Singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Lester Abrams has played with such musical legends as B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, The Average White Band, and The Doobie Brothers. In 1978, he and The Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald co-wrote the Grammy-nominated “Minute by Minute,” a soulful single that ironically lost out to Song and Record of the Year, “What a Fool Believes,” which Abrams also arranged.
Despite all of Lester’s gold and platinum records and countless awards, he’ll tell you his greatest collaboration over the years has been with his wife Regina, a singer, songwriter, and guitarist in her own right, whom he met at a songwriters’ party in Los Angeles in the early 1990s.
Musically and matrimonially, their partnership remains in perfect pitch. They often finish each other’s sentences in a rhythmic riff you don’t want to stop. On the day we had the honor to interview them, they even dressed in matching V-necks.
Coming up on their 30th wedding anniversary, Lester and Regina are striking all the right chords in a relationship and semi-retirement improved by the strategic addition and use of a reverse mortgage loan.
Their homey, yellow cottage with white trim and a white picket fence is not only where their hearts are, but also where their magical instruments are — the piano, keyboard, guitars, and drums — and where the upstairs music room lies, the sacred space where Lester retreats to compose. Gold- and platinum-framed records line the staircase. A few steps outside their front door is a Jacuzzi where Lester daily soothes his achy knees, acquired from too many drum sessions. A sprawling golf course beckons beyond.
To pack up and leave all that — to cash in their equity by selling and moving to a less expensive home in a less expensive state — would be worse than replacing Mick Jagger as the lead singer of The Rolling Stones. For one, their neighbors would have protested. During COVID, whenever his band prepared for a local gig by jamming in the garage, it would set off a minor community celebration; neighbors would spontaneously unfold their chairs 10 feet apart and bring out their drinks as if preparing for a concert.
“Everyone was on the street, partying and having a good time,” Lester said.
Not long after they married, Lester and Regina had the foresight and good fortune to buy a home. Far from the wild streets of Hollywood, it was in one of the growing suburbs of north San Diego, a nice place to raise a family.
“We were blessed, really,” Regina said.
Like so many Southern California homeowners, they saw their home’s value increase, appreciation that they could tap if needed to supplement Lester’s quarterly royalty checks and less predictable payments from gigs. They had refinanced once, and then, with their home’s value climbing in lockstep with SoCal’s sizzling real estate market, a second time. The second time may have been better than the first. It all happened naturally and easily, like discovering that elusive hook that takes a record to the top of the charts.
Through church, they got to know an AAG mortgage professional who shared with them how a reverse mortgage truly worked, dispelling early in their talks the popular myth that a reverse mortgage was just an excuse for the bank to take your home. They realized in subsequent discussions with him that the misinformation they had heard about reverse mortgages was in the way of what looked like a smart solution for retirement.
“We checked it out,” said Regina. “With our loan officer, there was no pressure at all. He was just the best. He truly listened.”
“I was just gung-ho for AAG, and I really mean that,” Lester added. “AAG showed us a level of individual and personalized care that you really don’t expect from a big company.”
“We just knew for us, where we were in our journey,” Regina continued, “that it was an answer to our prayers.”
As artists, they especially appreciated the value and versatility their reverse mortgage gave them.
“This is how we are going to be able to stay in our home, and should we want to sell down the road, we can do that, too,” Regina said. (Borrowers must continue to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, maintain the home, and otherwise comply with the loan terms.)
The totality of their decision to obtain a reverse mortgage truly didn’t hit home until the next month, and they no longer had to write a mortgage check.
“Being released from that monthly mortgage payment, wow, that was life-changing,” Lester said. Although a reverse mortgage eliminates mandatory monthly mortgage payments, borrowers are responsible for maintaining the home, paying property taxes and homeowners insurance, and complying with the loan terms.
“The pressure was off us,” Lester added. “It’s already reflected in some things we are doing, like going out to dinner more, taking a little trip back east, spending more time with family — just a whole lot of things you really can’t quantify. We felt we had more freedom.”
Most importantly, they felt like they were protecting their sacred space, including Lester’s music room.
“I’m very comfortable there, it’s where I can pretty much create things without interruption,” Lester said before launching into a small reverie about his personal creative process.
Regina let him go on for a spell before nudging him with her elbow to remind him that his inner sanctum is not soundproof from the delightful squeals of their new granddaughter, whom they love entertaining.
The music room is also the repository of a lifetime of memories that didn’t begin in Hollywood where he penned his greatest hits, but in Omaha, Neb., where he was born and raised.
“Omaha, you wouldn’t think is a big music town, but you’d be surprised,” said Lester, who had a front-row seat looking up at many of the city’s musical giants.
His uncle Preston Love was a big-time orchestra leader of a nearly all-Black band that performed with Ray Charles and other blues and jazz legends. Uncle Preston often came over to the house to visit his sister, Lester’s mother, with other famous musicians in tow. Meanwhile, Lester’s grandmother, with a blanket on her lap and “one teeny-little” overhead light, played spirituals on the piano, with Lester often sharing the piano bench with her.
“She would play until her eyes would hurt,” Lester said. “She was the greatest influence on my life, on how to dedicate yourself to something … on how to give respect to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin.”
Although Lester was learning the drums, his impressionable mind and hands were dexterous enough to learn the piano without any formal instruction. Out of that self-taught space, he developed a distinctive groove and soulful funk that later crept into writing or arranging songs like “Minute by Minute” and “What a Fool Believes.”
Their youth and the Hollywood heyday years may have moved on, but Lester’s and Regina’s lives are just as rich, if not richer, with a little help from their reverse mortgage. They’re grandparents now, both active in their church, Lester as a worship leader and Regina singing. Lester still performs before adoring audiences who love his yacht-rock and R&B vibes, and they are about to embark on a partial kitchen remodel.
Taking life and retirement minute by minute, Lester and Regina are in a good place.
[Clients were paid for their time. Their statements are their own.]