Fleck, who is named after famous Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, was drawn to the banjo when he first heard Earl Scruggs play the theme song for the television show Beverly Hillbillies. He received his first banjo at age fifteen from his grandfather (1973). Later, Fleck would enroll in New York City's High School of Music and Art where he studied French horn. Almost immediately after high school, Fleck traveled to Boston to play with Jack Tottle and Mark Schatz in Tasty Licks. It is with Tasty Licks that Fleck played on his first major album. During this period, Fleck released his first solo album (1979) "Crossing the Tracks". It was Fleck's first foray into progressive bluegrass composition.
Fleck would play on the streets of Boston with bassist Mark Schatz until the two formed Spectrum: the Band in 1981. Fleck toured with Spectrum until 1981. That year, Fleck was asked by Sam Bush and company to join New Grass Revival. Fleck performed with New Grass Revival for nine years. During this time, Fleck recorded another solo album, "Drive." It was nominated for a Grammy Award in the then first-time category of Best Bluegrass Album (1988).
After a 1988 phone call with bassist Victor Wooten, Fleck and Wooten formed Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, rounded out with harmonica player Howard Levy and Wooten's percussionist brother Roy "Future Man" Wooten, who plays synthesizer-based percussion. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the group with the album "Left of Cool".
With the Flecktones, Fleck has been nominated for and won several Grammy awards. Fleck has shared Grammy wins with Asleep at the Wheel, Alison Brown, and Edgar Meyer. He has been nominated in more categories than any other musician, namely country, pop, jazz, bluegrass, classical, folk, and spoken word, as well as composition and arranging. bluegrass banjo jazz Fusion instrumental