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.
Sonny, I’ve seen you refer to Tommy Taylor a couple of different times. I wonder if you have any stories about another character that used to aggravate/agitate performers in the central Ohio area, Hayes Dingess. I’ve witnessed a few, and heard my father (Chet DeLong), tell a few. Any time Hayes’ name is brought up, I end up laughing uncontrollably.
Kevin welcome into our humble abode…I didn’t know Hayes, sorry to say but there was another or two. There was this mother and daughter who always showed up if we were within 100 miles of Southern Alabama. They always brought cake for us. No way could we eat as much cake as they brought. I’m talking BIG, FULL SIZE CAKES. Once we played in South Alabama and got a cake, the next day we went to Mississippi, and back to a festival at Horse Pens Alabama. Guess what, they were there with another cake. J.D Brock and Blaine Sprouse can vouch for this being the truth.
Then at Myrtle Beach there was this guy who for at least 10 years sat in the same seat and he never smiled. Never applauded, never said anything during our show. But he was always there. I nick named him Mr. Goodtime. He sat about 5 rows back right in front of David Crow. After the first 3 or 4 songs David would ease over to me, or I him, and we knew what was coming. “Boy, Mr. Goodtime is having one hellofatime today, huh?” He never smiled, never moved…but always there!
Sonny, My question is: How did you get the job with Monroe?
Jim…thank you for coming today. Jimmy Martin moved to the Dayton area after Bobby went into the Marine Corps. He came out to our farm one Sunday and told us Bill Monroe was playing Bean Blossom Indiana, and asked my Mom and Dad if I could go with him. They said yes and off we went to Indiana to see Bill Monroe. Of course Jimmy was well acquainted with Bill, having worked there as a Blue Grass Boy for two or three years. When we got there we found that Bill had Charlie Cline and Bessie Mauldin as “The Blue Grass Boys.” Jimmy asked Bill if he would like for him to play the shows with him that day and of course Bill readily said bring it on. So, that happened. I became a 14 year old fan.
When the night ended Bill and Jimmy were saying their goodbyes, and Jimmy asked Bill for his job back and they agreed right there. I was sitting on a tree stump about 50 feet from where they were. Jimmy said to Bill that the kid over there was a pretty good banjo player, and could he join us too. Bill didn’t even look at me and I heard him say, “Yeah, that’ll be alright!” So, going over there as a kid audience fan, and coming back home that night as a full fledged Blue Grass Boy… I can’t tell you how I felt. Weird that I actually do not remember the drive home.
There is more to this story which I will get into later. A funny sequence of events…some believable, some not.
Please share a story or two about Bean Blossom. I rarely missed an opportunity to see you thair!
Sam…Thank you for participation, We appreciate it…Without youn’s we’d fade into oblivion, from whence I came a little over a yer ago!
You wanted something about The Great Bean. OK, we’re on stage one Sunday morning singing Steal Away and Pray, when we hear this loud banging… more like hammering. I know the audience can hear it too. It keeps on into the next couple of songs… very noticeable and annoying to us and the crowd. I just stopped and went to find out what it was. Someone had gone through a broken step on the way to the stage. Probably a step put there when the place was built.
Anyway… the noise… hammering… was Birch Monroe. Fixing the broken step oblivious to what was going on stage and the show. By Golly…Birch was a’goin’ to fix that step… and he did. Yep the same Birch who, with a crowd of 8-10,000 people, was told they had run out of hamburger buns. Rumor has it he went next door to this little market and bought a pack of buns!
Sonny, I know you were good friends with Earl and he was one of your heroes. Did he ever tell you why Flatt & Scruggs broke up? I’ve always wondered that and hope you can shed some light and detail on one of the great mysteries in bluegrass.
John. That’s a good question. There has been rumors of a dozen or more things and some may be true, some not. No one really knows. Personally believe it was a number of smaller things coupled with some not so small that was the straw that finally caused the Foggy Mountain Breakdown.
The smallest large one was that Earl wanted to play with his boys, play a little rock music mixed in with…whatever it was they were playing. I didn’t like it because it took away the myth of Flatt and Scruggs, but it went over pretty well to the younger crowd Earl wanted to appeal to.
Then, on the other hand, Lester wanted to keep their music as it had always been. He was content to play little school houses to a crowd of 3-400. Earl to 8-10,000 $$$$$$.
Lester told me a little more than I can print or WANT TO print. Some things are better left alone. This being that case.
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.