Did you know that actor Terry Lester, the popular heartthrob of 1980s and '90s daytime soap operas, moonlighted as a composer?
I was familiar with Lester from his starring role in the 1970s post-apocalyptic children's show Ark II, which was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. In the photo above, Lester is the tall blond guy wearing the jetpack.
Ark II was about a band of scientists and a talking chimp who drive around the post-apocalyptic wasteland in a futuristic RV and have weird experiences, kind of like an earthbound version of the original Star Trek. The show incorporated an actual, working jetpack.
I wasn't plugged in to the world of daytime television back then (or ever), so I didn't know that Lester went on to much greater fame in soap operas. In the 1980s he played the womanizing Jack Abbott in The Young and the Restless and Mason Capwell on Santa Barbara, and in the 1990s he played Royce Keller in As the World Turns.
Lester was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, about an hour away from me. He died from a heart attack in 2003.
Lester was not only a successful actor but also an accomplished musician. His bio on Internet Movie Database says that he first found work in Hollywood with his singing and piano playing, but his musical endeavors aren't well known, apart from his appearance in the notorious KISS television movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.
However, Lester also collaborated on some television and film music with Danny Pelfrey, the Emmy-nominated composer and musician. If you ever watch television or movies, then you've heard Pelfrey's music. (Check out Pelfrey's website to read about his many credits, awards, and other achievements.)
Pelfrey, Lester, and Rick Rhodes worked together on 25 or so instrumental compositions. I asked Danny to remember what he could about working with Lester and about the music they co-wrote, and he kindly obliged.
Music Weird interviewed Danny Pelfrey on May 8, 2014.
Do you know anything about any musical experience Terry had before you worked with him?
No, sorry. I don't have any information on this at at all.
How did you end up collaborating with him?
Through Rick Rhodes. Rick and I were partners for quite a while, and I think Rick knew him from the soap opera world somehow, but I'm not sure about the details. Rick wanted to bring him in on some stuff we were doing at the time.
What was it like to work with Lester? What was his contribution? And how did he rate as a musician?
On the pieces he contributed, he basically wrote tunes and Rick and I finished them, as I don't think Terry had the technology for production.
I didn't know him at all, so when Rick said he had an actor friend that he wanted to bring in on something, I was skeptical, to say the least. However, his contribution indicated he was a fine musician, and he gave us excellent material. I wish I could have gotten to know him better, but our paths did not cross that much on a personal level.
Where did you compose? What was your process?
He wrote his part at his place, then gave it to us. We did our parts and final production at my studio, and I mixed and engineered. I can't remember how he got it to us. It could have been a MIDI sketch.
You said that Rick and Terry knew each other from working on soap operas?
I think Rick and Terry knew each other from soaps, yes. Likely Santa Barbara.
A number of the pieces you wrote together, like "Bahamian Party" and "Caribbean," have an island theme. They're included on an album called Caribbean–Volume 1 on killertracks.com, but was this a commercially released album?
The music was for a Caribbean-themed release for Killer Tracks, intended for use in TV and film. It was not a commercial release in the traditional sense.
Did you work with Terry on any music that wasn't for television or film?
No. Only on the material I did with him and Rick Rhodes, which was for Killer Tracks, and maybe FirstCom.
Of the music that you composed with Terry, what was the most successful, artistically or commercially?
Well, I liked them all! I can't say which ones did the best without some research, but I would say they all did well.
Do you know if any of this music is being used or has been used recently?
No, I would have to investigate that. However, I can say that all of my music from that period continues to get used and does well.
What are you working on now?
I have my own production music catalog called Amusicom. We are in distribution in several territories around the world as well as domestically. I am actively writing and producing for that. Also, I am working on an independent animated film as well as a concert piece for 2015. And I'm also playing music locally in the central coast area in California were I live now.
Terry Lester's compositions
- "4 Stories" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Another World" – Background cues (Lester/Chieli Minucci/Rhodes)
- "As the World Turns" – Background cues (Lester)
- "Bahamian Party" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Breeze" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Caribbean" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Csonka Outdoors" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Dr. G Medical Examiner" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Farming from the Heart" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Ghosts" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Government Secrets" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rick Rothstein)
- "Heavenly" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Historic Homes of" – Background cues (Lester)
- "Homes of Frank Lloyd W" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Hot Nights" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Incurable Collector" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Jamaica Celebrity Sports" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Kingston Bound" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "KTHV News at 10:00 PM" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Lesson in Life" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Life and Style" – Background cues (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Montego Mai Tai" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Nealy" (Lester)
- "Outer Regions" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Proud Prado" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Soft Kisses" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Soleil" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "Starlight in Brazil" (Lester/Pelfrey/Rhodes)
- "When Nothing Matters" (Lester)