The Osborne Brothers Biography

Bobby Van (7 December 1931; mandolin, vocals) and Sonny (b. 29 October 1937, both at Hyden, Kentucky, USA; banjo, vocals) formed this talented bluegrass duo. Bobby had played with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers in 1949 and in 1951, they recorded as a duo with Jimmy Martin. During Bobby’s military service in 1952, Sonny, though barely 15 years old, was playing and appearing on the Grand Ole Opry with Bill Monroe. They were reunited in 1953, appeared on WROL Knoxville and made further recordings with Martin. From 1956-59, they played WWVA’s Wheeling Jamboree and, recording with Red Allen, had a 1958 hit on MGM Records with ‘Once More’. In 1963 they joined the Grand Ole Opry and after changing to the Decca Records label had several country chart successes, including ‘Rocky Top’. Never afraid to modernize their bluegrass (Sonny actually once stated that he did not care too much for the genre), they added other musicians and used electrified instruments including a steel guitar, piano and drums, which caused some traditionalists to criticize their work. In spite of the instrumental innovations, their unique harmonies saw them readily accepted and they survived the competition of rock and pop music much better than some of the other bluegrass groups. They toured with major stars including Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard and also played non-country venues such as nightclubs and even a concert at the White House. In the mid-70s. they began recording for the new CMH label and later recorded several albums, including one with Mac Wiseman with whom they charted ‘Shackles And Chains’ in 1979. They continued recording and performing throughout the 80s and 90s.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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