Charles Osgood was a banjo player too

If you’ve followed any news today you’ve probably seen or heard that veteran CBS television broadcaster Charles Osgood died yesterday at 91 years of age. The effusive praise being shared in response is thoroughly deserved, as Osgood was a welcome and homey presence on our TVs and radios for more than 50 years.

Known as a nearly two decade host of CBS Sunday Morning, his calm demeanor and reassuring voice were equally well known for his long running radio commentaries, The Osgood File, both of which he continued on the air until finally retiring at 84 in 2016.

He also wrote his commentaries and the pieces he hosted on CBS Sunday Morning, something many of today’s glowing remembrances have noted. Honors came his way throughout a long career, including the Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award from Arizona State University, the George Foster Peabody Award, the National Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award, the International Radio and Television Society Foundation Award, and a Paul White Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. Oh, and five Emmys, including a lifetime achievement award.

But here at Bluegrass Today, we want to ensure that people also remember Charles Osgood as a banjo player, and a lover of traditional music forms, a passion he pursued for many years. Eagle-eyed and regular viewers of Sunday Morning might have caught him with his banjo a time or two, in addition to occasional appearances playing piano and singing.

In 2015 he brought Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn on the show to perform, and he conducted a very nice interview with them during the segment.

And back in 1994 the show featured a piece on Alison Krauss, before she became an international household name.

Charles took banjo lessons for many years from fellow New Yorker Tony Trischka, with whom Fleck had also studied, and though less publicly, was a friend to the banjo world wherever possible.

For example, when Huber Banjos was creating a video catalog in 2002, they approached Osgood to ask if he might be willing to voice it, fearing that even if he agreed, their budget might not allow them to afford him. But he readily accepted, recorded the narration at his home studio, and didn’t charge a thing. The fact that it likely took him only a few minutes doesn’t diminish the kindness he showed to what was then an upstart new business.

He also provided a narration for one of the tracks on Trischka’s Glory Shone Around album in 1995.

Charles Osgood will long be remembered for his serious journalism, and as a family friend to folks who saw him every week on television.

We choose to recall his benevolence and support of the banjo and bluegrass communities, in many ways seen and unseen.

R.I.P., Charles Osgood.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.