Flatt expired on May 11, 1979 in Nashville. As a result of the encouragement of his musical family, Flatt started playing instruments at a very young age. Though he started his musical career playing the banjo, in the tender age of seven he changed to the guitar.
When he was still in elementary school, Flatt started playing his guitar in various local school and church groups. Flatt leave school in the age of 12, as well as in his early teen years moved to North Carolina to work in a textile mill. All of the while, he continued playing guitar and incorporating himself in the area music arena. The young couple would continue to work and make music together for another decade.
Flatt fought with early-onset rheumatoid arthritis, which eventually compelled him to stop the factory and focus exclusively on his musical career. Flatt finally joined Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, aband directed by Charlie’s sib. Flatt played guitar and sang lead, performing his first show together with the group in the iconic Grand Ole Opry in the mid-1940s.
Shortly after Flatt joined the group, thus did bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, a gifted banjo player who does partner with Flatt for decades in the future. From 1945 to 1948, the group toured exhaustively, wowing bluegrass enthusiasts and selling out music halls night after night. The tiring program shortly became too much for Scruggs, who left the group in 1948. Flatt shortly made the fateful choice to leave at the same time, partnering with Scruggs to create the Foggy Mountain Boys.
Within the next 20 years, the Foggy Mountain Boys would have great popularity in bluegrass circles. Flatt’s rich voice and conventional rhythm guitar operated nicely with Scruggs’ more progressive banjo stylings, making an original sound that set the standard for musicians in the future. Flatt took care of all the duo’s songwriting, once saying, “I used to write almost everything we did. Perhaps they were not great, but they were first, and they were selling.”
A few of the pair’s most well-known work became seared into pop culture history via theme songs and marketing jingles. The Foggy Mountain Boys composed and performed “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” which was used magnificently in pursuit scenes in the iconic 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde and won a Grammy. (A later variant of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” from the 2001 record Earl Scruggs and Friends won a Grammy too.) The pair also got enormous success on the little display when their “Ballad of Jed Clampett” became the theme song for the popular Beverly Hillbillies television show. This consummately catchy melody found its way to No. 1 on the country charts in 1963.
After two decades of succeeding and sway, Flatt and Scruggs parted ways because of musical differences. The banjo musician would finally begin a brand new group together with his sons, while Flatt hired a bulk of the Foggy Mountain Boys’ ensemble musicians to generate a fresh act, Nashville Grass. Together with the bluegrass festival scene beginning to blossom in the early 1970s, Flatt’s new offerings were well received and treasured.
In 1967, Lester Flatt endured a heart attack that could cause future health complications and result in his retirement by the conclusion of another decade. The bluegrass community greatly mourned the loss of a star when Flatt passed away on May 11, 1979. Claire Lynch would later compose a tune called “The Day That Lester Perished,” repeating a whole community’s despair using the lyrics, “The songs will live on, we will sing them again, but somehow it’ll not ever be exactly the same.”
Lester Flatt was posthumously inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985 and is remembered now as among the real legends of bluegrass. Having a guitar in hand, there was not a studio or stage that Flatt did not control with his natural elegance. Noting on his own really down home kind of acting, he once said, “Folks will say in my experience, ‘I see you on television, and you are the most comfortable man I ever saw.’ I recently can not do it any other manner. I’ve to be like I’m at home if I can not… I might as well forget it.”