Susan Scaffidi discusses Mary Osborne and her musical journey

Joselyn Green, Reporter

BC held their weekly music summit on, Oct. 28 featuring the journey of, electric guitarist, Mary Osborne. Before playing the electric guitar, Osborne started playing instruments from the ukulele to the banjo. She learned how to play from her dad and mother according to Osborne’s daughter Susan Scaffidi.
Osborne decided to learn how to play because her father played the violin, and her mother sang and played guitar. Osborne also learned the violin with her school band.
According to Scaffidi, Osborne was born in Epping, North Dakota. “They had moved to Minot North Dakota, it’s where my grandfather had made his living by day as a barber, and as a musician, at night he had a ragtime band,” said Scaffidi. This barbershop wasn’t just an average barbershop because Scaffidi states “he also used his barbershop as a place where musicians can gather.”
“In school, music education included preparing for the metropolitan opera live from the med broadcast” which started on Saturdays so the students would study on the weekend and they were supposed to listen to the opera said, Scaffidi. “Music that we now call standards, and classics were brand new songs [to them]. She loved western music and all kinds of music and these were all parts of her early music education.”

In the 1920s and 1930s some popular jazz guitarists, that Osborne would listen to, were Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, and there was also Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.
“By the time my mother was 10-11 years old she was playing with my grandfather in jam sessions at the barbershop where musicians of all kinds would come in and play, but also in my grandfather’s ragtime type band. Which by now my mom is 10 or 11 which is now the depression in 1931-32” Scaffidi said.

Since it was The Great Depression era, many kids were working at a very young age to help out and put food on the table and some were even the head of households because of the death of parents according to Scaffidi. Scaffidi makes it clear that Osborne helped, she earned money by playing and would use the money to buy clothes for herself which would take off some responsibility for her parents. After becoming well known, Osborne recorded a short radio program a couple of times a week.

After Osborne was approached by a music teacher named Winifred McDonnell, McDonnell asked Osborne’s parents if she could join her group. Her parents requested that she had to finish high school and she did.
“Winifred became my mother’s guardian because my mother was 15 years old when this started,” Scaffidi said.

The group became a trio and all the girls in the group played piano. They also all sang according to Scaffidi. Osborne was the youngest in the group of three. McDonnell was the leader of the group and she was very good at it. She would have them looking very professional with matching outfits and professional pictures according to Scaffidi.

In 1936-1937, Osborne went to a club in Bismarck, North Dakota and while in the lobby she thought she heard a saxophone, but after going in she noticed it was an electric guitar that a young guy by the name of Charlie Christian was playing. After hearing Christian play and talking to him, he saw that she was a guitarist and Osborne went and bought an electric guitar. Christian gave her some advice and would mentor her to learn to play.

Pete Scaffidi, Osborne’s son, was her bass player for 20 years according to Susan Scaffidi. Christian was a huge influence on Osborne playing electric guitar. After Christian died at the age of 25, Osborne wrote a song a while after called “Thank You, Charlie.”

The trio moved on with touring and playing and ended up in Pennsylvania. The group was heard by Buddy rogers. The trio went to New York and Buddy Rogers was told by Mrs. Rogers that it was time to come home and leave the trio in New York. They soon got performing jobs, and all of them met the men they would soon marry.

During 1955-1966 Osborne started to do appearances on shows and radio channels and became very busy. Osborne and her husband moved to Long Island and began to build their family according to Scaffidi.
After they moved to Bakersfield, Osborne started her private studio and began to teach. She taught at Bakersfield College and California State University Bakersfield. She began to raise her family, became active with a local church, and even played for a charitable event.