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Bobby Osborne, a Groundbreaking Mandolinist in Bluegrass, Passes Away at 91 – The Gentleman Report – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Bobby Osborne, a Groundbreaking Mandolinist in Bluegrass, Passes Away at 91 – The Gentleman Report


During the later stages of their musical career, Bobby Osborne and his brother Sonny explored a more traditional form of bluegrass music, which propelled them back into the spotlight. This resurgence lasted for thirty years and cemented their status as bluegrass trailblazers alongside the likes of Mr. Monroe and the Stanleys. In 1994, the duo was recognized for their contributions with an induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, Sonny Osborne was forced to retire from performing in 2005 due to a shoulder injury and passed away in 2021. Bobby, who had previously undergone a quintuple bypass heart surgery, collaborated with his son, Bobby Jr. (also known as Boj), to form a new group called Rocky Top X-Press. Together, they continued to perform and record music.

Bobby Osborne is survived by his wife, Karen Osborne, as well as his three other children: Wynn, Robby, and Tina Osborne. Additionally, he leaves behind his sister, Louise Williams, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He resided in Portland, Tenn., which is a suburb of Nashville.

Although the Osbornes are commonly regarded for their production, arrangements, and repertoire within bluegrass music, little attention has been given to Bobby Osborne’s pioneering work as a mandolinist. His rhythmic and lyrical playing style drew inspiration from the jazz-influenced solos of old-time fiddlers, enabling him to push the boundaries as a mandolin player.

In a 2017 interview with the Bluegrass Situation website, Bobby Osborne discussed his creative process, stating, “Since I always liked fiddle tunes and the mandolin is tuned like a fiddle — and I was good with a flatpick from guitar — I got completely wrapped up playing fiddle tunes with the mandolin.”

With his unique approach, Bobby Osborne became renowned as one of the pioneering mandolinists in bluegrass music, expanding the instrument’s vocabulary beyond what Bill Monroe, the founding father of Bluegrass, had previously established.

Reporting by Alex Traub.

In their later years, Bobby Osborne and his brother Sonny embraced a more traditional approach to bluegrass music, which reignited their career. This rejuvenation lasted for three decades, solidifying their position among bluegrass pioneers such as Mr. Monroe and the Stanleys. The duo was honored with induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Sonny Osborne retired from performing in 2005 due to a shoulder injury and passed away in 2021. Bobby, who had previously undergone quintuple bypass heart surgery, formed a new group called Rocky Top X-Press with his son, Bobby Jr. (also known as Boj). They continued to perform and record together.

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Bobby Osborne is survived by his wife, Karen Osborne, as well as his three other children: Wynn, Robby, and Tina Osborne. He also leaves behind his sister, Louise Williams, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He resided in Portland, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville.

While the Osbornes are known for their contributions in production, arrangements, and repertoire within bluegrass music, little attention has been given to Bobby Osborne’s groundbreaking work as a mandolinist. His rhythmic and lyrical playing style drew inspiration from the jazz-influenced solos of old-time fiddlers, allowing him to push the boundaries as a mandolin player.

In a 2017 interview with the Bluegrass Situation website, Bobby Osborne explained his creative process, stating, “Since I always liked fiddle tunes and the mandolin is tuned like a fiddle — and I was good with a flat pick from guitar — I got completely wrapped up playing fiddle tunes with the mandolin.”

Through his approach, Bobby Osborne became known as one of the pioneering mandolinists in bluegrass music, expanding the instrument’s vocabulary beyond what Bill Monroe, the founding father of Bluegrass, had previously established.

Reporting contributed by Alex Traub.

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