Click on photo to enlarge
Sonny with his 1934 Granada #9584-2
and his elk lined Dogwood Designs strap
I made a run of Limited Edition, serial numbered, "Banjo Legends" straps tooled with images of Earl, Don Reno, Sonny, Bill Keith, & J.D. Crowe. Sonny is pictured with strap number 2 since Don is no longer with us. You can see his image just above his hand. Sadly, Earl never received strap number 1, a major regret. Bill Keith has number 4. I'm holding strap number 5 for J.D.
Click HERE to go to Sonny's web page
Sonny Osborne began playing banjo at age 11. His brother, Bobby, was working in West Virginia with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and banjoist Larry Richardson. When Sonny heard Larry play, he asked Larry to show him. However, Larry would play with his back to Sonny to hide his fingers. Sonny vowed to learn how to play on his own, and he did just that.
He practiced at least five, and as much as 15 hours a day out on the back porch swing. When school was out in June of 1952, Jimmy Martin and Sonny went to Beanblossom, Indiana to see Bill Monroe. Bill hired Jimmy, and at Jimmy's insistence, also hired Sonny. A week later they were off to Nashville.
On Sonny's first Grand Ole Opry appearance with the Bluegrass Boys, he performed "Rawhide". It was during this time that Sonny recorded nine tunes with Monroe, quite an experience for 14 year old Sonny! He continued as a Bluegrass Boy until school started in September. Then, at age 15 and with his father's permission, he found himself on the road with Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, and Charlie Cline.
Sonny stayed with Bill until Bobby's release from the Marine Corps, when Sonny & Bobby began their career performing together on November 6, 1953. In addition to their individual instrument abilities, the Osbornes' vocal innovations are unparalleled, winning them CMA Vocal group of the year in 1971. Members of the Grand Ole Opry since Aug. 8, 1964, they were the first to bring bluegrass to the White House in 1973. And in 1994, Bobby and Sonny were elected to the IBMA's Hall of Honor. From Ruby to Rocky Top, their recordings and style have been among the most-copied in bluegrass.