Ask Sonny Anything… what did you think of the Earl Scruggs Revue?

We just lost one the most prolific songwriters ever in Tom T. Hall.

Did the Osborne Brothers ever play any shows together? And did you all record any of his songs? Thanks for your time!

Sean M

Yes on both counts. We did several shows with Tom and recorded an album with him, which I don’t recall the name. We did some of his songs too, one being Souvenirs, I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew, and Ballad of Forty Dollars. He was a good friend and a great songwriter and will always be remembered as such. And while we were recording he would change clothes into period clothes that would match the songs we were doing. Once, I looked down at my watch and he said, “do you have someplace else to go?” and I took that as an insult and said, “as a matter of fact, I do have a session at 6 and I’d like to not be late!”


Hi Sonny, Hope you are well!!

I happened to be reading Dick Spottswood’s book, Banjo on the Mountain, about Wade Mainer. I noticed your picture in there with him from 2002 at the Grand Ole Opry. I was wondering if you could share your meeting with him. As well, was he a big influence for you in any way? Thank you so much.

Jacob F.

First of all, my picture at the Grand Ole Opry has probably appeared in a thousand media outlets, so my picture with Wade Mainer does not stand out in my memory. I played there every weekend for 43 years, so the number of pictures taken would be endless. And as far as an influence, neither Spottswood nor Mainer had much influence in my playing. I look to guys like Earl Scruggs and Rudy Lyle to be my biggest influence, and I think my playing shows that, and if I were a beginning banjo player right now, my biggest influences would be Lincoln Hensley and Derek Vaden. Those two young guys seem to have it all together with a great right hand and matching left. What more could anybody want?!

I’ve been asked numerous times about setting a banjo up, and who’s good and who’s not. I guess the best guy that I know of in this area would be Lincoln Hensley because he seems to have the touch. When we first started making the Krako banjos, it was made from spare parts I had collected for years. And when I had it put together the action was very high. I took it to a “friend” and asked that he lower the action, and when I got it back, it cost me 100 dollars and he had put a shorter bridge on it instead of making the proper adjustments that he could have made with the coordinating rods or the truss rod. He chose to put a shorter bridge on there, a method of which a five-year-old child could have figured out.


Thanks for doing this column Sonny, I always appreciate your perspective. What are your thoughts on Earl’s music and career after the split with Lester?

James P.

Hey James, thank you for participating in our chaotic thing we got going here. As far as Earl’s music with his boys, and not to hurt anyone’s feelings (Gary Scruggs, Earl’s son, is a close friend), but I was not a big fan of the music and career after the split with Lester. Nor was I a big fan of Lester and Earl’s music directly before the split. I grew up on Flatt and Scruggs, and the music they played there in the ’50s was unmatched then and now. No one has quite captured that sound and I doubt if they ever will. Foggy Mountain Breakdown has been played, folks, and it was played in Cincinnati in 1949, and I doubt it will ever be played like that ever again.


Sonny, what other genres of music do you listen to besides country and bluegrass? Do you enjoy classical and baroque as well?


Well, D.R., due to the fact the little that I know about classical guitar and I don’t know what baroque is, other than being broke about a thousand times during the ’50s and calling my dad up at 3 o’clock in the morning and his first words after finding out who was calling was, “how much do you need and where do I need to send it?” And it never mattered how much. He never questioned it or anything – if I would say 500 dollars and send it to Western Union in that town, it would be there the next morning. And the rest of his life, he never asked me what I used it for. When he moved from Ohio to Kentucky – there’s an old saying that “dollars talk and b.s. walks” – there was an old man with a farm for sale and my dad was wanting it. He needed ten grand to make up with what he had so he could get that place. He told me that and I went and got it and gave it to him. It made him so happy. This would be in the mid-late ’60s.

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.