The Osborne Brothers were one of the most influential bands in bluegrass history. They’re one of only a handful of bluegrass bands whose music transcended bluegrass and found great mainstream success in the larger country music world.
With twenty-one charted singles on the country charts, the Osborne Brothers’ popularity was at its peak in the 1970s. After being named CMA’s Vocal Group of the Year in 1971, the band began playing country package shows across the country. In order to keep up with their country counterparts, the Osborne Brothers went electric, added drums, and became leaders in the “country-grass” movement.
They were working on a new album for Decca Records in 1973 when the label was changed to MCA Records. The brothers had strong disagreements with the new management and left the label. They took with them the seven songs they had already completed for the album on which they had been working. These songs were never released, and essentially became a part of bluegrass mythology.
Over forty years later, these “lost” recordings are finally seeing the light of day. On June 10th, Pinecastle Records will release these seven tracks as Nashville, the final installment of a four-part series chronicling the Osborne Brothers’ career.
Lifelong fan and noted Osborne Brothers’ expert, Joe Mullins commented on the long-anticpated release of these seven songs.
“Everything the Osborne Brothers recorded in their 50 years together is significant. The world renowned harmony and inventive musicianship made them the kings of the bluegrass and country music industry after they joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1964 – 50 years ago. Ten years later, they had enjoyed a decade of their biggest hits with Decca/MCA. Having their final session from this productive period of their career will show us all once more how their great Country-Grass sound put them on top.
Sonny Osborne recalls the Osbornes’ decision to go electric back in the day.
“We were playing a lot of package shows in those days along with other Opry acts. To be honest, at first we failed miserably. The reason being, after listening to three or four electric bands before we came on, the audience’s hearing had adjusted to that volume and they just couldn’t hear us.
We were playing The Flame Club in Minneapolis and not selling to the crowd very well, so we went to a music store and bought pickups, cords, etc. We put a pickup on Bobby’s mandolin, Dale Sledd’s guitar, my Guitjo, and we were already using an electric bass. (The Guitjo was tuned and played the same as a banjo.)
We used Ronnie Reno’s bass amp, along with the house band’s steel and guitar amps. We started out with the volume rather low, but that did not work, so we adopted a policy of ‘peel the paint off the walls!’ and at least make them listen, hear, and pay attention. We did, and they did. Using steel, piano, electric guitar, sometimes fiddle, and drums on recordings also got us airplay on a lot of country stations that would not play bluegrass.
Bobby Osborne had this to say.
“Everybody did not like it, but in the long run it was good for us and good for bluegrass music.”
It proved to be a wise decision. The Osborne Brothers reached levels of popularity which most bluegrass bands can only dream of. Their unique sound and immense success allowed them to spread bluegrass to dedicated fans across the country.
Highlighting this popular era of the Osborne Brothers’ career, Nashville will include the following unreleased Osborne Brothers recordings.
- Muddy Waters
- Going Back To The Mountains
- The Oak Tree
- The Hard Times
- My Baby’s Gone
- When I Stop Dreaming
- Gonna Be Raining When I Die
Here is a preview of Gonna Be Raining When I Die. This pre-release single is available for download on iTunes.
In addition to releasing Nashville on CD, the album will be Pinecastle’s first to be available on vinyl as well.
Bluegrass and country fans everywhere will be marking their calendars for June 10th. I know I will be!
photo by LuAnn Adams
Category: Bluegrass recording news
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to receive more just like it.