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Joe Osborn (born 1937 in Mound in Madison Parish in northeastern Louisiana) is an American bass guitar virtuoso, notable for his work as a session musician in Los Angeles and Nashville during the period from the 1960s through the 1980s. Osborn's work is widely admired by fellow musicians.

Osborn began his career working in local clubs, then played on a hit record by the 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, his original instrument, to electric bass.

In 1960, Osborn, along with Allen "Puddler" Harris, a native of Franklin Parish, also in northeastern Louisiana, and James Burton, originally from Webster Parish, joined pop star Rick 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 full-time. For the next ten years, he was considered a "first-call" bassist among Los Angeles studio musicians (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. 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.

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.

Joe 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 hadn't sent a Precision model, 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 flatwounds that he didn't change for 20 years. Lakland produces an Osborn signature model based on the artist's original Fender bass. 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, 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 1960's and early to middle 1970's, including the hauntingly unique bass lines on "Holly Holy" in 1969.

In addition to his own playing, Osborn is also known for his discovery and encouragement of the popular brother-and-sister duo, The Carpenters.

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, and sometimes plays in a family band called The Third Generation with his children and grandchildren.



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