Friday, June 19, 2009

"'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered"

Singer-guitarist Lester Flatt helped define the sound of traditional bluegrass music.

Lester Raymond Flatt, born in Overton County, Tennessee on this date in 1914, is best remembered as half of the duo Flatt & Scruggs.

Flatt and Earl Scruggs were originally brought together by Bill Monroe in 1945, when they joined a band that also featured fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Cedric Rainwater. This quintet created the sound of bluegrass and helped bring it to national recognition through radio shows, records, and concerts. After three years with Monroe, Flatt left, and Scruggs followed his lead shortly afterward. The duo formed their own band, the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Flatt & Scruggs would reach a new audience in the late '50s, when the folk music revival sparked the interest of a younger generation. The duo played a number of festivals targeted at the new breed of bluegrass and folk fans. Their popularity peaked in 1962, when they recorded the theme song to the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbilles. The theme, called "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," became the first number one bluegrass single in early 1963.They also made a number of cameos on the show.

In 1969, and the duo parted ways. Flatt formed a traditional bluegrass band, the Nashville Grass, while Scruggs assembled a more progressive outfit, the Earl Scruggs Revue.

Lester passed away in 1979 after a prolonged period of ill health.

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