By June 1, 2016 Read More →

Interview – The Future Of American Graffiti – Eli Lester

Eli Lester
The future American Graffiti Culture
By Chris Murphy

Few people walk the walk and live like Eli Lester. Eli is an accomplished Lubrication Consultant with Hydrotex and amazing family man, but most people know Eli as one of the best guitarists in the region, many have taken lessons from him and they see his incredible classic cars. Some of the most famous people have had Eli help customize their vehicles, including Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and the legendary Gene Winfield.

Eli believes in this classic art of car customization and he puts the same amount of love into it that he does his work, family or music. From the blues, rockabilly, to chrome, steel and environmental lubricants, Eli is the classic Graffiti renaissance man. Born and raised here in Modesto, Eli went to Davis his and got he 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 custom cars. And for a super cool Eli Lester fun fact, Gene Winfield is his wife Jaci’s uncle. How cool is that? Let’s meet Eli.

ModestoView: What did you learn to love first, music or cars?
Eli Lester: Definitely music. I played in bluegrass bands with my dad since I was 9 years old and have always been on stage since then.

MV: What is the first song you learned to play?
EL: Thrill is gone by BB King. As soon as I heard that I was hooked on blues guitar and knew that’s what I wanted to do.

MV: Who was your inspiration for your car customizing?
EL: All of the old school custom car builders. Sam Barris, Larry Watson and of course, Gene Winfield.

MV: What was one of the first things you learned from Gene Winfield?
EL: “Everyday is a school day” is Gene’s favorite motto.

MV: Do you think that music and cars go hand in hand?
EL: Absolutely, I don’t know why guitars and Hot Rods are so synonymous with each other. Look at Jeff Beck and Danny Gatton they would build hot rods all day then play guitar at night.

MV: How cool is it that Rockabilly was born here in Modesto back in 1938?
EL: Modesto has so many cool heritages. American Graffiti is still my kids’ favorite movies. We’ve had so many great musicians and artists come out of Modesto. My wife and I love Modesto, which is why we still live here. I travel a lot between work and gigs but am always happy to come home.

MV: What is the coolest car you have ever customized?
EL: That’s a tough one. I have a chopped 49 Chevy coupe which I love. I’m currently building a chopped 50 Mercury which I’m sure will be my #1 as soon as it’s finished.

MV: Can people who are not raised on cars, get excited and get involved?
EL: Definitely! Especially in Modesto between the graffiti cruises and car shows we have it’s almost hard not to be involved. It’s part of our culture.

MV: Who would you most like to share the stage with?
EL: Oh man, that’s like asking what’s your favorite food or drink!? An all-star band with McCartney, Beck & Clapton would be pretty hard to beat.

MV: What do you say to the next generation about the importance of classic cars and music?

EL: Art is Art. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing music, writing a song or customizing a car, there is nothing better than creating or honing your skills with your craft. Make yourself uncomfortable and try to be unique.

MV: What’s the future of the American Graffiti heritage?
EL: Keeping the car culture alive. It’s not just about the cars or owning one. The most fun I’ve had is getting together with your buddies on the weekend and all pitching in on someone’s project. Some of the best times have been helping one of my buddies finish their car before a big car show or cruise. There is nothing more enjoyable then throwing your family and some friends in a hot rod and just going for a cruise. That’s what American Graffiti was all about.

MV: Do your kids share the same passion you have for this?
EL: Yeah, Anyone that knows me knows my kids are all about hot rods. They are always in the shop pitching in and keeping me straight.

MV: Describe the perfect Eli Lester day.
EL: Spending time with the family, playing with hot rods then cruising out to play a blues gig. I’m pretty consistent but you don’t hear me complain very often.

MV: Finally, our signature question. Beatles or Stones?
EL: Although, I’ve seen the Stones more times than I can count I have to say The Beatles.



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.