Osborne Brothers, The


  • From Hyden, Kentucky (Live in Nashville.)
  • Bobby plays mandolin; Sonny plays banjo.
  • Bobby is six years older than Sonny.
  • Sonny’s given name is Roland.
  • 1949, Bobby began musical career with banjo player Larry Richardson and the Cline Brothers (Ray and Charlie) in The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.
  • 1950, Sonny joined the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers at age 13.
  • 1951, Sonny was hired by Bill Monroe to play banjo with the Blue Grass Boys.
  • 1953, Bobby and Sonny teamed up with Jimmy Martin and performed on a radio station in Detroit as as “Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers.” They were invited to come to Nashville to do a radio program, but turned it down because the pay wasn’t good enough. The sponsors hired Flatt and Scruggs instead. The show was “The Martha White Show” on WSM.
  • 1955, parted company with Martin and worked with Charlie Bailey in Wheeling, West Virginia on WWVA.
  • 1956, formed their own band with Red Allen singing lead. Signed by MGM Records.
  • 1964, joined the Grand Ole Opry.
  • 1968, recorded their biggest hit “Rocky Top.” In 1984, the song was designated the state song of Tennessee. (The Osborne Brothers performed it live before the Tennessee State Legislature.)
  • 1969, went electric, infuriating many of their fans. At one concert, someone snuck up on stage and snipped the electric chord to Sonny’s banjo.
  • 1970, Sonny invented a six-string banjo which had one extra bass string. Played it for several years but eventually abandoned the idea.
  • 1971, won the CMA Award for “Vocal Group of the Year.”
  • 1973, were the first bluegrass group to perform at the White House (for Richard Nixon).
  • 1974, stopped using electric instruments, except for an electric bass.
  • 1991, dropped the electric bass in favor of the acoustic string bass.
  • 1994, were inducted into the IBMA’s Hall of Fame.
  • 2000, a section of Route 421 in Kentucky was named “Osborne Brothers Way.”
  • 2004, Sonny retired due to a shoulder operation which impacted his ability to play up to his standards.  He began building and selling banjos with his Sonny Osborne Banjo Company, specializing in a banjo called “The Osborne Chief.” For several years, he wrote a column for Bluegrass Today called “Ask Sonny Anything,” which became the website’s most popular feature.
  • 2005, Bobby formed his own band called Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-press.
  • 2014, Pinecastle released a previously unreleased album of 1970’s era recordings by the Osborne Brothers called Nashville.
  • 2021, Sonny died at the age of 84.
  • 2023, Bobby died at the age of 91.