No matter how smoothly tonight’s awards show goes at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass, the finale is pretty much guaranteed to be rocky.
On a night that organizers promise will have a number of noteworthy moments, the biggest will come when Sonny Osborne joins brother Bobby on stage for a rare reunion. And while mum’s the official word, it shouldn’t shock anyone that the brothers will have the iconic bluegrass song Rocky Top on their short set list. After all, this year marks 50 years since the release of the song, which transcends the genre as only Blue Moon of Kentucky and a few others do.
Sonny, the younger brother, retired more than a decade ago and no longer plays the banjo. So there are many younger grassers who don’t know that he was one of the premier Scruggs-style pickers, and a powerful singer. But any time they get a chance to hear members of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, they should sit up and pay attention. Tonight is one of those nights. The Osborne Brothers were inducted in 1994, 30 years after they became members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Rocky Top, with its breakneck pace and soaring harmonies, is instantly recognizable and widely played. It’s the state song of Tennessee and the fight song for the University of Tennessee. (It was also the first dance at our wedding, a rebellion against the disco craze).
We’ve all heard it too many times to count, and maybe some of us have grown a little weary of it. But tonight’s rendition, with Sonny and Bobby together, will be extra special. You can bet hundreds of bluegrass’s best will be singing along with a moment that might not ever be repeated.
Good ol’ Rocky Top.