View Full Version : The Bobby Osborne Interview

Jan-16-2011, 9:18pm
The Mandolin Cafe has posted news:
The Bobby Osborne Interview

The Mandolin Cafe's Forum members have the questions, and mandolin legend Bobby Osborne has the answers for a special feature interview.


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Jan-17-2011, 6:07am
This is about the funkiest and funniest interview in a long, long while. Yet it is VERY interesting. I really love these interviews.

What I thought was strange at first glimpse was the shortness of the answers. There seemed not a lot of information there. But when you reread them and maybe read between the lines and if you have a little background on music, the answers give you an interesting picture.

Let me try to sum up (paraphrase some of the answers):

- Loars and Ferns are good instruments, I just like my fern better
(Go for the best instrument available to you, the rest is personal preference; do not buy into technical myths)

- The Osborne Bros. harmonies were conceived while riding a car (Spend your time as effectively as you can; long car rides are great for experimenting with vocals)

- We worked on how many different ways a song could be done with harmony and the one that fit the song and us is the one we did. (Donīt be stuck on just one idea of how to play/sing a song. Try everything and go with what sounds best)

- We started out with only a snare drum for rhythm and when my son Robby learned to play the whole set we went with that. (we wanted drums, we wanted Robby, we took the whole drum set when Robby played it; it was our personal preference)

Probably the best answer was the answer to swampstompers question about how to take care of your voice. That was very insightful ( for example concerning alcohol, tobacco etc.).

The funniest answer was the "rounded pick" answer. Oh boy, just forget about most any pick brand and play yours until itīs round!

Jan-17-2011, 7:48am
Bobby Osborne: I just played with a pick until it wore off round and got another. That photo just so happened to be taken with a round pick I had used that day. Thank you for asking.

yep, reminds me of Monroe's quip: "I use this kind!"

Bobby is the man!

Denny Gies
Jan-17-2011, 10:37am
Scott, another home run. What a treat it is to hear from the horses' mouths their reflections on their careers and such. Thank you again.....still the best site on the web.

Scotti Adams
Jan-17-2011, 10:40am
Bobby, Sonny and Red Allan came up with the 3 point harmony using high lead and the other 2 voices below that. As Red told me I believe the tune was "Once More" while traveling on some road in West Virginia. Even then Red was still pissed he never got any credit for that.

Jan-17-2011, 11:27am
A little disappointing that the audio and video clips were mostly of Bobby singing. Very little mandolin. Did enjoy the singing though.

John Kinn
Jan-17-2011, 3:08pm
These interviews are always a treat, and grassrootphilosopher hits the spot in his comment. From now on I dont have to spend that much money on picks:)

Mandolin Mick
Jan-17-2011, 4:21pm
I've said it before and I'll say it again ... Bluegrassers are the friendliest and nicest of musicians!!!
Thanx Bobby!!!

Jan-18-2011, 2:01am
Probably the best answer was the answer to swampstompers question about how to take care of your voice. That was very insightful ( for example concerning alcohol, tobacco etc.).

I was surprised by the answer -- of course I realized that tobacco would be a bad idea for a tenor singer with a pure voice (as opposed to someone like Ernest Tubb) but I thought Bobby might have a secret elixir of herbs and honey with a little brandy or something like that. I have a stash of Croatian homebrew slibonic (plum brandy) that sure clears out the throat. Bobby's answer made me curious about what his throat doctor does, and when he sees her or him. I suppose as a professional he consults the throat doctor regularly.

Jan-18-2011, 8:50am
This reminds me of some pickers I played with many years ago. Very old-school, not concerned with equipment, other than Gibson mandolins and banjos, and Martin guitars. That was before the internet turned us into obsessing on every musician's equipment lineup.

Seems like this would be an epiphany to a lot of us. Just play what you want, with whatever picks and strings you want, and make it sound like what you want. Never mind what everyone else is using. If Bobby had copied Bill's style, he never would have been as famous!

Jan-18-2011, 10:13am
You took the tune right out of my mandolin, Fred. Was gonna say the same - Bobby is old school and has been on the scene longer than many of us have been on the planet. The fact that there is an 'Osborne' style speaks volumes. Have been listening to Bobby And His Mandolin on the CMH label lately. Varied styles, tunes deftly played and all very musical. He happens to have a dandy mandolin or 2, but he makes the music, don't he. In one interview, I remember him talking about Unicorn mandolins, praising the workmanship and neck.

Jan-18-2011, 2:51pm
I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and remember when Sonny and Bobby would hit town and play locally. I was 15 then and far too young to be allowed in a place that served hard whiskey but the owner knew how much I loved Midwest Country/Bluegrass and let me sit where I wouldn't be seen. I'm 62 now and carry the kindness of that barkeep and the memories of listening to the "Brothers" along with so many others. Thanks to all of you.

Mike Bromley
Jan-18-2011, 4:51pm
Marvellous, again. Thanks Scott for making this series possible. I showed the "Rocky Top" video to some pals a few days back....some friends with whom I pick and play, and with whom I also tackle "Rocky Top". They hadn't seen the Osbornes do it, and were in somewhat stunned silence afterward. It puts a whole new dimension on something familiar to see it done by the originators.

Thanks again.

Gail Hester
Jan-18-2011, 7:58pm
Great interview, my favorite part was f5loar's question about the first time they sang "I hear a sweet voice callin" with Bill Monroe. This is one of my favorite videos, years later of course.


Bless Bobby and Sonny, what wonderful music they have given us.

Big Joe
Jan-20-2011, 7:46am
Bobby is a class act and always has been. He has done it his way and always the way it should have been done. Bobby used to come in Charlie's shop and tell stories. He is an incredible story teller and was one of the funniest people I have ever met. He was not that way intentionally, but his story telling would leave you laughing so hard. His mandolin playing is far more complex than you may think at first listen. His singing and playing is better now than ever and I am highly impressed with the quality of his work. It does not get any better!!!!!

John Gass
Jan-20-2011, 2:09pm
I spent some time with Bobby at the Monroe Style Mandolin Camp this past year and I must echo Joe's sentiments. Truly a class act.

re simmers
Jan-20-2011, 9:59pm
Mr. Osborne truly has his own style, yet his music doesn't "all sound alike." He thinks outside the box and does whatever it takes to get the band sound that he wants. There aren't too many who can say that. To me, that's genius.

One of my first bluegrass LPs was "Favorite Hymns." "How Great Thou Art" is spectacular, and "Will you Meet me Over Yonder."

I have never seen him in person but hope to.

Correction: I saw them at the Clear Spring carnival when I was about 10 years old. All I remember is the blue station wagon with the bass on top.


Jan-21-2011, 7:52am
Have Vassar's Bluegrass Sessions 1977 in the player, mando chores handled by Statman and Bobby. They do a period-specific White House Blues with some funny lyrics. Bobby nails it.

Jan-23-2011, 1:43am
Great interview and I agree too short of answers. As far as the proto type Osborne Gibson mandolins I knew of 2 that were for sale at Gruhns about a year ago and I know of another one in private hands and they all had "Bobby Osborne" truss rod covers. Osborne's Fern was thought to be a 1925 model but much research has taken place since he bought it in 1954. Most Gibson historians are calling that batch of serial numbers to be closer to 1928. F5s of the mid to late 20's are hard to date as are the banjos and guitars of the same era.

Mandolin Cafe
Jan-16-2019, 8:21am
Noting the anniversary of this interview with Bobby from 2011.

Mandolin Cafe
Dec-07-2020, 9:11am
Happy birthday today to Bobby Osborne, born this date 1931 in Leslie County, Kentucky.