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Joe Osborn

Joe Osborn
Osborn in 2012.
Background information
Born (1937-08-28) August 28, 1937
Mound, Louisiana
United States
Genres Pop, country
Occupation(s) Session musician
Instruments Bass guitar
Associated acts
Notable instruments
1960 Fender Jazz Bass, Fender Precision bass (unknown age, used mostly prior to 1964) and 2012 Fender Custom Jazz Bass

Joe Osborn (born August 28, 1937) is an American bass guitar player known for his work as a session musician in Los Angeles and Nashville during the 1960s through the 1980s.[1]


  • Biography 1
  • References 2
  • Sources 3
  • External links 4


Osborn began his career working in local clubs, then played on a hit record by singer Dale Hawkins. He moved to Las Vegas at age 20, and spent a year playing backup for country singer Bob Luman. With legendary guitar player Roy Buchanan among his bandmates, Osborn switched from guitar to electric bass. In 1960, with Allen "Puddler" Harris, a native of Franklin Parish, also in northeastern Louisiana, and James Burton, originally from Webster Parish, he joined pop star Ricky Nelson's backup band, where he spent four years. His playing on such Nelson hits as "Travellin' Man" began attracting wider notice, and he found opportunities to branch out into studio work with artists such as Johnny Rivers.

When the Nelson band dissolved in 1964, Osborn turned to studio work in Los Angeles full-time. For the next ten years, he was considered a "first-call" bassist among Los Angeles studio musicians[2] (known as The Wrecking Crew), and he worked with well-known producers such as Lou Adler and Bones Howe, frequently in combination with drummer Hal Blaine and keyboardist Larry Knechtel - the combination of Blaine, Osborn and Knechtel have been referred to as the Hollywood Golden Trio.[3] His bass can be heard on many of the hit records cut in Los Angeles during that time, along with numerous film scores and television commercials.

Osborn in 2012.

In 1974, Osborn left Los Angeles and moved to the country and western capital, Nashville. He continued an active studio career, playing behind such vocalists as Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, and Hank Williams, Jr. One count listed Osborn as bassist on fifty-three No. 1 hits on the country charts.

Osborn's instrument throughout most of his recording career was a 1960 Fender stack-knob Jazz Bass, which was given to him by Fender just prior to touring in Australia with Nelson. Osborn said he was initially disappointed that Fender had not sent him a Fender Precision Bass, which he had been using, but he said he grew to like the Jazz Bass because the narrower neck made it easier for his short fingers. He strung the bass with LaBella flatwound bass strings that he did not change for 20 years and his style is distinctive, with a resonant, bright tone produced, in part, by his use of a plectrum (pick).

Many producers and arrangers chose to spotlight his contributions by mixing the bass line more prominently than had been customary, and incorporating brief bass solos into their arrangements. His playing can be heard on records by such well-known groups as The Mamas & the Papas, The Association, The Grass Roots[4] and The 5th Dimension. Osborn can be heard on Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water" and the 5th Dimension's version of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In".

Osborn also played on many of Neil Diamond's major hits in the late 1960s and early to middle 1970s, including the hauntingly unique bass lines on "Holly Holy" in 1969. Osborn is also known for his discovery and encouragement of the popular brother-and-sister duo, The Carpenters.[2]

Osborn can also be heard playing on several of Don Francisco.[5]

Osborn left Nashville in 1988 and settled in Keithville in Caddo Parish near Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana. As of 2005, he lived in semi-retirement. He still records occasionally.

In 2010, Osborn was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

He had had a signature bass, named the "Joe Osborn Signature", made by American guitar manufacturer Lakland; however, it is now called the "44-60 Vintage J Bass".[6] In 2012, Fender Guitar built a custom Fender Jazz Bass for Osborn according to his desired specifications. He recorded with this bass for the first time when producing and playing bass on teen musician Matthew Davidson's debut recording.


  1. ^ "Joe Osborn".  
  2. ^ a b Schmidt, Randy L.; Warwick, Dionne (1 July 2010). Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter. Chicago Review Press. p. 32.  
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The Grassroots official website". Retrieved 2015-01-19. 
  5. ^ Album jacket; original 1977 pressing.
  6. ^ "44-60/55-60 (Vintage J)". Lakland. Retrieved February 5, 2014. 


"Fans Ask - Joe Osborn Answers" - Chris May - A&M Corner - Jan. 1, 2013

"Young Blues Guitarist Wins LPB's Facebook Singing Contest" - Chelsea Brasted - The Times-Picayune - Dec. 4, 2012

"Boogie Woogie Celebrates Wednesday Concerts" - Marshall News-Messenger - Oct. 23, 2012

"Matthew Davidson Releases "Step Up" EP, featuring Joe Osborn" - - Sept. 13, 2012

"Teen Guitar Prodigy Steps Up with Debut Recording (produced by Joe Osborn)" - - Sept. 6, 2012

"Interview with Matthew Davidson and Joe Osborn" - Talk of the Town with Tom Pace - July 28, 2012 on YouTube

"Stories Behind the Songs: Joe Osborn" - - July 19, 2012

"Joe Osborn - a few (hundred) hits" - Vintage Guitar Magazine-July, 2004

External links

  • Joe Osborn Fender Artist Page
  • Joe Osborn Facebook Page
  • Joe Osborn YouTube Channel
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