Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Meetings with Sonny Osborne

The first time I ever saw The Osborne Brothers was at Stones Dairy Barn. "Up this Hill and Down" had just come out as a single. That would put it in the summer of 1966. I had a cousin who was about to graduate at Berea College, he was going to meet a friend there and ask if I wanted to go.
Stones Dairy Barn was near Bassett Va. and was an old actual dairy barn that had been changed into a place where they had weekly dance. Reno & Smiley worked Stones Dairy Barn regularly and would always tell who was working there each week on their TV show.We went on over and the Osborne’s were there. They had a bus it wasn't painted like Lester Flatt and Earl Scrugg's Bus that I'd seen but impressive none the less.......I learned later that that it was a bus that they had purchased from (I thought they said Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper) but Sonny recently said it was from Charlie Louvin. I never saw them in that bus again.

I saw them the November of 68 at the Lake Norman Music Hall at the first festival that I attended.

Our first real conversation was March 7, 1969
I went to the Sandy Ridge School about 6 miles from home to see Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs... To my surprise there was The Osborne Brothers were parked where Flatt and Scruggs always parked their bus. I paid and went on inside.

The Sandy Ridge High School Auditorium which was, for that period, was a typical school house auditorium that was located in the center of the building with classrooms on both sides of the seating area and past the stage area as well. I was headed back to the classroom where I had seen Lester and Earl and Jim and Jesse use as a tune up room at past shows and as I passed the back stage door there was Sonny. He was sitting on the stage with his banjo, curtains drawn and just sitting there with his banjo.
As I approached he smiled and motioned for me to drag up a chair. I did and asked if some of Flatt and Scruggs band was sick or something....To which he looked me straight in the eye and said "You haven't heard?" I stuttered and stammered no...He said "They broke up". I was shocked.
He said that they had broken up the past Saturday night and Earl had called him on Monday and asked if they would work a few of the upcoming up dates rather than cancel them.

We sat there for a long time, he told me that the two bands had played several shows in the past few weeks together.......Then he said some words that are cemented in my brain and showed me who the real Sonny Osborne was. He said with in a voice so sincere. "You know I've never known a world with out a Flatt and Scruggs." As he said those words a tear trailed down his cheek and fell onto the banjo head. That night I found that Sonny, deep down, was one of the most caring individuals I would ever know when it came to his circle of friends and those in the entertainment world. When the IBMA was formed he worked tirelessly in making sure that a Trust Fund was an important component of the new organization. On numerous occasions Sonny has gone to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund to assist musicians around the country when they had hard times.
I'm so proud and honored to be able to call him a friend.

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