The voice of Bobby Osborne  is one of bluegrass and country music's most treasured instruments. A part of the industry for over sixty years, the legendary tenor is at it again -- with the release of his new set, "New Bluegrass & Old Heartaches," along with his band, Rocky Top X-Press. A collection of new material and vintage classics, the Rural Rhythm album stands up quite well with the music that he's made in his career -- which has included some incredible moments, such as the legendary "Rocky Top," recorded with Sonny, his brother, during their days together as the Osborne Brothers .
"We've sure had a good run at it, you know," the Grand Ole Opry star tells Billboard. "We put out some good records over the years. Some thought we stepped overboard in bluegrass by mixing country with it, but it worked great for us. We had some of the top-notch musicians in Nashville that loved to work with us. They worked country all the time, and when they got a chance to work sessions with us, it was something new and different for them. It was a lot of help to us, and it worked out real good."
Besides the cutting-edge sound on their records, there were other elements at play that kept fans coming back for more. "The main thing we had was the harmony. People loved that so well."
You can't talk long with Bobby and not feel his immense amount of pride in his native Kentucky. Though most list his birthplace as Hyden, he narrows it down a bit. "Actually, I'm from a little place called Thousand Sticks. A spur used to be there, and there was a toll gate. Hyden was the county seat of Leslie County. We were from where the exit is -- about four miles away. It's a very special place," he reflected.
All these years later, Osborne finds himself back in the Eastern Kentucky area -- as a teacher.
"Our cousin became interested in bluegrass music, and somehow got connected with Hazard Community Technical College," he says. "They started a Bluegrass program in Hyden at the high school. I'm starting my sixth year there teaching the mandolin and the fiddle. We have a program called the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music."
One can only imagine the thrill of learning the area's music from one of the genre's architects.
Though "Mr. Osborne" might enjoy his gig in the classroom, the 80-year-old has no plans to hang up his traveling shoes just yet. "I enjoy singing -- always have. I guess people might get a little burned out as they get older, but I've been fortunate to have kept my voice, and as long as I can sing to suit me, and the fans like it, I'm going to keep doing it. I enjoy singing for the people, and don't think I would be happy not doing it. I'm going to do it as long as I can!"
- The 615