In The Beginning
James "Jimmy" Kesterson was born on June 8th in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in the small town of Clinton, Tennessee to blue-collar working parents. He was about the age of 4 when his first memories of strumming an old acoustic guitar at his great grand-mothers house to a Johnny Cash song and singing along to "Folsom Prison Blues".
While growing up, he was constantly hearing music from the radio which was on everyday. His mother had an organ at home and took piano lessons and would take Jimmy with her to all her lessons.
About the age of 10, Jimmy would stay up passed 11:30PM on the weekend and watch the Midnight Special. He would study what the drummers would be hitting while certain drums sounds were sounding. By doing this, he taught himself the basics of how to play the drums. By not being able to afford a drums set, Jimmy constructed a drum set out of books after he noticed that when he hit a small book with a pencil that it made a higher pitched sound than a large book which made a deeper sound. He then used a sheet of paper for the snare and tin-foil for the hi-hats.
In 1977, about a month after Elvis had died, Jimmy was at school in his home-room right before the start of school. He noticed a friend looking at a gate-fold album cover but this cover was different than anything he had ever saw. This album cover had smoke, flames, and multiple colored lights all over the stage. The album was "Alive II" by KISS. In that few moments, Jimmy's life changed. He instantly knew he might have discovered his calling.
Sometime early in 1978, Jimmy began writing song lyrics to some songs which have been lost except for a song written in July called "U.F.O.". A song written about his fascination with space and "U.F.O's.". In December, he received his first guitar for Christmas and began teaching himself how to play and read music.
In 1979, Jimmy began writing songs constantly and wrote 45 songs with some songs completed with music. The best known of these songs is a song titled "Take-off" which features an intro of intense guitar feedback, another love of his. In art class, Jimmy and some friends decided to start their own band. Jimmy was to be the drummer but the band never made it past just talk. The name of the band was to be called "Phantom Force". A name thought up by his friend, Paul Loy.
In 1980, Jimmy received a cassette recorder for Christmas and began recording demos of his songs. Around this time, Jimmy decided to take guitar lessons from an instructor. His mom referred him to someone she knew and had taken guitar lessons from. After 6 weeks of lessons which involved playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" over and over, Jimmy quit and decided to teach himself. During the year, Jimmy wrote 105 songs but, because of so much time spent writing, very few of these songs were completed.
In 1981, Jimmy started or played with many bands in high school. He and some friends tried to start their own band which was named "44-Magnum" but never amounted to anything. Jimmy did get into an already established band, most likely because he had just received a P.A. system for Christmas and this band needed a P.A. The band featured a keyboard, bass player, female singer, female drummer and wrote their own songs. The band would be performing at a local church and Jimmy suggested that they play an AC/DC song called "Hells Bells" which included ringing the church bell for the intro. The band did not like this idea and decided to stick with songs like "Heart of Gold".
Practice, Practice, Practice
In March 1982, Jimmy was talked into going with them to a upcoming concert. The concert was Ozzy Osbourne at the Knoxville Coliseum and turn out to be another life changing event for Jimmy. Jimmy only knew who Ozzy was and was only familiar with two songs "Crazy Train" and "Flyin' High Again". During the show, the guitarist for Ozzy, a man named Randy Rhoads had a solo spot where he would be the only person on stage. Jimmy would be totally blown away by the playing of this guitarist who he never heard of before. Unfortunately, that night would be the last concert Randy would give before his death the next day.
Jimmy would read and buy everything that he could to learn more about Randy. Up until now, Jimmy just wanted to play guitar well enough to write song but after seeing Randy play he wanted to become better. He wanted to learn as Randy had and continue to learn. Also during this time, Jimmy received a drumset for his birthday and would used it on demos even though it had no cymbals. He would later setup a microphone and make the hi-hats and cymbal sounds with his mouth as he played the drums. Also during this time, he tried with very little luck to get his younger brother to learn to play the drums for him.
In 1983, with school behind him, Jimmy decided to try to get into several bands. However, all the bands were people who just wanted to get high, chase women, and play cover songs. After spending months trying to get into these bands who were going nowhere, he decided to start his own band with help from his brother who was still in high school. In May, he brought his brother along with him to a Def Leppard concert. His brother enjoyed it so much that he decided he wanted to be a drummer. So Jimmy had a drummer who wasn't into wasting their life away but who really wanted to play drums for no other reason than the love of playing them.
