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Music world mourns an 'incredible showman'
By Jesse Hogan
March 28, 2005 - 11:15AM

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Hester poses for a photo to accompany a feature article in The Sunday Age in 1997.
Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Crowded House drummer dies
Memories of Paul: Your Say
Paul Hester's life
Australian music guru Ian "Molly" Meldrum believes the local music industry has lost an "incredible showman" with the death of Paul Hester.

The former Crowded House and Split Enz drummer took his own life in a Melbourne park on the weekend after taking his dogs for a walk. He was 46.

Meldrum said this morning that Hester never abandoned his Melbourne roots throughout his long and successful career.

"I may have sat down with Paul in New York, and he might have been away for months, and all he wanted to know was what was going on in Melbourne, who was winning the footy. That's the sort of bloke he was," Meldrum told radio 3AW.

"One can never underestimate how respected Crowded House were throughout the world. To have success on the charts is one thing, but to be absolutely respected by your peers is another, and Paul Hester was certainly one of those musicians.

"He was just an incredible showman, as much as anything else."

Meldrum was shocked by news the drummer had long battled depression. He had last seen Hester in November last year, when they filmed a Channel Seven program Australian Legends.

Advertisement"There was myself, Paul and Glenn Shorrock, and we filmed most of the day. He had Glenn and I, and the crew, just in tears at times. His story about how he had to fill in for Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst is one of the funniest rock 'n' roll stories I've ever heard in my life," Meldrum said.

"He had a wicked sense of humour, and I almost liken it to the wonderful sort of humour The Beatles had, and certainly John Lennon.

"He had the cheekiest face you could ever see. He didn't even really have to say anything. He'd just give you a look and you'd just crack up."

Hester played in several Melbourne bands before joining New Zealand band Split Enz in 1983.

He and Split Enz member Neil Finn formed Crowded House with bassist Nick Seymour in 1985.

Finn, along with brother Tim, is in the United Kingdom for four dates at the Royal Albert Hall in London, but may postpone the performances to fly to Melbourne today.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of a close friend," Finn said.

The drummer Hester replaced in Split Enz, Mal Green, described him as extremely generous.

"Apart from being a fantastic drummer and an extreme wit, a man of generous spirit," he told ABC radio this morning. "I actually had a drum kit stolen from me and I had an important gig to do and he called me and offered me his equipment which was very touching."

Entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins enjoyed a working relationship with Hester, particularly during the Crowded House days.

"I was a big fan and liked him enormously," Wilkins said.

"He was really well respected. He was a great drummer and a great singer and a great band member."

Crowded House fans have expressed their sadness on various websites.

"He is the one memory I have from skipping school when I was 15 to go to a soundcheck on the 'Enz with a Bang' tour," said one fan.

"The only thing I remember about that day is Paul, wearing pointy black suede boots, black jeans and a bright pink shirt, which he lifted to flash his stomach and chest at me."

Another fan, Dean, said he felt as though he had lost a member of his own family.

"Feels like I lost a part of my family," the Crowded House devotee said.

"I know the last few years of Crowded House were hard on him (Hester), but I figured everything since was going all right."

Hester quit Crowded House in 1994 but had reinvented himself as a drummer for hire and owner of the Elwood Beach Cafe.

The present owner of the Elwood Beach Cafe, Sana Zeneldin, said she bought it off Hester and fellow musician Joe Camilleri about four years ago.

"This place was special to him, but they wanted to get back to their recording," she said.

"We are quite shocked at what happened."

Hester had his own music chat show, Hessie's Shed, on ABC TV in the late 1990s, was the host of Music Max Sessions, a series of acoustic concerts, on Foxtel and made a number of guest radio and TV appearances, including a semi-regular role on the popular Austereo radio program Martin/Molloy.

He lived in Elwood - a fashionable bayside suburb of Melbourne - with his girlfriend Mardi Sommerfeld and their two daughters aged eight and 10.

- with AAP

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