Bobby Osborne has become an acknowledged master of the bluegrass mandolin, and his high lead singing has caused many a chill over the five-plus decades that he and Sonny performed together as the Osborne Brothers. He began his professional music career around 1947 at WPFB in Middletown with a group he called the Miami Valley Playboys. Bobby’s idol at the time was Ernest Tubb, and he was singing in the Ernest Tubb style and playing electric guitar. He met Galax, Virginia-born banjo player Larry Richardson at WPFB, and soon the two of them left for West Virginia to seek fame and fortune. They played on radio in Welch, West Virginia as the Silver Saddle Boys and later worked with Rex and Eleanor Parker in Bluefield, West Virginia, eventually landing a job with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. They cut four sides on Cozy Records, with “Pain In My Heart” becoming a bluegrass classic. This record received a lot of radio airplay in Dayton. After Larry Richardson left, Jimmy Martin and Bobby cut four sides for King Records in Cincinnati, backed by the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, but issued as by Jimmy Martin and Bob Osborne. It was at this time that Bobby began playing mandolin, because Jimmy wanted to be the guitar player. At roughly the same time, Bobby, Sonny, and Louise Osborne and possibly Jimmy Martin cut four issued Kitty sides for Ott Ginter at the Osborne farm house. Bobby recorded some of the Gateway and Kentucky sides with Sonny during and after his Marine Corps duty which took him to Korea, where he received a Purple Heart when he was wounded in action. Later he and Sonny got together with Jimmy Martin and worked at WPFB and at WJR in Detroit as Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers, and recorded six songs for RCA Victor. After splitting with Jimmy, Bobby and Sonny and Red Allen secured an MGM Records contract. Their “Once More” was the first song to feature their newly invented high-lead style of trio harmony. “Ruby,” with its sustained high note on the title word, would drive the crowds wild and was Bobby’s signature song until “Rocky Top” came along in 1967. After Red Allen departed, Bobby and Sonny worked together as the Osborne Brothers, recording with MGM, then Decca (MCA), CMH, Sugar Hill, and Pinecastle. He and Sonny were inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1994, and he was inducted a second time in 2009 as a member of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. He and Sonny were in the first class of inductees into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2002. After Sonny’s retirement from the road in 2007, Bobby continued on as Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top Express (later the Rocky Top X-Press), recording for OMS, Rural Rhythm, and Rounder. He also is a faculty member at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music in Hyden, Kentucky—part of the Hazard Community and Technical College.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License