Ask Sonny Anything… How you doing, Chief?

Ask Sonny Anything is a recurring feature where our readers pose questions to the great Sonny Osborne, one half of the iconic Osborne Brothers who redefined bluegrass music in the 1960s, and noted banjo maven and collector of fine prewar instruments. Everyone is encouraged to pose queries of your own each week in the comments, about his history in the music, his wealth of banjo knowledge, or regarding any life advice you might be needing.

A shortened column this week, as Sonny continues to recover from his fall.


Please give us an update on how you’re doing. We’re all thinking about you and your recent fall.

Terry H.


On July 29th I lost my balance and fell backward, landing on my extreme ass, and my head took a tremendous blow when it hit the carpet-covered concrete. And I hain’t been right since.

I’ve been to doctors, ER, had CT Scan, EKG, BP, eyes, temp and anything else you could think of and their answer was….”There’s no blood and we can’t find anything wrong.” So I’ve been bedridden for 21 days. Doctors now tell me that I’ve got an extreme blockage in my damn legs. Go figger.

My only problem is…I hain’t been right in the head since.




Who is Ruby Rakes? Come on, tell us the story!

Ronnie L.

Ruby Rakes is:

I don’t know if I can get this sequence right. She’s the great-granddaughter of some guy named Smith, and her mother is somehow related to that guy and to make a long story short and more confusing, her name is Ruby Rakes Smith Supin Else and Stanley. And she is the half-sister to Carter and Ralph Stanley. I don’t know if she was still alive, but they used her name as writer on some of their songs.

To clarify a little bit…. I know for a fact that Bill Monroe used the name Rupert Jones, Andrew Smith, and several others, and I do know that Flatt & Scruggs used Certain and I think Stacey which was their wives’ maiden names. Why they did this, I have no idea, because in those days you made such a small amount of money that it couldn’t have been a tax thing. Or at least in my mind it couldn’t have been.

So that leaves a big question mark, doesn’t it? Once again, I repeat, go figger.



Hey Sonny , I was just wondering where the last show was The Osborne Brosthers performed? And what was the last song you guys performed at that show? I think I know the answer to the song. Thanks to you and Bobby for all the great music you have given the bluegrass world!!!

Mark K.

Mark K.,

Well, thank you Mark. I appreciate you taking time to join us.

I know a Mark K. who is a pretty good banjo player (who plays a Chief banjo) from Texas. That would be Mark Krieder.

He wanted to know the last show the O Brothers played, and what was the last song I performed that night.

The last show would be Myrtle Beach, SC, November 6, 2003. The last song that I played the banjo on was Ruby. About 2/3 of the way through, my left shoulder just completely gave way and my arm fell to my side…and I looked over at Bobby and said “I think I’m done.” So, we finished that song and did a quick version of Rocky Top and I never played the banjo again. The muscles and tendons attached to my rotator had all broken loose and just left my arm dangling. I had surgery, but there was one muscle (or I was told) that had disintegrated and he couldn’t fix it. So that ended my banjo-playing career forever… arm didn’t work.


Please join us in wishing Sonny a speedy and complete recovery.

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.