Bela Fleck and the Flecktones will celebrate three decades of making music together with an upcoming 30th Anniversary Tour. The original lineup of banjoist Béla Fleck, harmonica player/keyboardist Howard Levy, percussionist/drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten and bassist Victor Wooten will perform together in May, June and July. Those four men first shared the stage together when Fleck was recruited to appear on the defunct PBS series The Lonesome Pine Specials.
“The band is a creative idealistic project, one that somehow connects with people in a profound way,” Béla stated. “Nothing about any of that has changed in 30 years. We’ve balanced our lives out with families and other musical partnerships, though nothing has changed about our camaraderie or our meaning to each other. It’s one of the great musical and personal relationships in our lives.”
In 1988, Kentucky Educational Television chose Fleck to lead an episode of The Lonesome Pine Specials. Taped at Bombard Hall at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville, Fleck was given the chance to put together his “dream band” for what was supposed to be a one-off performance billed as “Bela Fleck and the Jazz Ensemble.” Levy and the Wootens soon became Flecktones, with the original lineup lasting until Levy’s departure in 1992. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin was a Flecktone between 1998 and 2010, at which point Levy rejoined the group.
“After the show, we all wanted to try it again, so Bela booked a few dates,” Levy recalled. “We played Ella Guru’s, The Down Home in Johnson City, and The Station Inn in Nashville in December 1988, and we all decided that we were a band.”
It’s hard to imagine it was 1988 when I was first put these guys together for an episode of Lonesome Pine Special. We went on our first real tour in ‘89, and have been at it ever since! https://t.co/7T4Yckjvsv
— Béla Fleck (@belafleckbanjo) March 1, 2019
Watch footage of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones’ debut performance below: