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Lester Flatt was best known for his bluegrass guitar stylings as part of the Foggy Mountain Boys and Flatt and Scruggs.
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Lester Flatt was a pioneering bluegrass musician and guitarist, and part of the famous Flatt and Scruggs duo.
Country musician. Born June 19, 1914 to Nannie Mae Haney and Isaac Columbus Flatt, in Duncan's Chapel, Overton County, Tennessee. Thanks to the encouragement of his musical family, Flatt began playing instruments at an early age. Though he began his musical career playing the banjo, at the tender age of seven he switched to the guitar. His skill with the instrument would later help charm fans and win him a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. When he was still in elementary school, Flatt began playing his guitar in a variety of local school and church groups.
Flatt quit school at the age of 12, and in his early teenage years moved to North Carolina to work in a textile mill. All the while, he continued playing guitar and integrating himself into the local music scene. At the age of 17, he met and married singer Gladys Stacey. The young couple would continue to work and make music together for the next decade.
Flatt struggled with early-onset rheumatoid arthritis, which eventually forced him to quit the mill and focus solely on his musical career. His voice and his guitar led him to play with Clyde Moody and eventually form a new band (The Bluegrass Boys) featuring the famous Monroe brothers, Charlie and Bill, in 1945. With the Bluegrass Boys, Flatt played guitar and sang lead vocals. Making a quick splash on the country music scene, Flatt played his first gig with the band at the iconic Grand Ole Opry in 1945, famously appearing without rehearsing at all.
Soon after Flatt joined the band, so did bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, a talented banjo player who would partner with Flatt for decades to come. From 1945 to 1948, the band toured exhaustively, wowing bluegrass fans and selling out music halls night after night. The tiring schedule soon became too much for Scruggs, who left the band in 1948. Flatt soon made the fateful decision to leave as well, partnering with Scruggs to create the Foggy Mountain Boys.
Over the next 20 years, the Foggy Mountain Boys would reign supreme as the Kings of Bluegrass. Flatt's rich voice and traditional rhythm guitar worked well with Scruggs' more progressive banjo stylings, creating a unique sound that would set the standard for bluegrass musicians to come. Flatt would even come to popularize what is known as the "G-run" among rhythm guitarists. Remarking, "That little run you hear on the guitar, and hear so many people doing today — I used that for a time setter; we were playing so fast we had to have something to come back in on, and it fit perfectly."
The duo cut records with Mercury and Columbia, appeared often on WSM radio, and became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They even had a spot on a Martha White Mills-sponsored television show, which helped significantly widen their audience and influence. Flatt took care of most of the duo's songwriting, once saying, "I used to write practically everything we did.
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The "high, lonesome" style that defines the bluegrass sound comes from the experiences of the music's original composers, the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia. Early bluegrass musician Lester Flatt brought the sound of the genre into the popular lexicon in 1948, when he helped found The Foggy Mountain Boys. He was joined by fellow musician Earl Scruggs, who expertly picked his banjo in the three-finger style that is carried on in the music of bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Alison Krauss snagged more than 26 Grammy awards for putting a contemporary twist on the music of her bluegrass predecessors—proof that the genre still resonantes with listeners.
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