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Bobby Osborne
Osborn (center) and The Rocky Top in 2007
Bobby Van Osborne

(1931-12-07)December 7, 1931
DiedJune 27, 2023(2023-06-27) (aged 91)
Burial place Gallatin, Tennessee
Occupation Bluegrass Musician
Years active1953–2023

Bobby Van Osborne [1] (December 7, 1931 – June 27, 2023) was an American bluegrass musician. He was the co-founder (with his brother Sonny) of the Osborne Brothers, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, [2] and the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. [3] Osborne was a member of the United States Marine Corps, received a Purple Heart for his service, and was honorably discharged in 1953. [4] [5]

Osborne was an instructor of bluegrass music at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music [6] in Hyden, Kentucky, and his primary instrument was the mandolin. [3] [7]

Early life

Osborne was born in Thousandsticks in Leslie County, Kentucky. [8] While growing up, he helped his father and grandfather at the older man's general store. At the same time he was attracted to the music of the Grand Ole Opry and eventually dropped out of high school to form a band with his brother, Sonny. He helped develop the vocal trio concept in bluegrass music by putting the melody in the tenor voice, instead of putting it in one of the lower voice registers. [9]


Bobby Osborne released many recordings since the 1950s. The Osborne Brothers recordings of "Rocky Top", and "Kentucky" were named official state songs of Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively. Osborne was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1951 and served in the Korean War. He was wounded in action and received the Purple Heart. [10]

"Bobby knew nothing about bluegrass music. He was listening to the Grand Ole Opry one night on WSM radio. He liked the sound of that banjo, and found out later on it was Earl Scruggs playing a tune called 'Cumberland Gap.' From then on he became interested in that type of music." He appeared on many shows with Ernest Tubb, playing guitar and singing. Ernest Tubb suggested that Bobby play the mandolin to complement his high tenor voice. He took the advice and it remained one of his main instruments for the rest of his career. [11]

Osborne's 2017 solo album ORIGINAL was his first album since Bluegrass & Beyond in 2009. The album was the product of Osborne's collaboration with Peter Rowan, which led him to another collaboration with Alison Brown. The album features many bluegrass/Americana musicians and artists [12] including Vince Gill, Sam Bush, Jim Lauderdale, Sierra Hull, Claire Lynch, Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury, Robbie McCoury, Stuart Duncan and Rob Ickes. [13]

Osborne also wrote the song, "Windy City" in 1972, later recorded by Alison Krauss on her LP "Windy City." Krauss recorded the song with Suzanne and Sidney Cox and performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live. [14] [15]

Osborne continued to perform with his band, the Rocky Top X-Press, until his death in 2023. [16]


Osborne died at a hospital in Gallatin, Tennessee, on June 27, 2023, at the age of 91. [17]

Honors and awards

Inducted to Grand Ole Opry (1964, as member of the Osborne Brothers) [2] Between the death of Jesse McReynolds on June 23, 2023, and his own death on June 27, 2023, Osborne was the oldest standing Opry member. [18]

Named Vocal Group of the Year by Country Music Association (1971 as member of the Osborne Brothers) [19]

Inducted to International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor (1994, as member of the Osborne Brothers). [3]

Awarded the Bluegrass Star Award by the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation of Dallas, Texas on October 20, 2018. The award is bestowed upon bluegrass artists who do an exemplary job of advancing traditional bluegrass music while preserving its character and heritage. [20]

Elected to Kentucky Music Hall of Fame (2002, as member of the Osborne Brothers) [21]

Nominated for Best Bluegrass Album at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards (for solo album Original). [22]

International Bluegrass Music Award (IBMA) for Recorded Event of the Year (2017, for " I've Gotta Get a Message to You") [23]


  1. ^ "ARE YOU AFRAID TO SPEAK OUR SAVIOR'S NAME". ASCAP. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Bobby Osborne". Grand Ole Opry. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  3. ^ a b c "Bobby Osborne". Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum. 13 November 2018. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  4. ^ "Bobby Osborne". International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame Inductees. 13 November 2018. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  5. ^ "Ask Sonny Anything… how was it for you when Bobby joined the Marines?". 28 August 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  6. ^ "Instructors". Hazard Community & Technical College, Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  7. ^ "Bobby Osborne – On His Own". Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  8. ^ "At 85, Bluegrass Legend Bobby Osborne Looks Back on Appalachian Upbringing & His Legacy". Billboard. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  9. ^ "Bluegrass Legend Bobby Osborne Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down". NPR. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  10. ^ "Singing Like He Feels: A Conversation with Bobby Osborne". The Bluegrass Situation. 2017-07-14. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  11. ^ "Osborne Brothers - A high lead, a long run - Page 2 of 5". No Depression. 2000-03-01. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  12. ^ "Original - Bobby Osborne | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  13. ^ "At 85, Bluegrass Legend Bobby Osborne Looks Back on Appalachian Upbringing & His Legacy". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  14. ^ "Watch Alison Krauss Sing Pleading 'Windy City' on 'Jimmy Kimmel'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  15. ^ "Alison Krauss Soars to No. 1 on Billboard's Country and Bluegrass Charts With "Windy City"". Nash Country Daily. 2017-02-28. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  16. ^ Sanning, Cory (7 August 2021). "'I was born to do it': Bobby Osborne reflects on legendary career, what keeps him coming back". Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  17. ^ Friskics-Warren, Bill (27 June 2023). "Bobby Osborne, Mandolinist Who Flouted Bluegrass Convention, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2023.
  18. ^ Oldest Living Opry Member & Bluegrass Great Bobby Osborne Dies
  19. ^ "Kentucky Arts Council, National Award, Bobby Osborne, Leslie County native". Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  20. ^ "The Bluegrass Star Award, by the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation". Bluegrass Heritage Foundation. Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  21. ^ "Inductees". Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2019-06-27. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  22. ^ "Bobby Osborne: GRAMMY Nod Just What Doctor Ordered For Bluegrass Original". Retrieved March 5, 2023.
  23. ^ "2017 International Bluegrass Music Awards". 28 September 2017. Retrieved March 5, 2023.

External links