Osborne Brothers

Bobby and Sonny Osborne were born in Hyden, Kentucky, but grew up on a farm on Olt Road in Jefferson Township, just west of Dayton. Along with their sister Louise, they appeared in various configurations on WPFB in Middletown. In the mid 1950s, they played most of the bars in Dayton that used bluegrass music, eventually landing a spot on the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia. They commuted to Wheeling on Saturday nights. During the week, they could be spotted at the taxi stand on Second Street at the side door of Rike’s Department Store in their cabs, waiting to pick up a fare to help make ends meet. Joining with another Kentuckian-turned-Daytonian, Red Allen, they secured a recording contract with MGM Records with the help of Dayton DJ Tommy Sutton. While working with Red, they developed the high lead style of bluegrass trio harmony, freeing the brothers from dependence on an unrelated lead singer and revolutionizing bluegrass harmony. This gave them relatively the same sound as they moved through a succession of third members of the trio. They moved from MGM to Decca Records and in 1964 they became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They worked on perfecting their harmony and became masters of the “elegant ending.” Their quality performances, their professionalism, and their good business sense helped move bluegrass music from the “skull orchards” to the concert halls. They were the Country Music Association Vocal Group of the Year in 1971, they appeared at the White House when Richard Nixon was president, their recording of “Rocky Top” was chosen as a state song of Tennessee and their recording of “Kentucky” is a state song of Kentucky. In 1976 they moved to CMH Records, where they recorded several LPs including a double LP with Mac Wiseman and a double LP of bluegrass standards bringing back Benny Birchfield as their third voice. They later recorded for Sugar Hill and Pinecastle and a live album for RCA. Some of the band members who provided the third voice over the years included Red Allen, Jimmy Brown (John Slagle Jr.), Dale Sledd, Ronnie Reno, Terry Eldridge, Paul Brewster, and Donnie Collins. Bob and Sonny became members of the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1994 and were in the first inductee class of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2002.

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