Born near Sparta, Tennessee, Lester Flatt was one of nine children. His father attempted to teach him banjo, but he was never able to master it and switched to guitar and singing. As a teen, he left home to work in a rayon mill and spent several years as a journeyman worker in mills in Tennessee and Virginia. After struggles with arthritis left him unable to work in the mills, Flatt heard Bill Monroe’s brother Charlie and his band playing on the radio in Bristol, Tennessee. Eventually he caught on with the band while his wife continued working in the mills.

In March 1945, Flatt quit Charlie’s band, and brother Bill Monroe offered him a job. Their first show was on the Grand Ole Opry – with no rehearsal. By the end of the year, Earl Scruggs joined the group. Fed up with the demands of travel in Bill Monroe’s band, Earl quit the Blue Grass Boys in early 1948, followed within two weeks by Lester and Cedric Rainwater.

Earl says that “When I got home, Lester called and said, ‘I don’t think we’d be happy going back into the mills. Let’s think about it.’ He said we could stay close around home if I wanted, so I could look after my mother.” Lester invested $3300 of his life savings into a car and a sound system and they were on their way. Flatt and Scruggs played their first show in Danville, Va.

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs broke up their band in 1969. Lester took most of the members of the Foggy Mountain Boys into his new band, Nashville Grass. The new band outlived Lester Flatt who passed away in 1979. Amongst the notable musicians who played with Flatt in the band over the years was a young Marty Stuart, who joined the band as a 13 year old.

Lester Flatt’s long career earned him membership in the Grand Ole Opry and a place in the Bluegrass and Country Music Halls of Fame.