Ask Sonny Anything… Chubby Wise and his hair lifting fiddle

Well Chief, I hope you stayed inside this week and enjoyed perusing Marty’s Valentine’s gift. From the sounds of things on the news, it’s a good thing we didn’t venture far from the driveway last week — at least to Texas. Our friends there have really been suffering. Good news though, Larry has the Bluegrass Express time machine all fired up and we’re ready to head out this morning, with the usual crew onboard.

Looks like we’ll be revisiting Mansfield, Ohio, along with memories of Chubby Wise, John Duffey, and a quick stop in 1974, but we’ll kick it off with a short stop over in the early ’80s when Bobby had an issue with a bad finger. This oughta be good.

Let’s go Chief!



Hi Sonny

Just a little note to say thanks. You autographed an album I bought at one of your concerts in Augusta Georgia back in 1968. I later traded that autographed jacket to a friend that had introduced me to you and your brother’s music with the stipulation that if he ever decided to sell his banjo (mid ’60s Gibson RB-800) I would get get first crack at it. His arthritis got to the point that he could no longer play so he sold it to me…. 50 years later! I was thrilled he remembered and kept his word. Just thought I’d say thanks again!

Jim S.

Well Jim, you made it short and sweet and I appreciate that. It seems as though I autographed an album cover to Jim and he traded it to some other guy, and this guy was a banjo player and he had a mid-’60s RB-800, and he promised Jim if he ever got rid of the banjo he would give Jim first crack at it. So, as fate would have it, 50 years later this banjo player grew arthritic and he couldn’t play anymore, and guess what? He offered it to Jim and Jim bought it. And so Jim told me thanks and I wondered what for, so I went back and re-read what Jim had written. I find that I had made a mistake. Lord have mercy! I had autographed an album for Jim in 1958 and later Jim traded that autographed album jacket to a friend who introduced him to the Brothers’ music. And that friend just happened to be the afore-mentioned banjo player.



Heya Sonny, just wondering, did John Duffey ever pop out on stage with you and Bobby and ask to do a song or two with you guys? If so where, and do you recall the songs?

BTW in 1974 I was at Stadler Music when you and Bobby came pulling in one day. You both talked to me. You sat down and I was playing a Lowrey organ, lol. I was 14 years old.

Thanks..Randy P. – Reidsville, NC

Randy, thanks for joining.

I don’t remember the incident that happened at Stadler Music, but we did quite of lot of business there at Stadler’s Music store.

My first Fender twin reverb amp and my Marlen steel guitar all came from that place. I had banjo strings, Bobby had mandolin strings, and Dale Sledd had guitar strings, all from that company. So we did a lot of business there, and anytime we were close, we stopped in.

Randy, you also asked a question about John Duffey. So the answer is, yes. John did come out one time and it seems as though it was Short Creek, KY (which is just below Long Creek, KY) but I might be wrong on that. I think John and his followers classified him as the best high voice in all of bluegrass music, and my brother and his followers were in the midst of owning that title. I think John took exception to that. And of course there’s no way to prove this one way or the other. But Bobby had a better vehicle in WSM, the Grand Ole Opry, a better shot at national television exposure, Decca Records, etc.

John told me on several occasions, that he could sing in our trio and I kept telling him that he could not, because our trio was different from his.

So on this one day, John wandered out on stage and wanted to sing Making Plans with us. I felt bad because I knew that John was not going to fare well in that endeavor. But he insisted, so what were we to do? We went into singing Making Plans. We got to the second line and John was suddenly singing my part and I stopped and I said, “No, John, as I told you before, our trios are different from yours.”

Sometime in the future, if anybody’s interested in knowing the difference in the way we sing and the way they sing, I will be glad to go into detail, but I’m not going to at this point. On this particular day, we realized and he realized, that there was a major difference and we made a big joke of it and the crowd thought it was funny and John finally wandered off the stage.

Now, I want to make a statement that I’m not trying to put John Duffey down at all, because he has millions of fans who believe him to be what HE believes he is. However, I’m not one of them because for over 50 years I stood beside the best.