In 1984, Jimmy's brother, Michael, recruited a guitarist named, John Hunt, and a bass played named, Scot Dunlap, into their band. The band would do a mixture of covers and original songs. However, the band would not practice enough for Jimmy to feel comfortable to playing live and so the band ended after a few months of rehearsals.
In 1985, Jimmy began taking guitar and music theory lessons from Doug Marks, a well known guitarist from California. Jimmy began learning and practicing scales, modes, and patterns daily. The lessons would open Jimmy's mind on being a lead guitarist and would help take him to the next level of playing and writing.
In 1986, Jimmy and his brother recruited their cousin into the band. Their cousin had bass guitar but had no idea how to play it. So Jimmy would teach him the bass lines to cover songs and the bass lines Jimmy didn't know, he'd make up. The band would practice as 3-piece while auditioning lead guitarist, the band would be known under the name "Sleaze Patrol". After about a year, still with no lead guitarist, the bass player made several mistakes by no showing up for weeks to practice and the mistake that would get him fired. After not showing up for about 5 weeks, the bass player brought his girlfriend to practice. Jimmy immediately called him aside and said, "we're done with you".
In 1988, Jimmy decides this is his last shot to make it. So he decides he will focus on writing songs and completing each song before moving onto the next. He only writes about 15 songs this year but they are totally completed and put on demo.
In 1989, Jimmy refines his recording techniques and works on getting the best drum sound as he can out of his cheap microphones. He and his brother write and record continuously throughout the year. Around this time, Jimmy decides to make a demo of 3 songs and send them out to very small record companies to test what kind of feedback they'd receive before going after the large record companies. The small amount of feedback they receive is encouraging.
The Last Hurrah
During 1990, Jimmy decides they have enough songs and it was time again to start looking for a bass player. So he runs an advertisement in Guitar Player magazine and receives a lot of response from all over the U.S. Jimmy discovers a bass player in Virginia who sent a demo of an original song he wrote which Jimmy really liked. Unfortunately, because of distance, they were never able to get together.
In May of 1990, Jimmy produced a demo of 5 songs, the demo included a new song called "Still" and an older song called "Kiss your Ass Goodbye". For the first time, Jimmy decided it was time to go after the larger record companies. So he sent his demo to Electra in Burbank, California. He informed his parents that he had sent a demo tape and if anyone calls him to make sure he gets the call even if he is asleep. About two weeks later, as his parents are going out the door, the phone rings and his dad answers. Jimmy notices his dad has a weird look on his face and wonders who it is. His dad hands him the phone and it is Electra Records. After hearing the demo tape, Electra is interested in hearing more songs. Unfortunately, Jimmy and his brother put the best 5 songs on that demo and had no more songs recorded that resembled those songs. So in a rush, Jimmy and his brother immediately went to recording new songs and older songs that Electra might like. However, the songs that were sent to Electra on that second demo were not recorded or written as well as the songs on the first tape. Electra never called again and Jimmy realized that he had made a huge mistake by only having a hand full of good songs on demo. He then decided that this would never happen to him again and immediately put off starting a band and stopped sending out demos.
Jimmy and his brother would do nothing but write and record. The strategy would be not to rush the songs but write and record as much as possible. So about every 3 months, Jimmy would have enough new material to record new demos.
In March 1991, Jimmy and his brother recorded 45 songs in a two week span. Jimmy decided to go back and finish and or record songs he hadn't up until then.
In 1992, Jimmy and his brother kept writing and recording endlessly.
In 1993, it was time again to send out demos. However, this time things would be somewhat different. The music style had changed drastically. Grunge had taken over and was the new big thing on the music scene. For bands like Alison Steel, it meant they would have to change or be considered old-hat. Jimmy and his brother refused to change and decided their music meant more to them than a recording contract, especially if it meant they had to change who they were. So after spending the first part of the year sending out demos and not getting any response, it was over. It was time for Jimmy to plan on life without music being the main focus. So he finished his education and entered college as a computer science major. His brother got a full-time job at a local factory and together they put Alison Steel on hiatus indefinately.
In 1994, Jimmy would write and finish one last song while in college. He worked full time while attending college full time. He would fall asleep while walking at work and had a hard time staying awake in class.