Ask Sonny Anything… how did The Osborne Brothers find songs?

Sonny, you mentioned your tune, Banjo Boy Chimes (great tune, BTW). I’m curious to know what you think about Alan Munde’s recording of it on his, Banjo Sandwich LP.

David R.

David, thank you for your time, and for joining us in our little weekly free-for-all. Banjo Boy Chimes was written when I was 13 years old, and recorded on the Gateway record label out of Cincinnati, and unfortunately for me I haven’t heard Alan Munde’s recording of it, but I’m very familiar with Alan’s playing. He’s one of the horses that when he backed up to the wagon, he could pull the load. That’s a roundabout way of saying that Alan is one of the really, really good banjo players. I’ve known him for perhaps 40 years and I got to really know him when he was a regular at my Banjo Camp, and I’m honored that he would record my tune.


Hey Sonny,

Recently after the passing of Charley Pride, I was going through the old vinyl and found the tune Best Banjo Picker with a passage of Home Sweet Home with your instantly recognizable sound. I then remember thinking I had heard you and Bobby on some other country recordings including , correct me if I’m wrong, Conway Twitty’s cut of Making Plans. Could you share from memory how many sessions you may have been involved with with some of your country contemporaries of the time? Memorable moments?

As an aside, we talked and met some twenty years ago when I reached out to you about my work on a bio of Charlie Moore. You were very gracious in recalling a couple times working with Charlie when he was a DJ in South Carolina, and pointed me to a couple of folks who could be of more help. Shortly after that we met in person at Charlotte, Michigan. I was 20 years old, green as a gourd, and trying to make a dream come true playing professionally. I was there playing with Lynnwood Lunsford, and ol L wood was riding me pretty hard. I sat with you at your record table and we chatted a good long while. I’ll never forget this day as the day that made me certain that I wouldn’t give up on that dream. All of the words exchanged aren’t saved for posterity, but I know I’ll never forget you walking past our record table and stopping, speaking to L wood and saying to me, “Hey T. You can do whatever you want to in music. There’s nothing stopping you but the company you’re keeping. Find better company.”

I laugh when I think about it now, but I never got to thank you for making a green young unknown musician feel like someone, and a dream potentially real. If it hadn’t been for you the world could’ve been spared the misery of my music! Thank you Sonny.

Travers Chandler

Travers Chandler, thank you for your time and contribution. If I were to mention all the people that I’ve recorded with, the list would be very long. It would include Conway Twitty, Chet Atkins, Wade Ray, Homer & Jethro, and Dolly Parton. And that would just be starting the list. Bobby and I recorded Rocky Top with Conway. I played the banjo on Dolly’s 9 to 5 album, and did a jazz fusion album with Gary Burton called Tennessee Firebird. An album with Chester Atkins, and the list keeps going. I’m not going to take time to go further into it here. And of course I did 80, give-or-take, Osborne Brothers albums so I guess you could say I’ve been around the block a time or two.

I remember meeting you in Charlotte, Michigan and I remember the incident with Lynnwood Lunsford, whom I have known for a long time. He is a a good player and if he was riding you pretty hard as you say, maybe you deserved it. And it seems like I do remember telling you that you are definitely judged by the company you keep and you should find better company.

When you say that your music was misery, it sounds like to me that you don’t have a great deal of confidence in your ability. Oh well, it is what it is.


Dear Sonny, what do you think about the new bluegrass songs being written today?

Also, back in the day when the Osborne Brothers were looking for songs, what specifics did you look for? Thanks.

Rickey D.

Rickey thank you for joining us. I have to admit to the fact that I’m not familiar with the new bluegrass songs because I don’t listen. Reason being there isn’t anyplace to hear them.

Back when we were looking for songs to record, we looked for songwriters such as Paul Craft, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, Harlan Howard….. great song writers…. because they’re the ones who come up with the great songs. One exception being Richard Statler…a Texas college student who wrote My Favorite Memory, When You Wind Down, Up This Hill and Down and a couple more.

We owe so much to the Wilburn Brothers, all four, for our career. Each of them was genius at his job for Sure-Fire Music. Teddy, in particular, found 90% of our songs.


Did you know Curtis McPeake? I always thought he had a difficult job filling in for Earl. Thanks for doing these columns.

James P

James, welcome in here!

Yes, I did know Curtis McPeake. Curtis had different ideas about-banjo playing than I, and we just never seemed to be on the same page.

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.