Sonny, my aunt was married to Louie Osborne, and she always claimed he was kin to you. I was just wondering if that was true. I know she loved your music and introduced me to the Osborne Brothers back in the ’60s. I have enjoyed your music ever since.

James R Moore

James… my wife has done some genealogy on my family, and she says she has not come across a Louie Osborne. Thank you for participating. We appreciate that a great deal.

Don’t be a stranger.



Hello there Sonny! Zach Willier from Edmonton, AB here, I am very fond of the fiddle playing of Chubby Wise, and have studied his playing very much. As a fiddle player myself I picked up of some of his licks here and there. I was just wondering if you have any stories or insights about him. Ever seen him at the Opry? Ever been on the road with him? Anyway thanks for your time and take care!

Zach Willier

Hey Zach from Edmonton beautiful Alberta, Canada.

Zach is a fiddle player and he loves Chubby Wise and he wanted to know if there are any interesting stories about Chubby.

I produced an album on Chubby and he, as many old-timers are, only wanted to play it one time and that’s all. Unfortunately recording doesn’t work that way in modern times. And when Chubby would finish a tune he’d say, “Well boys, that’s about the best I can play it, right there.” And during that tune I noticed a couple of glitches that had to be fixed. And Chubby would say, “Nahhhhh. Just let it go.” So when the album came out, it would have my name as producer, and with the great Chubby Wise doing a couple bad things. that would come back on me as producer…so I started making up excuses about why we had to do it again. I blamed the guitar player who was David Crow for a couple times and I was running out of people to blame and so the last one I blamed it on the engineer, and he stood up and threw both hands in the air as if to say, “What the hell did I do?”

Now here’s the clincher. Chubby played fiddle for Hank Snow for a number of years and sometimes Hank wouldn’t be feelin’ too good. And Chubby is on Hank’s left side and Curt Gibson is on his right side, right up against Hank. As Hank was singing, Chubby went into one of those real long bow things that fiddlers do, and the end of Chubby’s fiddle bow caught on what? Why I’ll tell you where it caught. It caught on Hank’s toupee and lifted the damn thing right off the top of Hank’s head.

I wasn’t there and didn’t see it, but 2 or 3 close friends were and told me it happened. And so, I have to believe it happened.

I’ll close this with, “and that’s the truth if I ever told it.”



Hey Sonny,

Back in the early ’80s, on a February evening, my father-in-law, Pearl Hamilton, put on an evening show at a union hall in Mansfield, Ohio. The Osborne Brothers were on the bill that night along with a couple other local bands. We were reminiscing about the show the other night and my father-in-law recalled that the evening you guys played Bobby was complaining about his finger hurting or being broken from somebody throwing something at him on stage maybe at a previous show that weekend. He recalled you and Bobby both asking people from the stage not to throw anything towards the band. He said a big blizzard came that night and they had just enough people to pay all the bands. I was wondering if you remembered what the circumstances were to that story. Hope you’re doing well.


Chris S.

Chris, welcome in. I’m glad you’re participating and I appreciate that very much.

You mentioned a show that we did in Mansfield, OH and to be quite honest I don’t remember that specific date. You also mentioned that Bobby was complaining about his finger and that someone had thrown something at us from the crowd at some other place and hurt his finger. The only time I ever remember anyone throwing anything, it was in Chillicothe, OH and some clown threw a swizzle stick and hit one of our guys, I think it was the guitar player, right on the nose. Unfortunately, the guy who threw it was treated to a little rough-house by several people … including the guitar player. I don’t remember Bobby ever, in all the time that we worked together, having a problem with his fingers. But you are probably right, and here in my 83rd year I may be losing something. You reckon?

You said that we had just barely enough people to pay everything and that is very encouraging because Mr. Pearl Hamilton did not lose any money.


If you have something you would like to ask Sonny, be sure to post it in the comments below, or send it to us directly.

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About the Author

Sonny Osborne

Surely among the most influential banjo players of all time, Sonny Osborne has dedicated his life to bluegrass music, and the five string banjo. For 50 years he toured with his brother, Bobby, as The Osborne Brothers and were one of the top acts in bluegrass and country music in the 1960s and '70s. He retired in 2005 but remains active in the banjo world with the manufacture and distribution of his Chief banjos.