The bluegrass community is collectively grieving two major losses as both Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne – two revered and iconic Bluegrass Hall of Fame-inducted mandolinists and Grand Ole Opry members who helmed first-generation bluegrass bands with their brothers – have passed on. McReynolds, who was 94, died on Friday, June 23 at his home in Nashville with his wife, Joy, at his side; Osborne’s death was announced on social media early Tuesday, June 27 – he was 91. Both pickers were two of the sole survivors of bluegrass’s first generation. They leave enormous musical legacies that will live on, surely into infinity.
In 2017, the Bluegrass Situation team had the incredible honor of inviting Bobby Osborne to join our super jam at the world-famous Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tennessee. To our delight, he said yes.
Over more than ten years of creating and holding space for roots music in our industry, there are so many moments of which we are so proud. But one of the most memorable and meaningful BGS achievements from the past decade was hearing 20,000+ audience members and fans, packed into That Tent, roar unfathomably loud for the iconoclastic voice that made a hit of “Rocky Top” – and so many others.
That day, Bobby seemed to bask in the limelight. He was kind, down-to-earth, approachable, and seemed genuinely tickled at the fanfare and excitement that orbited him and his sharp, technicolor suit and sparkly hat. After a storied career that landed him and his brother, Sonny, in so many widely variable musical contexts, from the obscure to the mainstream, Bobby was perfectly at home at Bonnaroo. His audience knew it, and they ate it up. We all did.
In light of his passing, the entire BGS team is holding gratitude for his kindness, generosity, and, most of all, for his music. Rest in peace to one of the most important and impactful first generation bluegrass music makers, Bobby Osborne.
We hope you’ll enjoy these back stage and performance photos, shot by Elli Lauren Photography, from Bonnaroo 2017 and the BGS Super Jam at That Tent.
All photos: Elli Lauren Photography for BGS