Music That Makes You Cooler: Béla Fleck

By Andrew Johnson

It might be the 7 years I’ve spent in Kentucky – or my affinity for acoustic folk and bluegrass – but one way to make any song immediately cooler is the addition of a plucky little instrument most often associated with terrifying backwoods canoeing trips: the banjo (if you haven’t seen Deliverance; don’t).

Sound familiar?

The banjo can add spark and enthusiasm to folk, bluegrass, blues, and country tunes. One man who dabbles in all of these styles with amazing skill and ingenuity is Béla Fleck. Béla was born and raised in New York, New York, and has basically played music since he’s been able to use his hands for something more advanced than armpit-farts. His experience and talent are immediately noticeable in the way he coaxes complex chord progressions from his instrument and manages to impersonate two people playing at once. Arguably his most notable song, Big Country, starts out with the most idyllic banjo sections I’ve ever heard.

Béla Fleck – Big Country

Béla has played a key role in numerous bands, with New Grass Revival and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones being the most notable. He’s released over two dozen CDs between these bands and his solo music, and is considered one of – if not THE – greatest banjo player today. He’s also quite a big contribution to my own purchase of a banjo last week, which quickly depleted my free time and became my new girlfriend (her name’s Clover and I love her).

My new girlfriend

 In 2010 Béla (may have been) wed to Abigail Washburn, the most notable female banjo player in America. Although the two are mum on the story, their fans are hoping for a banjo pickin’ baby of unheralded talents to be the outcome of this musical matrimony. To find out more about this virtuoso, his tunes and his story, visit

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One Response to Music That Makes You Cooler: Béla Fleck

  1. Lookin good my friend! I am working on my uke skills so we can start up our band… Aww yeah.

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