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Founding member of Tennessee Mafia Jug Band succumbs to cancer

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"Lonesome" Lester Armistead, 71, founding member of the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, has died after a battle with cancer.

A Tennessee native and retired printer, Lester was born in 1942 and lived on a farm in the Luton Community near Goodlettsville. According to his online obituary, "On the property stands an old country store that has been the site of many musical gatherings; a place where some of the biggest names in country music would gather for a comfortable, low-key jam, good food and conversation."

Armistead and his late brother, Jack, performed extensively as a country duet many years ago. The pair grew up around Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys, as their dad co-owned a bait store with Howdy Forrester, who played fiddle with Acuff.

Per a May 3 communication from Nashville PR representative Claire Ratliff, "With the jug band, Armistead propelled both the comedy and the old-time music with his percussive jug blowing. His powerful tenor singing recalled the late great Bashful Brother Oswald, (comedian and Roy Acuff’s longtime dobro player), from whom Lester learned to sing.

"Lester proudly played an antique jug owned by his mentor. ... The band has performed worldwide, including performances on the Grand Ole Opry and as regular guests on 'The Marty Stuart Show' on RFD-TV."

The singer’s son, Mike Armistead, also a member of the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, released the following statement:“There will never be another man who’ll measure up to my dad. He was an honest, hard-working farmer and humanitarian who loved to dance and play music. Most of all, he loved his friends and family and especially enjoyed being a grandfather. He was overall just the nicest person you'd ever meet and now, his journey is over. Our family and the extended jug band family is grateful for the prayers and support of so many.”

According to a post on the band's Facebook page, "The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band family is saddened to share that our dear Lester has crossed over. It is now a joyous day for him as he has surely been welcomed warmly to Heaven, but a heartbreaking day for those of us who had the honor of knowing him, working with him, loving him, dancing and playing with him. Please remember our family in your prayers. And please know what great joy YOU gave to him every day by allowing him to entertain you.”

Armistead's visitation and funeral arrangements are as follows:

Sunday, May 4, 2014, from 2-8 p.m. there will be a public visitation at Cole & Garrett in Goodlettsville, 127 N. Main St. The following day, Monday, May 5, there will be a 1- 2 p.m. visitation at the musician's home, 8333 Old Springfield Road, in Goodlettsville,Tenn., with the funeral beginning at his home at 2 p.m.

Burial will be at Forest Lawn in Goodlettsville. Pallbearers are as follows Freddie Armistead, Don Clark, Lee McHenry, Bob Loggins, George Edward Harper and Terry Wilkes.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation in honor of Lester be made to Alive Hospice, 1718 Patterson St., Nashville, Tenn., 37203

To learn more, please visit the band's website.

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