Sonny Osborne, Alan Munde to American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame

The American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City has announced the 2022 inductees into their Banjo Hall of Fame. The Museum has been honoring banjoists thusly since 1998, when they were strictly focused on four string (tenor and plectrum) banjo. Opening up to five stringers in 2014, the Hall of Fame has been busy naming heroes of bluegrass banjo as well ever since.

Two icons of the genre are included in the 2022 class, Sonny Osborne, who passed away last October after a lengthy and noteworthy career, and Alan Munde, who has combined a successful touring and recording career with an equally memorable one as an educator.

Also to be inducted this year are Don Vappie for Four String Performance, The Banjo Kings in the Historical category, and Randy Morris for Promotion.

All five will be feted as part of the Museum’s Banjo Fest over the September 22-24 weekend, in an official induction ceremony. Tickets to the Hall of Fame Celebration will be available soon.

The Museum provided these thumbnail biographies of this year’s Hall of Fame class:

SONNY OSBORNEFive-String PerformanceA second generation bluegrass banjo pioneer, Osborne followed his mentor, Earl Scuggs’ footsteps, performing and recording with Bill Monroes Blue Grass Boys at the age of 14. Best known for his work with his brother, Bobby, as The Osborne Brothers, Sonny was instrumental in bridging the gap between bluegrass and country music as a result of their Grand Ole Opry appearances, beginning in 1964. From the anthem Rocky Top, Osborne continued to advocate high standards in bluegrass out of respect for the pioneers of the genre who struggled with little reward to create an art form and industry with worldwide impact. (Sadly, Sonny Osborne passed away on October 24, 2021.)

DON VAPPIE – Four-String Performance In the world of tenor banjo, few musical voices are as unique as Don Vappie. Steeped in tenor banjo tradition, Vappie has honed a very personal approach to the instrument into an instantly recognizable style all his own. Whether the rhythmic pulse of a classic jazz band such as the Creole Jazz Serenaders or seemingly effortlessly breezing through a suite of Harry Reser compositions in front of a symphony orchestra, Vappie’s one-of-a-kind sound and style present the tenor banjo with musicality and distinction, a fact recognized by his being a 2021 recipient of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize. 

THE BANJO KINGS – Historical Formed by Dick Roberts (tenor banjo) and Red Roundtree (plectrum banjo) in the 1950s, The Banjo Kings are arguably one of the most important and well-known banjo acts to surface during the nostalgia boom associated with post-WWII America. Created as a studio group to fill the public’s insatiable appetite for Americana, Roberts’ soaring tenor was the perfect counterpart to Roundtree’s driving rhythm. Their light and bouncy approach to everything from ragtime to Dixieland to folk to standards was captured by California’s Good Time Jazz label and ultimately brought four-string banjo at its best to a world-wide audience.          

RANDY MORRIS – Promotion Born and raised in Los Angeles, multi-instrumentalist Randy Morris has been a professional musician with a sincere affection for the banjo since his teens. After playing traditional jazz in the San Fernando Valley, Morris joined the Walt Disney Company in the early 1970s where his banjo identity shown through as part of The Banjo Kings, the Hoop De Doo Revue and The Riverboat Rascals aboard the Empress Lilly riverboat in Lake Buena Vista. Additionally, he led the band at Rosie O’Grady’s in Orlando while still finding time to find, archive, and preserve the recordings of hundreds of iconic banjo greats from the past.

ALAN MUNDEInstruction & Education Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Munde frequently played amateur gigs around the state prior to joining legendary bluegrass musician Jimmy Martin in 1969. After working with Byron Berline in the Flying Burrito Brothers, in 1972 Munde joined the Country Gazette and remained a central figure in the groundbreaking band for the next twenty years. Musical collaborations – including a legendary recording with Sam Bush entitled Together Again for the First Time led to Munde being asked to serve on the board of the International Bluegrass Music Association. In addition to teaching bluegrass and country music at the South Plains College, Munde was a regular contributor to FRETS magazine and continues to perform with his current band, Alan Munde Gazette.

Congratulations one and all!

You can see a complete list of the Banjo Hall of Fame members on the museum web site.

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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.