Jimmie Osborne: The Kentucky Folk Singer
By Howard Vokes and Jay Taylor
When Jimmie Osborne, the very popular "Kentucky Folk Singer" died
on December 26, 1958 of self-inflicted gun wounds at the age of 35,
he left behind a great void in the world of country music which
is still mourned todaymore than 37 years after his passing.
Jimmie Osborne was borne in 1923 in Winchester, Kentucky. He grew up
loving to sing and play the guitar. His dad bought him a fiddle, but Jimmie
asked him to take it back and trade it in for a guitar. He got his guitar
and a neighbor helped him learn some chords and from that point on,
Jimmie Osborne's star began to rise.
After graduating from high school in 1940, Jimmie married a pretty
little blonde by the name of Margaret Lacy. Around the same time, he
entered an amateur contest at a nearby high school and won first place,
which soon got him a job on WLAP in Lexington, Kentucky.
In I946 Jimmie got his first big break and moved to KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, the home of
the Louisiana Hayride. He worked there with the Bailes Brothers and traveled
some 50,000 miles making personal appearances throughout Texas, Oklahoma,
Arkansas and Louisiana. He quickly became one of the leading folk singers in the
Gulf coast area.
Later in his career, he performed on WSM's Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,
Tennessee; WLS' National Barn Dance in Chicago as well as on WLW in Cincinnati,
Ohio and WGRC in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jimmie did quite a bit of disc jockey work in his time that he spent on radio
station WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky. His show was quite a hit with the
listeners since he tended to play the songs they most wanted to hear.
In September 1947, Jimmie landed a recording contract with King Records
in Cincinnati, Ohio where his first recording, "My Heart Echoes" made it to
Number 10 on the Billboard Juke Box Survey. Other hits he had included:
"Mom Is Dying Tonight", "A Vacant Sign Upon My Heart", "Tears of Saint Ann",
"God Please Protect America", and perhaps his all-time greatest recording, "The
Death of Little Kathy Fiscus", the tragic, true story of a little girl
who suffocated in an abandoned well in San Marino, California. Mr. Osborne
received some 2,000 fan letters within three days of the song's release for
Jimmie wrote most of his own songs, and until his death, he recorded exclusively
for King Records and wrote for the Lois Music Publishing Company. He wrote other songs
- The Door To My Heart Is Wide Open
- He'll Come Like A Thief In The Night
- What A Price To Pay For Love
- God Has Taken My Flower
- This Evil Life Don't Pay
- I Hate To Be Jealous
- Nag, Nag, Nag
- Mama Don't Agree
- The Moon Is Weeping Over You
- It's Just a Habit With You
- Give Me Back My Ring and Picture
- We Can't Take It With Us To Our Grave
- How Many Hearts Can You Break
- You Get The Roses, I Get The Thorns
Yet in the midst of all Jimmie Osborne's life, there was a mystery
that no one knew what led him to taking his own life. He seemingly
had it all, good, popular, upbeat. The books at the authors' disposal
have little or nothing about him or his life, from which one might postulate
An article in an old Country Song Roundup magazine back in June 1951
said Jimmie was a "...wiry guy, with a smile that lights up his
whole face, a smooth singing voice, a knack for playing a good
guitar and a keen sense of originality."
Back then, he had just joined WVLK in Lexington, KY. In talking about
his career and early attachment to the guitar and music, Jimmie
was quoted, "...my success is just a big dream come true."
He had started with The Kentucky Mountain Barn Dance that was held
in Lexington, KY every Saturday night on January 1, 1951. He was
expressing aspirations to stay there a while during that interview.
"I've got some real friends in Kentucky, and I would hate to ever leave
them. However, it's kind of hard to tell what state is the best, for
every place I've been, folks have been swell."
For information regarding Jimmie Osborne recordings, you may write to:
c/o Highland Music, Inc.
Three Parklane Boulevard
Dearborn, MI 48126
c/o International Marketing Group (IMG)
1900 Elm Hill Pike
Nashville, TN 37210
Toll Free: 1-800-251-4040