Leslie County native, music legend Bobby Osborne dies

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Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 12:20 PM EDT
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HYDEN, Ky. (WYMT) - One of the most well-known musicians to come out of Eastern Kentucky has died.

Family confirmed Osborne’s death with WYMT Tuesday afternoon.

Bobby Osborne was 91. He was still performing and teaching when he spoke to WYMT’s Steve Hensley last May.

The Osborne Brothers premiered in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1953 and became the first bluegrass group to appear on a college campus with their 1960 performance at Antioch College.

Bobby Osborne is known for his recording of “Rocky Top,” which was named the Tennessee state song in 1982 and has been the anthem of the University of Tennessee athletics. The song was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.

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Osborne taught at Hazard Community and Technical College’s Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music in Leslie County and would have begun his 16th year with the college in the fall.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about Bobby’s death,” said HCTC President Dr. Jennifer Lindon. “He was a pioneer in the Bluegrass music industry and a champion for Eastern Kentucky.”

The group was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1994, and Bobby Osborne was a Grand Ole Opry member since 1964.

The Osborne Brothers Festival in Hyden was established in 1994 and continues to this day, serving as a fundraiser for flood victims in 2022.

Sonny Osborne retired from performing in 2005 and died in October of 2021 at the age of 83.

In January, Bobby Osborne was one of nine people honored by Governor Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Arts Council in a ceremony at the Capitol in recognition of his dedication to sharing Kentucky’s rich art history worldwide.