Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press At Grand Ole Opry
Best known for recording the 1967 song, “Rocky Top,” that is belted out by University of Tennessee students every time their team scores, Bobby Osborne has been rocking the country music genre for more than 60 years.
Osborne grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on WSM 650 every week and yearned to sing just like Ernest Tubb. So, he began playing the guitar and learning everything he could just by listening to Tubb on the radio. One night, he heard a new sound on the radio, a sound that captivated him, it was Earl Scruggs with Bill Monroe and his BlueGrass Boys. Coincidentally, the group was coming to Osborne’s hometown the next day. Knowing that he had to see how Scruggs played the banjo, he asked father if he could attend the concert. Osborne says that fateful day at Scruggs concert changed his life and helped him refocus his musical aspirations to bluegrass music. That’s when he began to master the mandolin.
In 1949, at age 18, Osborne started playing with The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. He wrote his first song the year before and was ecstatic when he learned that Flatt & Scruggs (Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs) wanted to record the song, “With a Pain in My Heart.” He was forced to take a hiatus from music for several years due to active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. But, he returned in 1953 and formed a duo with his younger brother, Sonny. The Osborne Brothers, as they were known, made their official debut in 1956 under MGM Records with the song, “Ruby Are You Mad.” The song was a huge success and it helped the group gain some national attention.
The Osborne Brothers began to make their mark employing an inverted stacked harmony in their music. They had one band member sing the tenor, Bobby’s distinctive voice was the high lead, and another band member sang an interchangeable part in the middle. This gave the band the power to replace band members without having to change their overall sound drastically. This “high lead” vocal trio became their signature sound and paved the way for other country trios. The sound is easily discernible on their hit songs, “Blame Me,” “Sweethearts Again,” and “Fair and Tender Ladies.”
On August 8, 1964, The Osborne Brothers were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby has recorded hundreds of hits including, “Once More,” “Up This Hill & Down,” “Making Plans,” and “Tennessee Hound Dog.”
In 2005, Sonny retired due to medical issues. Bobby continues to play after more than 60 years in the music business and more than 80 years on the planet. He plays with his band, Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press, which is comprised of his son, Bobby Osborne Jr., Joe Miller, and David Crow.