Sparta Embraces Bluegrass
In 1996, a bust of Lester Flatt was unveiled at Sparta City Hall. Flatt was a Sparta resident who gained international fame as a bluegrass music artist and writer. Along with sidekick Earl Scruggs, Lester was a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys band that is credited with creating the bluegrass sound. The pair was probably best known for writing and recording "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," which was used as the theme song for the popular television series "The Beverly Hillbillies." In addition, Flatt & Scruggs recorded "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", penned by Scruggs, that became the theme song for the movie "Bonnie & Clyde". Flatt was one of the first bluegrass performers to play Carnegie Hall and was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry®.
In 1997, signs were erected at the entranceways to Sparta to honor Lester Flatt. Soon after, another legendary recording artist and songwriter, Benny Martin, was honored with a commemorative sign.
Sparta's annual event, "Liberty Square Celebration" has included a special "Lester Flatt Memorial Bluegrass Day" that has presented some of bluegrass music's biggest stars including J. D. Crowe, Bobby Osborne, and Marty Stuart as well as White County Residents, Williams & Clark Expedition. In 2007, the Tennessee state legislature passed Public Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2007 which designated the fourth Saturday in May as "Bluegrass Day" in Tennessee to recognize the important role in history that bluegrass music has played in the state. It was decided that because of Sparta's connection to the origins of bluegrass music though the body of work of Lester Flatt, Liberty Square Celebration and Lester Flatt Memorial Bluegrass Day would be on the day designated as Bluegrass Day in Tennessee. The new date for this event will be May 23, 2009. Artists schedule to perform are Williams & Clark Expedition, Nothin' Fancy, and Rhonda Vincent & The Rage.