In our 1946 volume, we included Cousin Emmy's adaptation of an old folk melody recorded in 1930 as Reuben, Oh Reuben by Emry Arthur. It was, as noted in the 1946 volume, much the same melody as the one we came to know as Train 45. Okay, so it's ten years later. Bobby and Sonny Osborne were from Hyden, a small coal town in Kentucky. Bobby was born on December 7, 1931 and Sonny on October 29, 1937. Together and separately, they were on small radio stations and tiny labels from the late 1940s onward. There were stints with Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin (one of the singles with Martin, 20/20 Vision, is in our 1955 volume) before the Osbornes briefly joined the cast of the WWVA Jamboree.
A few months later, they were in Dayton playing local bars at night, while Bobby held down a day job at National Cash Register alongside his father. At NCR, Bobby met another Kentuckian, Red Allen, and the Osbornes together with Allen made some demos in the basement of WPFB's Tommy Sutton. One of the songs on the demo tape was Cousin Emmy's Ruby. Together, the Osbornes and Red Allen scraped together fifty dollars to send Sutton to Nashville with the tape, and Sutton went to see Wesley Rose at Acuff-Rose. Although Rose owned Hickory Records, he still did country A&R for MGM Records, just as his father, Fred, had done. By 1956, though, MGM president Frank Walker had instructed one of his relatives, Jim Vienneau, to go to Nashville to work with Rose, probably as a prelude to easing Rose out of the picture. And so, with the world rocking and rolling around them, the Osbornes and Red Allen went to the studio where Elvis had recorded Heartbreak Hotel a few months earlier, and recorded four songs, including Ruby. Wesley Rose thought he owned Ruby.
When Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper recorded it in 1951 as Stoney (Are You Mad At Your Gal), they credited Cousin Emmy as composer, but placed the song with Acuff-Rose. When the Osbornes' version became a hit, Decca's publishing affiliate challenged Acuff-Rose for fifty percent.The Osbornes' version added a completely new element in bluegrass: twin banjos. They'd scheduled another Dayton area musician, Noah Crase, for the session, but Crase backed out at the last moment, meaning that Sonny and Bobby had to play the banjos (harmony and lead respectively) if they wanted to preserve their unique arrangement. The same echo that Presley had used on Heartbreak Hotel was well in evidence on Ruby Are You Mad? It was bluegrass but it rocked, and it earned the group a return gig on WWVA's Jamboree starting in October 1956. The Osborne Brothers made Ruby into a standard, and it became their most popular record until Rocky Top.