Upon their breakout into the bluegrass scene, the Osborne Brothers quickly became noted for their virtuosic instrumentation and tight, melodic vocal harmonies. Their first country chart appearance was “Once More”, a 1958 trio with Red Allen, with a then-novel inverted stacked harmony: Bobby singing the lead line highest, then Sonny singing baritone, and finally the third singer (in this case Red Allen) singing the tenor as the lowest part. This placed Bobby’s distinctive voice as the lead, and made the third voice a somewhat interchangeable part. As a result, the brothers could hire a series of guitarist/singers without changing their overall sound. This “high lead” vocal trio became their signature sound, used to great effect in the country market, with songs like “Blame Me”, “Sweethearts Again”, and a remake of the Carter Family’s “Fair and Tender Ladies”.
During their breakout period of the mid 1950s, Sonny’s banjo and Bobby’s mandolin styles became distinctive and easily-identifiable with their overall sound. The band was inducted as members of the Grand Ole Opry on August 8, 1964.
The Osborne Brothers have the distinction of having recorded two songs that would go on to be officially voted as “state songs.” The first, “Rocky Top,” was named a Tennessee state song in 1982. The other, “Kentucky,” was named a state song for the brothers’ home state of Kentucky.
In 1994, The Osborne Brothers were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor. The induction is considered bluegrass music’s highest honor.