Ponty was a child prodigy from two professional French musician parents. After winning most of the classical violin competitions in France, he joined the French army in 1962. After leaving the armed forces in 1965, he totally embraced the gypsy-inspired jazz violin of Grappelli.
In the early 1970s he joined Frank Zappa, touring with the Mothers until 1974, when he became part of the re-vamped Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin after the demise of the original group. From there, he has spearheaded several solo and joint jazz fusion projects, including an acoustic trio with Al DiMeola and Stanley Clarke.
Ponty's musical diversity helped secure fans who otherwise may not have gone to a jazz-fusion concert. His upbeat and perky violin style naturally appealed to bluegrass fans, and his obvious inspiration from Stephane Grappelli and open embracing of rock riffs helped pair him with acts on rock shows while touring.