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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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Maybe they weren't good, but they were original, and they were selling."
Some of the pair's most famous work became seared into pop culture history via theme songs and even advertising jingles. The Foggy Mountain Boys wrote and performed "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which was used famously in chase scenes in the iconic film Bonnie and Clyde and won two Grammy Awards. Their next success would come on the small screen,
when their "Ballad of Jed Clampett" became the theme song for the popular Beverly Hillbillies television show. This consummately catchy tune found its way to No. 1 on the country charts in 1963.
After two decades of success and influence, Flatt and Scruggs parted ways due to musical differences. Flatt was more of a traditionalist, and the ever-progressive Scruggs wanted to take his sound in a more contemporary direction. The banjo player would eventually start a new band with his sons, while Flatt hired a majority of the Foggy Mountain Boys' ensemble musicians to create a new solo act, Nashville Grass. With the bluegrass festival scene starting to blossom in the early 1970s, Flatt's new offerings were well received and truly beloved.
In 1967, Lester Flatt suffered a heart attack that would lead to future health complications and result in his retirement in 1979. The bluegrass community deeply mourned the loss of a legend when Flatt passed away on May 11, 1979. Claire Lynch would later write a song called "The Day Lester Died," echoing an entire community's grief with the lyrics, "The songs will live on, we'll sing them again, but somehow it will never be the same."
Lester Flatt was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985 and is remembered today as one of the true legends of bluegrass. With a guitar in hand, there wasn't a studio or stage that Flatt didn't command with his natural grace and home-spun style. Remarking on his own truly down-home style of performing, he once said, "People will say to me, 'I see you on television, and you're the most relaxed guy I ever saw.' I just can't do it any other way. I have to be like I am at home — if I can't... I might as well forget it."
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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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