Lester Flatt

Lester Flatt
Birth name Lester Raymond Flatt
Born (1914-06-19)June 19, 1914
Duncan's Chapel, Overton County, Tennessee, U.S.
Died May 11, 1979(1979-05-11) (aged 64)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Bluegrass, Country
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, mandolin
Years active 1940–1979
Associated acts Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Foggy Mountain Boys, Nashville Grass

Lester Raymond Flatt (June 19, 1914 – May 11, 1979) was an American bluegrass guitarist and mandolinist, best known for his collaboration with banjo picker Earl Scruggs in The Foggy Mountain Boys (popularly known as "Flatt and Scruggs").

Flatt's career spanned multiple decades, breaking out as a member of Bill Monroe's band during the 1940s and including multiple solo and collaboration works exclusive of Scruggs. He first reached a mainstream audience through his performance on "The Ballad of Jed Clampett", the theme for the network television hit The Beverly Hillbillies, in the early 1960s.


Flatt was born in Duncan's Chapel, Overton County, Tennessee,[1] to Nannie Mae Haney and Isaac Columbus Flatt. He first came to prominence as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in 1945 and played a Charlie Monroe-inspired thumb-and-index guitar style. In 1948 he started a band with fellow Monroe alumnus Earl Scruggs, and for the next twenty years Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys were one of the most successful bands in bluegrass.[2] When they parted ways in 1969, Flatt formed a new group, the Nashville Grass, hiring many of the Foggy Mountain Boys. He continued to record and perform with that group until his death in 1979.[3] His role as lead singer and rhythm guitar player in each of these seminal ensembles helped define the sound of traditional bluegrass music. His rich lead voice is unmistakable in hundreds of bluegrass standards.

He is also remembered for his library of compositions. The Flatt songbook looms titanic for any student of American acoustic music.

Flatt was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985 with Scruggs.[4] He was posthumously made an inaugural inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991. His hometown of Sparta, Tennessee, held a bluegrass festival in his honor for a number of years, before being discontinued a few years prior to the death of the traditional host, resident Everette Paul England; Lester Flatt Memorial Bluegrass Day is part of the annual Liberty Square Celebration held in Sparta.[5]

Flatt and Scruggs were ranked No. 24 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music in 2003. They performed "The Ballad of Jed Clampett", which was used as the theme for the television show The Beverly Hillbillies.

Flatt died of heart failure in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 64.[6]


Lester Flatt memorial in Sparta, Tennessee
Year Album US Country Label
1970 Flatt Out Columbia
One and Only Nugget
1971 Flatt on Victor RCA Victor
Lester 'N' Mac (w/ Mac Wiseman) 42
1972 Kentucky Ridgerunner
On the Southbound (w/ Mac Wiseman)
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
1973 Country Boy 45
Over the Hills to the Poorhouse (w/ Mac Wiseman)
1974 Before You Go
Live Bluegrass Festival (w/ Bill Monroe)
The Best
1975 Flatt Gospel (w/ Nashville Grass) Canaan Records
1976 Lester Raymond Flatt Flying Fish
Heaven's Bluegrass Band (w/ Nashville Grass) CMH Records
A Living Legend (w/ Nashville Grass)
1978 Pickin' Time (w/ Nashville Grass)
1979 Fantastic Pickin' (w/ Nashville Grass)


  1. Browne, Ray B.; Browne, Pat, eds. (2001). "Flatt and Scruggs". The Guide to United States Popular Culture. Popular Press. p. 284. ISBN 978-0879728212.
  2. Rosenberg, Neil V. (1998). "Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys". The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 173–4. ISBN 978-0195395631.
  3. Samuelson, Dave (1998). "Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass". In Kingsbury, Paul. The Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0195395631.
  4. "Flatt and Scruggs". Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  5. "Lester Flatt Memorial Bluegrass Day". East Public Relations. 29 September 2007.
  6. Rockwell, John (12 May 1979). "Lester Flatt, Singer and Guitarist In Duo With Earl Scruggs, Dies". The New York Times. p. 26.
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