Most bluegrass mandolin players know that Bobby Osborne has his own personalized pick – one of the first to do so in fact. Osborne Brothers fans can see it wedged behind the strings of his iconic Gibson Fern mandolin on many of their old record albums and in publicity photos for well over four decades. Bobby’s pick has become a signature trademark and very recognizable, with its bright white rounded teardrop shape and his name imprinted in black block lettering. Although the pick had retained its look over the years, it seemed as though the quality had diminished. I had been fortunate to acquire each of the examples and noticed the changes over time. The original examples from the 1970s were white celluloid, and around 1.20 mm in thickness, with latter picks being less than 1.00mm and made of simple plastic. In discussions with Bobby about the matter he was well aware and quickly noted that the original ones were much better, and that his supplier had in fact changed materials over the years.
It all started in the 1950s when Bobby began using the Gibson “Star” picks, (a black celluloid rounded teardrop with a gold star printed on it) – formally known as the “Les Paul” pick. After they were discontinued, Bobby sought out a manufacturer to make his version of the suddenly obsolete pick, this time white with black lettering. Bobby would always order them for his own personal use and would give them to young mandolin players from time to time if they showed interest in the music (myself included!) In later years, he offered them for sale on his record table and website for a time without much thought of a demand.
In my collaboration efforts to start the Bobby Osborne Mandolin Roundup (a one day mandolin camp at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass & Traditional Music), one of the perks for the students was to be Bobby giving a pick to each student in attendance. As we began to run low of picks, I felt it would be good to seek resources for another batch, but in this case, recreate the exact original or nothing else would do. (Special thanks need be made to Matthew Goins of BlueChip Picks for creating a special one-time round of their version of picks for the 2018 Roundup, going above and beyond to fill our last minute need.) I was aware of cool and creative picks being made by Mary Faith of Breezy Ridge Instruments (home of John Pearse) such as the Django Button, and her Cowboy Picks, and so I contacted her with my idea. She was up for the challenge and with Bobby’s approval, we sent two of his original picks up to Bethlehem, PA in efforts to produce them in a big way – not only to have some made for the camp, but to see them in full production. To make a long story short, after one trial run of prototypes, we got the first batch and it was amazing to see how accurate the picks were.
Most serious pick collectors can tell you that even the quality of celluloid has greatly dwindled since the 1980s, and I’m not sure as to how that they’ve accomplished it, but the Original Bobby Osborne Pick is high quality, polished, and smooth like those of the golden era of pick manufacturing. Each pick feels hand made. This pick has a lot to do with the ultra-clean tone that Bobby has produced throughout his career – it’s for good reason he doesn’t want to use anything else. They simply suit his playing and his mandolin. They’re crisp, clean, and classy just as he is.
Bobby has this to say about the picks, “My new picks from Breezy Ridge Instruments are some of the best that I’ve ever used. The quality is good and they sound great!”
Mary Faith Lewis of Breezy Ridge Instruments adds, “Nothing pleases us more than musicians having what they need and want to make their music. It’s both an honor and a pleasure to produce Bobby Osborne’s Mandolin Picks for him! Pick on Bobby!”
Personally, I am proud to see the Original Bobby Osborne Pick being manufactured and in production for the first time, and I believe that it’s important to have it available and accessible to the public for all time. Our greatest thanks to Mary Faith of Breezy Ridge Instruments for making this a reality. The pick is a great resource and a glimpse into having mandolin playing royalty at your fingertips. The price of the pick is only $1.