Osborne, Mary (1921–1992)

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Osborne, Mary (1921–1992)

American jazz guitarist. Born on July 17, 1921, in Minot, North Dakota; died in Bakersfield, California, on March 4, 1992; married Ralph Scaffidi (a trumpet player).

When singer-guitarist Mary Osborne was 17 and listening to musicians playing in her home-town of Bismarck, North Dakota, she heard a new instrument—an electric guitar. "The only electric guitar I knew of was the Hawaiian guitar," she said. "I'd listen to all the jazz guitarists of the time, but they all played acoustic. But here was Charlie Christian playing Django Reinhardt's 'St. Louis Blues' note for note but with an electric guitar. It was the most startling thing I'd ever heard." The next day, she found a guitar for $85. A friend built an amplifier for $45 and her career was launched. She soon went on the road with a female trio, was a guitarist for Dick Stabile, and then joined Buddy Rogers' band. When Osborne arrived in New York, Rogers' group broke up, but she quickly got jobs at radio stations, recording studios, and clubs on West 52nd. Eventually, she formed her own trio. She and her husband, trumpeter Ralph Scaffidi, moved to Bakersfield, California, where they formed the Osborne Guitar Company (later Osborne Sound Laboratories), which manufactured amplifiers for guitars, then branched out into public-address systems. Well known in the jazz world, Mary Osborne recorded nine albums, backed recordings for Mary Lou Williams , Coleman Hawkins, and Ethel Waters , and continued to give concerts before her death in 1992.


Kinkle, Roger D. The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz: 1900–1950. Vol. 3. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974.

"Mary Osborne, Electric Guitarist, Lauded in Jazz World, Dies at 70," in The New York Times Biographical Service. March 1992, p. 271.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Osborne, Mary (1921–1992)

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