May 11, 2018

Lester Flatt: The Other Half of “Foggy Mountain Boys”

Lester Flatt: The Other Half of "Foggy Mountain Boys" 1
Lester Flatt (photo from

We should be proud of being able to accomplish what we set out to do. We wanted to be in a field to ourselves, we had a sound all our own.” – Lester Flatt

Lester Flatt

Today, we commemorate the 39th death anniversary of bluegrass guitarist-singer Lester Flatt. He died in 1979 at the age of 64.

Mr. Flatt, a native of Overton County in East Tennessee, got his first musical inspiration from his father and his first attempts in music were on the banjo. But, the fine musical ear that was his passport to a career told him that the five-string instrument was not for him, and so he switched to the guitar.

Mr. Flatt’s last appearance in this area was Oct. 15 at a bluegrass festival near Williamsburg. Then, during the whole 1978 festival season, he sat on a stool while playing his famous rhythm guitar and singing his most popular songs.

These included “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” which had meant instant recognition for him, his former partner, banjoist Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys as the theme song for television’s “Beverly Hillbillies.”

The Foggy Mountain Boys

Probably the most famous bluegrass singers of all time were Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs of the Foggy Mountain Boys, the name came from their famous song, Foggy Mountain Breakdown. They made the genre famous in ways that not even Bill Monroe, who pretty much invented the sound, ever could. Because of a guitar player and vocalist from Tennessee named Lester Flatt and an extraordinary banjo player from North Carolina named Earl Scruggs, bluegrass music has become popular all over the world and has entered the mainstream in the world of music.

Like so many other bluegrass legends, Flatt and Scruggs were graduates of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. Because of the unique sound they added, Monroe felt let down after Flatt’s quality vocals and Scruggs’s banjo leads left in 1948. Quickly, the two assembled a band that in the opinion of many was among the best ever, with Chubby Wise on fiddle and Cedric Rainwater on bass; a later band, with Paul Warren on fiddle and Josh Graves on dobro, was equally superb.

With so many extraordinary musicians and the solid, controlled vocals of Flatt, it’s no wonder the Foggy Mountain Boys was the band that brought bluegrass to international prominence. From 1948 until 1969, when Flatt and Scruggs split up to pursue different musical directions, they were the bluegrass band, due to their Martha White Flour segment at the Opry and, especially, their tremendous exposure from TV and movies.

Once again, Country Daily will forever evoke our country legends, because we’ll do whatever it takes to KEEP IT COUNTRY!


bill monroe, bluegrass, Death Anniversary, Earl Scruggs, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Lester Flatt, The Bluegrass Boys, The Foggy Mountain Boys

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