Fletcher Bright at Bluegrass on the Grass 2015 – photos by Frank Baker
Fletcher Bright, noted bluegrass fiddler, businessman, and philanthropist, died early Christmas morning. He was 86 years of age.
He was a beloved and well-known figure in all three spheres, and within his family and large circle of friends.
As a musician, Fletcher had accomplished that most amazing of feats – keeping his high school bluegrass band together for 72 years! The Dismembered Tennesseans, formed when Bright was in school in Knoxville with Frank McDonald, Sammy Joyce and Ansley Moses in 1945, had been active ever since, with a short break during WWII.
A natural and enthusiastic entertainer, Fletcher kept audiences all over the country in stitches whenever they performed.
In his adopted hometown of Chattanooga, he is remembered as perhaps the most successful real estate developer the region has ever known. He joined his father’s real estate firm in 1953, taking it over when his dad passed seven years later. His son, George, now manages the company, which builds and maintains shopping centers throughout the southeast.
The wealth that came to Fletcher through his business, he was quick to share with others who needed it. In the bluegrass and fiddle music world, organizers of festivals and camps always knew that Bright would pitch in to help when finances were stretched thin, and he was especially warm to assisting young musicians trying to master their instruments. He was also the founder of the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Music Festival, a free event held each fall in Chattanooga.
But he never looked for credit for his generosity. The festival doesn’t carry his name, and he didn’t add it to the events he rescued or assisted. Fletcher simply wanted to see the music and the learning continue, and it has.
He was a friend to everyone in the bluegrass world, especially other fiddlers. He studied their music and often attended camps himself to learn at the feet of the best.
Here’s a video he made with banjoist Bill Evans a few years ago of Polly Put The Kettle On, recorded at Fletcher’s home in 2013. He and Bill made two albums of banjo and fiddle duets, both of which are available from Bill’s web site.
Earlier this year, the International Bluegrass Music Association honored Fletcher Bright with their Distinguished Achievement Award for a lifetime of service to the community, though his illness prevented him from accepting in person.
It would be difficult to overstate how roundly loved and admired he was in our world, and his absence will be deeply felt for some time.
R.I.P., Fletcher Bright.