The JeSt Guitar Story
You can find out more about JeSt guitars here. In particular, you may be curious
about the origin of the name. You might also want to know more about my background
and what lead me to make guitars.
What's in a Name?
I have chosen JeSt as my brand name. JeSt is a derivative of my name as well as an
expression of my personality. JeSt is comprised of the first two letters of my first
and middle names: Jerry Stephen. My logo incorporates my rendition of a JeSter. The
Kokopeli likeness is no accident. Kokopeli is a trickster and a musician. I think
you will have to agree that this Kokopeli-like guitar playing JeSter is much more
cool than the traditional flute playing variety. This is the perfect expression of
my personality: a JeSter who loves guitars.
While I am a bit of a jester, make no mistake, JeSt Guitars are No-Joke Guitars.
The guitars are serious, but are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. You may
even find yourself laughing from the sheer pleasure of playing a JeSt guitar.
My Story - the short version
I am a part time luthier who loves guitars. I do this part time for a few reasons.
First of all, I can't really afford to do this full time without selling the guitars
for much more than they are worth. I don’t want to do that (and probably couldn’t
even if I wanted to). So, fortunately, I have a pretty cool day job that pays the
bills. Secondly, if this were my real job, I am afraid that is exactly what it would
become: my job. I have the luxury of making the guitars I like to make and sell them
to people I think will make wonderful music.
If you are curious, and have nothing better to do with your time, continue reading
below, to find out about the genesis of my interest in guitars and how I started
My Story - the long version
My first formal introduction to music was less than successful. When I was about
10 years old and my older brother, Gary, was 11, our parents decided that we should
take piano lessons. I neither asked to take piano lessons, nor did I want to. I practiced
without enthusiasm and only when my mother threatened painful torture. My rebellion
finally paid off (in the sense of winning the battle but losing the war) when my
parents and piano teacher finally got tired of fighting me and let me quit. Of course,
Gary was the obedient (or kiss ass) one and stuck with piano lessons through high
My interest in music came to life in the mid 60s when the Beatles hit the
pop charts. Like many of my generation, I wanted to play guitar to emulate my heroes.
Since I had rebelled against my parents in their attempt to affect a proper introduction
to music, I was on my own here. But, whereas I had not had an interest in playing
piano, I was determined to play guitar. Being older may have had something to do
with my new musical interest, but it was mostly due to the fact that guitars are
simply way more cool than pianos (guitar lessons weren’t offered as an alternative
to the earlier piano lessons). I did eventually find a way to buy a Montgomery Ward
Silvertone archtop acoustic for something like $25. I taught myself to strum chords
as accompaniment to Beatles tunes played on the piano by my obedient brother. This
was followed shortly by the purchase of a Silvertone electric (one of those rebranded
cardboard Danelectros) and a small (probably 5W – tubes of course) amplifier. By
the time I was in high school I had managed to purchase my first serious guitar.
This was a very well used Gibson Les Paul; I remember paying $60 for it. It was pretty
beat up but played and sounded good. I believe it was from the first year of production
for the Les Paul (1955?); it had P90 pickups and a floating wood archtop style bridge.
I had also come by an inexpensive, used, large stack amplifier with tube electronics
and two 12” speakers. I can’t remember the brand name; I knew it wasn’t a Fender,
but I decided that it must be OK because this same amplifier was on the cover of
a Ventures album (I think it might have been “Live in Japan”). I no longer have the
album so I can’t consult it for information.
The Les Paul and the forgotten-name amplifier
served me well in several high school garage bands. When I graduated from high school
I decided that the garage band part of my life was over. I gave the guitar and amplifier
away. I sure wish I still had those. I went off to the university to study engineering.
I eventually earned a PhD in mechanical engineering and got a job at a science laboratory,
where I have worked these many years. I literally didn’t touch a guitar for about
thirty years. Some time in my late forties, my mid life crisis sprang forth. One
day I remembered the Fender Stratocaster that I had wanted back in high school but
couldn’t afford. So I went out and bought one and signed up for guitar lessons. I
have reminded my wife many times that as mid-life crises go, it could have been a
lot worse. I loved that guitar and applied myself with discipline to the lessons.
I was lucky to find an excellent guitar teacher. I stuck with the lessons for a couple
of years and learned a great deal, really learning how to properly play for the first
time. However, my infatuation with the strat lasted for only about six months. Don’t
get me wrong, I still think it is a great design; after all it has stood the test
of time. I just decided that I could make one like it, or maybe even better. It was
also probably related to the sad realization that I wasn’t going to be able to quit
the day job and go on tour with Eric Clapton. I needed another guitar related creative
outlet. The engineer/scientist in me kicked in as I looked at my beloved strat and
decided that I should make a guitar.
Thus my life as a luthier began.
If you are interested you can go here to listen to some of the music I have recorded
in my modest home studio. Of course, I use my own guitars. However, please don’t
judge my guitars by my modest playing ability. And, also, please forgive my singing.
It is best to keep in mind the words of my wife (who is a proper musician): “You
don’t play guitar very well, and your singing is worse. It is a good thing you have
have good lyrics.” Of course I take this as high praise; it sounds like she is comparing
me to Bob Dylan.