Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 62

COLUMN Fretprints
to sing and moving
through a succession
Osborne with
of instruments as a
an Electromatic
child starting with
guitar and amp
ukulele, piano, and
in a Gretsch
violin in grade school
publicity photo
and playing banjo in
from 1953.
her father's ragtime
band. She took up
the guitar at nine and
realized an instant
connection. Soon,
she was featured
twice weekly on her
own local radio show.
At 12, she formed
an all-girl trio, in
which she played sang
and played country
and jazz on acoustic
guitar, and began
working clubs in the
region. At 17, she
began playing with
pianist Winifred McDonnell's trio.
About this time,
O sb or ne c au g ht
a performance by
Alphonso Trent's
Sextet in nearby Bismarck. The band
included Charlie
Christian, whose
guitar sound and
approach struck her
to the core. At first,
she mistook his full,
sustaining amplified
tone for a saxophone
- a common error
of the time - and
was especially drawn to his relaxed, modern
sense of time and even/eighth-note horn-based
phrasing. The following day, she went to a local
music store, purchased a Gibson ES-150 (just
like Christian's) for $85, and had a friend build
an amplifier for another $45. She subsequently
sat in with Christian, gleaned what she could,
and made her first advances on the newly
invented electric-Spanish guitar.
A year later, both Christian and Osborne
were on an upward trajectory; he was catapulted to notoriety through his work with Benny
Goodman while she was playing in St. Louis
with Buddy Rogers' band when the McDonnell
Trio was incorporated into his show. At the
time, electric guitar was still a novelty.
Osborne traveled with Rogers' band to
New York and became part of the city's jazz

MARY OSBORNE
The Jazz Journey of A
Girl and Her Guitar
By Wolf Marshall

A

defining document delivered at a crucial
time in jazz history, Mary Osborne's
1959 debut album, A Girl and Her Guitar,
introduced the genre's first female guitarist.
But what of the journey getting there?
Mary Osborne came from an era when
the metaphorical "glass ceiling" was more
like concrete. In fact, her rise to status as a
notable player the male-dominated world
of guitarists is chronologically closer to the
suffrage movement than the feminism of the
'70s - making her journey all the more arduous, unprecedented, and profound.
Osborne was born in Minot, North Dakota, on
July 17, 1921. Her family was musically inclined;
both parents played guitar and her father was a
band leader. She was the tenth of 11 children and
showed an interest in music at age three, learning

	

VINTAGE GUITAR	

62	

February 2017

scene of the early '40s. She joined Mary Lou
Williams' trio, worked various radio shows,
recorded sessions, and played nightclubs. She
also impressed and toured with Joe Venuti,
transcending the "girl gimmick" fad of the day
to replace a legend in the deceased Eddie Lang.
Osborne established her jazz credentials in
this period of her career, winning the Esquire
Jazz Poll and headlining a 1945 concert in
Philadelphia with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum,
Coleman Hawkins, and Thelonius Monk.
She subsequently recorded with Tatum and
Hawkins in New Orleans. Aided by jazz
luminary and impresario Leonard Feather,
she performed in a prestigious 1945 Esquire
All-Star Concert on national radio with Billie
Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington,
Benny Goodman, and other giants. She also
formed her own trio with pianist Sanford Gold
and bassist Frenchy Couette, and secured a
steady gig at Kelly's Stables, one of the city's
most important jazz clubs. It was there that
Django Reinhardt heard her and returned
regularly for her performances in 1946.
While recording for the Signature and Decca
labels, Osborne worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Mel
Torme, Clark Terry, Art Tatum, Ben Webster,
and many others. Moreover, her hard-driving,
blues-inflected style was ideal for the incipient
R&B records of the time and she contributed to
several Wynonie Harris' 1946 cuts, including
"Mr. Blues Jumped the Rabbit" and "Whiskey
and Jelly Roll Blues," as well as Big Joe Turner's
"Ice Man Blues" and "Roll 'Em Pete." She also
released A Girl and Her Guitar, an authoritative
combo session that included pianist Tommy
Flanagan and drummer Jo Jones.
In the '50s and early '60s, Osborne was one of
the busiest musicians in NYC; she appeared on
Arthur Godfrey's TV show and at his stage shows
at the Capitol Theater. In '52, she began a 10-year
stint with Jack Sterling's morning TV show.
After a decade of television and studio work
along with countless concerts and club dates,
Osborne withdrew from the business to study
classical guitar, which she did from '63 to '68
with Albert Valdez-Blaine.
In '68, Mary and her husband, trumpeter
Ralph Scaffidi, moved to Bakersfield to raise
their family. They had three children and were
set to focus on new ventures, the first being
Rosac Electronics (named for investors Morris
Rosenberg and Ben Sacco), which made effects
boxes, PA systems, and amplifiers. The company produced the Nu-Wah, immortalized in
the Shaft soundtrack. Another was Osborne
Sound Laboratories, which made solidbody
electric guitars with necks and fingerboards
designed by Osborne, as well as amplifiers.
She continued to perform selectively, appear-


https://youtu.be/rhnScYuZZCI?list=PL1293D4CB8DBFF1B9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 1
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 2
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 3
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 4
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 5
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 6
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 7
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - Contents
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 9
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 13
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 20
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 28
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 30
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