Ask Sonny Anything… where is that biography you promised?

Good morning Chief,

I hope you get this. When I got off the bus last week we were in 1996, I turned around and you boys were gone. Very funny.

Fortunately we have dial-up internet. I’m out front here at Bean Blossom…reading about this guy named Theodore Kaczynski that they finally caught about 2 weeks ago. The good news is, it’s safer to open your mail now.

I’m waiting…



Hey Sonny! I’ve got two questions: I know you’ve not picked a banjo in years because of the shoulder issues, but if you were to just play one song, what would it be? Secondly, Doyle Lawson announced his retirement recently and I wondered if you have any memorable experiences with him over the years. Thanks for humoring our questions!

Michael O
Greensboro, NC


Hey Mikey!!!!

If I could play one more tune, it would be in the key of G and the title would be No Mother or Dad.

Bobby and I always wanted to sing and play with Doyle, but when he was working with other bands, before Quicksilver burst on the scene, we tried but he was too expensive. Not to imply that he was too expensive, he was for us. Man, the few times we sang together, he was so good, and he had the great thing going with the guitar.

Back in the day, before the Opry, Decca records, and all that, we had been to Nashville to record and were on the way back to Dayton. this would be about late 1957, early 1958. Dayton disc jockey Les Bodine was with us. We stopped in Louisville for gas and the guy pumping gas told us our car had a muffler which was dragging, and did we want him to wire it up so it wouldn’t drag. We said yes and he fixed it. We went on our merry way. Years later we were reminded that the guy who fixed our car was the leader of the band known as QUICKSILVER… ’twas none other than….The great Doyle Lawson.



Good afternoon, Mr. Osborne. I was just listening to a few recordings that Johnnie and Jack made with your clawhammer instructor, Grandpa Jones. Were the Osborne Brothers influenced by the trio harmony of the Tennessee Mountain Boys? Did you ever rub elbows with Johnnie and Jack before Mr. Anglin died?

Thank you for this wonderful series, not to mention all of your contributions to the music we descendants of hillbillies and briarhoppers cherish so much.


BK…thank you for coming our way today….Ha, that rhymes.

When I joined Bill Monroe’s band as a legitimate Blue Grass Boy I was a very green kid of 14, and I guess I didn’t belong. I was treated as an outcast, in that no one would talk to me. At the Opry I just stood around. Bill was off doing what he was doing, Jimmy and Charlie didn’t want to be seen with a child, everyone except George Morgan, Jack Anglin, and Hank Williams. I reckon they felt sorry for a kid and went out of their way to speak, if nothing else. George and I were sitting on the stage years later and Billy Grammer walked by. (Note: George had an eye problem that couldn’t be corrected) So Billy stopped and held his watch high and to the right and said, “Hey George, what time is it?” Then broke out in a laugh and proceeded on his way. George was hurt and said, “He didn’t have to do that.” Incidentally, it is my understanding that Billy Grammer was blind when he crossed over.

Grady Martin told a Hank Williams story that he swore to be true. Grady played fiddle for the Hank Williams band for a spell. They were filming the Kate Smith network show…Hank was rehearsing his song, Milton Berle who was also on the show was on the side of the stage, upstaging Hank. Hank stopped, traips’d over to Berle and politely said, “Now Uncle Milty, I do appreciate your talent but if you don’t get your big ass off the stage while I’m on, I’m gonna wrap the neck of this D28 Martin Guitar around your f……. neck!” Uncle Milty left the stage area.

Note: (the word ‘traips’d’ is a Judy-word from the ’60s)




I remember a few years ago when you’d post on the Banjo Hangout forums that you were working on an autobiography of your life and times in music. I’m wondering if you’re still working on it, and if you are, I’d be the first one to buy!

– Corey

Hi Corey. Thank you for joining us.

My book. Scott Street, RHS, started the book idea and asked me if it was something I would be interested in if he agreed to do all the work, and all I would have to do was allow him to interview me. I told him to have at it, and did he ever. He spent hundreds of hours and many thousand miles on his car, driving all over doing interviews. After Scott’s untimely death, Bill Evans agreed to finish the book, and all the material from Scott went to Bill. It just so happened that Bill’s wife was diagnosed with Leukemia and Bill, being the sole caregiver, did not have the time to work on the book. After about a year, he decided he couldn’t finish it and it was subsequently awarded to Daniel Mullins, and it sat in his basement for a year, at which time I gave up on the idea and asked my attorney, Steve Martin, if he would get the material and hold it for me, and he agreed to do that and, dear friends, that’s where it will remain until Judy, my wife, or one of our heirs sees fit to go get it. While I think it will be an interesting read for some people, I think where it winds up is where it needs to be. Would you say I’ve lost interest?



Hey Sonny, I was wondering if you were to listen to one group of your choosing right now who would it be? Also other than yourself, who would you say is the best banjo player? Lastly, what do you think of your Granada compared to some other banjos?

– PhillipH

Hello Phillip, thank you for your time.

Due to the COVID pandemic, I have no idea who is playing with whom and so I honestly can’t answer that. I did hear a few Facebook tunes recorded by Aynsley Porchak, Lincoln Hensley, and Dan Boner on a thing they call Tone Tuesday. They really played some good music, but they’re not a band. I enjoy listening to them.

So far as bands existing before, I would have to say The Del McCoury Band, and The Grascals (Terry Eldredge and Jamie Johnson era). Actually the best banjo player on the planet is Jens Kruger, but due to the fact that no one can understand what he’s doing, I would have to say the best traditional 5-string banjo player is Rob McCoury. My reasoning is that Rob does his own thing and doesn’t lean on anything for his material.

You asked about my Granada, and I would have to say that, for me, there is no comparison to any instrument I ever touched. In order to get the best out of an instrument, you two have to be friends. In my opinion, Earl and Bluegrass Breakdown, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Dear Old Dixie, Randy Lynn Rag…Earl seemed like he was mad at the banjo, and his banjo sounded like it was mad at him. The RB-3 that I owned for many years (the banjo Aaron McDaris has now)…. while I had that banjo it was a constant battle, and while Aaron has had it, it seems to have settled down and found a home with Aaron. But I didn’t like it much, and it surely didn’t like me. But then the Granada felt right at home from the very beginning. Love at first sight on both sides. And if you listen to the recordings that it made for me, I would beg you to find a better tone. That banjo knew it was home and knew that the guy that was playing it, loved it dearly. And the two together, in my opinion, created the best tone ever recorded with a 5-string banjo. I reckon that answers your question.

If there are any doubts, please listen to the Essential Bluegrass album that we recorded with Mac Wiseman, and specifically the banjo break on Shackles and Chains. Banjo tone doesn’t get any better. As dash-2 sits in my living room, the love affair continues.


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.