Bobby Osborne, Original, Unstoppable

Bobby-OBobby Osborne
Original, Unstoppable
By Larry Nager

Bobby Osborne sits at the microphone, smiling patiently as Bill Cody energetically lives up to his legendary status as morning drive-time disc jockey at even-more-legendary WSM, home of the Grand Ole Opry for more than ninety years. Job one on morning drive-time is keep your audience awake and listening, and Cody’s good at it. Well-caffeinated, he and his guest trace Bobby’s life back to the family farm in Hyden, Ky., Bobby wistfully recalling having to leave his beloved horse Maggie when his dad, Robert Sr., moved the family out of Kentucky coal country up to industrial Dayton, Ohio. The senior Osborne was teaching school to miners’ kids, but the assembly line at National Cash Register paid a lot better and guaranteed his own kids wouldn’t wind up in the mines. That was over 75 years ago, but Bobby remembers it like yesterday.

Sitting and talking with Bobby Osborne, it’s impossible to believe he’ll turn 86 on December 7th. His memory is unflagging and there’s a light in his eyes that’s absolutely ageless. An Opry member for 53 years, he’s been doing radio since he was a teenager, but he’s fully engaged and completely entertaining with Cody, enjoying that interview as if it was a new experience.

It’s no act. Bobby Osborne couldn’t be happier to still be in the music business, promoting his brand-new album Original (Compass Records). His brother Sonny retired in 2005, but Bobby refused to join him, even though he knew launching a solo career in his seventies wouldn’t be easy. “I’ve been on my own now 12 years,” he says with a mix of pride and resignation.

For a while, it seemed he had no choice about retiring, from his recording career at least. After his third album with Rocky Top X-Press, 2015’s Bluegrass & Beyond, he and Rounder Records parted ways and Bobby had no offers. Soon after, he found himself at Compass studios in Nashville, guesting on Peter Rowan’s Old School. “The concept of that record was to get some of the old-timers, some of the young folks, and some people in the middle to collaborate on some tunes that Peter had written,” says Alison Brown, co-owner of Compass and producer of both Old School and Original. “Peter got Bobby to come play on a few tunes, and he was playing and singing great. So he and I were hanging out in the tracking room between takes and he just mentioned to me that he thought he would never have a chance to make another record, and that just struck me as something I needed to try and rectify.”

Since she and her husband Garry West own the label and the studio, that would seem easy. But bluegrass album sales are driven by live shows. “Bobby’s not a full-time touring artist at 85 years old, so we needed to get creative in terms of cash,” Alison explains. With Compass footing most of the bill, she was able to get a grant from the Fresh Fest Foundation, augmenting that with a crowdfunding drive on Read entire article »

Bobby Osborne — Original, Unstoppable
By Larry Nager

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August 2017 Reviews

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