Imitation: Bobby Osborne and Ernest Tubb

Recently while on a long drive I caught an interview with Bobby Osborne on SiriusXM Bluegrass Junction. It was amazing! I loved listening to Bobby’s stories and his music. Most interestingly, he spoke about being influenced by Ernest Tubb. In fact, Bobby set out to be a country singer. That’s one reason why his singing style is unique. (Bobby Osborne bio)

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But, it’s funny that in trying to sound like someone else, he ended up sounding like no one else. I think many other great musicians and singers started out trying to replicate a musical hero. That leads me to believe that one truly does need to master an art form first before having the ability to make it your own.

In visual art, students sometimes spend years copying the masters and trying to make a replica that is so perfect it is indistinguishable from the original. According to the Smithsonian magazine, Degas insisted “You have to copy and recopy the masters and it’s only after having proved oneself as a good copyist that you can reasonably try to do a still life of a radish.” This seems counter intuitive and I think many entrants into music wish to immediately be a master without taking even a single lesson. As evidenced by Bobby Osborne, it is a myth that “taking lessons will ruin originality”. He took lessons from Ernest Tubb even though it wasn’t in person.

Listen to Bobby pay homage to Ernest in Half a Mind. Boy this is good! Below that is Ernest’s version. (Oh how I love pedal steel, too!) Even though the influence is detectable, isn’t it amazing how different they both sound from each other?

– More Info –

Artist / Musician / Band: Bobby Osborne and The Osborne Brothers
Song: Half a Mind
Album: Nashville on label Pinecastle, released June 10, 2014
Genre: Bluegrass
From: Leslie County, Kentucky
Additional reading: Pinecastle to release lost Osborne Brothers’ recordings

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