very hard issue especially in 2018. The beauty of technology is you can work from home, and be productive sitting in a coffee shop somewhere. The hard part is you always have people, tasks, emails all that beeping in your pocket at all time. Your email is never caught up and there is always another spreadsheet that needs completed. I have to make a very conscious effort to put down the phone and technology when doing family time. I literally have to turn my phone and computer OFF and try to enjoy the moments with them. You’re never caught up and it may take me a couple days to respond to a text but the kids grow up so crazy fast you have to slow down for them.

MV: Describe your ideal day in Modesto.
EL: Honestly, just having a cup of coffee downtown with my wife and relaxing, eventually having dinner and drinks and hearing some good live music. Very simple but a hard recipe to beat.

MV: Beatles or Stones.
EL: Love them both and although I’ve seen the Stones a dozen times, I’m a Beatles guy all day long.



About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.