Bobby Osborne Of The Osborne Brothers Passed Away At 91

via WBIR Channel 10 / Youtube

The world of bluegrass music mourns the loss of Bobby Osborne, the influential mandolinist and bluegrass singer who passed away at the age of 91. Known for his innovative approach to bluegrass, Osborne left an indelible mark on the genre by infusing elements of rock and roll, pop, and country music into his music. As one-half of The Osborne Brothers, he and his brother Sonny Osborne co-founded a musical legacy that pushed the boundaries of traditional bluegrass. Bobby Osborne’s contributions to bluegrass music will forever be remembered and celebrated.

The Passing of a Bluegrass Icon

On Tuesday, Bobby Osborne passed away at the age of 91 in a hospital in Gallatin, Tennessee. The sad news was confirmed by Dan Rogers, the vice president and executive producer of the Grand Ole Opry, to the New York Times. Osborne’s legacy as an influential mandolinist and bluegrass singer spans decades, and his innovative musical style made a significant impact on the genre.

The Formation of The Osborne Brothers

Bobby Osborne, born on December 7, 1931, in Thousandsticks, Kentucky, nurtured a passion for music from a young age, influenced by the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry. Alongside his brother Sonny Osborne, they formed The Osborne Brothers in 1953. While the group experienced lineup changes over the years, Bobby and Sonny remained the driving forces behind their success.

Pushing Boundaries in Bluegrass

The Osborne Brothers showcased their willingness to push the boundaries of bluegrass music. In 1956, they recorded “Ruby Are You Mad,” which marked the first-ever use of twin banjos on a bluegrass recording. Their experimentation continued with the inclusion of instruments like dobro and drums in their recordings, adding new dimensions to the genre and appealing to a wider audience, including country music fans.

Vocal Harmonies and Innovations

Bobby Osborne’s vocal innovations were another standout feature of The Osborne Brothers’ music. Breaking away from the traditional bluegrass vocal arrangement, Bobby took the lead as the highest voice, with Sonny singing the middle part and a tenor adding the lowest line. This unique vocal harmony arrangement, conceived during a car ride home, became their signature style and captured the attention of country music listeners, even as it faced criticism from traditional bluegrass fans.

Rocky Top and Continued Legacy

The Osborne Brothers’ most iconic song, “Rocky Top,” released in 1967, became a top 40 country hit and a beloved anthem. Written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the song gained further recognition as one of Tennessee’s official state songs and the fight song for the University of Tennessee football team. Although the group faced challenges in the 1970s, their legacy continued to resonate.

Bobby Osborne’s Later Years and Family

After Sonny’s retirement in 2005, effectively ending The Osborne Brothers, Bobby embarked on new musical endeavors. He formed Rocky Top X-Press with his son Bobby Jr., continuing to share his love for bluegrass with audiences. Bobby Osborne is survived by his wife Karen, his children Bobby Jr., Wynn, Robby, and Tina, his sister Louis Williams, as well as five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.