Sonny Osborne gained some early fame by playing banjo and recording with Bill Monroe in 1952, when he was only fourteen years old. Earlier, Sonny and his sister Louise had worked at WPFB in Middletown and cut two singles on Ott Ginter’s Kitty label of Miamisburg, along with Bobby Osborne and possibly Jimmy Martin. When Sonny returned to Dayton from his stint with Monroe, he put together a band that recorded bargain covers of bluegrass hits as well as some original material for Kentucky and Gateway Records in Cincinnati. This went on sporadically from late 1952 until early 1956 and eventually totaled approximately fifty sides. One of the recordings, “Sunny Mountain Chimes,” was a bona fide hit in the Cincinnati area, selling a reported 67,000 copies. The band originally included Enos Johnson on mandolin and Carlos Brock on guitar and was billed on record as Sonny Osborne and his Sunny Mountain Boys. Several bass players were used, and Bobby Osborne and Red Allen showed up on some of the later sessions. After settling into a long career with Bobby as the Osborne Brothers, Sonny became known as a great innovator. He experimented with a six-string banjo as well as a five-string resonator guitar/banjo. He wrote the first five-string bluegrass banjo course and he and Bobby electrified their mandolin and banjo when they began playing large auditoriums on country package shows. He and Bobby were inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1994 and were in the inaugural class of inductees into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2002. Sonny retired from the road in 2007. Since his retirement he has marketed a banjo he developed called the Osborne Chief, done banjo instruction, and produced recordings for other artists.

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