28 June 2023

Bobby Osborne, 7 Dec. 1931-27 June 2023

Following closely upon the death of Jesse McReynolds (see the BIB for 24 June), the bluegrass world has now lost another member of the founding generation of the music with the death yesterday (27 June) of Bobby Osborne at the age of 91. A photo of the two great singer/ mandolinists together is on Bobby's Facebook.

Bobby and his younger brother Sonny were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1994, a year after Jim & Jesse. Like them, the Osbornes were original and innovative, and often controversial in using 'non-bluegrass' instruments on recordings, and playing amplified mandolin and banjo on live shows. Like Jesse, Bobby Osborne remained vigorously active in recording and performing after Sonny retired in 2005. John Lawless's obituary/ biography of Bobby on Bluegrass Today includes a video of the Osbornes playing 'Rocky Top' in 1967, and one of Bobby's recording - fifty years later - of 'I've got to get a message to you'.

John Lawless remarks on the Osbornes' 'ill-fated association' with Red Allen (1956-8), which however was also the time when their trademark trio-harmony-singing style evolved, with Bobby's phenomenal voice taking a high lead. They went on to win successive vocal group awards on the country music scene. John Lawless's obituary concludes: '[Bobby's] death leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of every bluegrass fan, and we aren’t likely to see his kind again.'

© Richard Hawkins

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