Greg Poppleton

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Swing Guitar Pioneer – Mary Osbourne – Phantom Dancer 3-3-20

It’s International Women’s Day this month so this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist from live 1920s-60s radio is electric swing guitar pioneer, Mary Osbourne. There’s also a set of women singers from live 1930s-40s radio.

You’ll hear Mary’s guitar with Gay Claridge’s big band broadcasting from Chicago in 1944. You’ll also hear her sing from that same broadcast. Then a couple of commercial jazz sides for you spun by jazz critic Leonard Feather in a 1951 edition of his Voice of America series, ‘Jazz Club USA’.

The Phantom Dancer produced and presented by 1920s-30s singer and actot Greg Poppleton can be heard online from 12:05pm AESDT Tuesday 3 March at

The last hour is all vinyl.

mary osbourne guitar


Mary Osborne was born into a musical family. Her mother played guitar and her father made violins.

Her earliest instruments were piano, ukulele, violin and banjo. She first played guitar at age nine.

At ten, she was playing banjo in her father’s ragtime band. She also had her own radio program, which she would continue to perform on twice weekly until she was fifteen.

At twelve she started her own trio of girls to perform in Bismarck, North Dakota. The music she was playing during this time period was largely “hillbilly”, in which the guitar was simply used to accompany her own vocals.

At the age of fifteen, Osborne joined a trio led by pianist Winifred McDonnell, for which she played guitar, double bass, and sang. During this time, she heard Charlie Christian play electric guitar in Al Trent’s band at a stop in Bismarck.

mary osbourne and arthur godfrey


She was enthralled by his sound, at first mistaking the electric guitar for a saxophone. She said, “What impressed everyone most of all was his sense of time. He had a relaxed, even beat that would sound modern even today.”

Osborne immediately bought her own electric guitar and had a friend build an amplifier.  She sat in with Christian, learning his style of guitar.  Later, McDonnell’s trio got absorbed into Buddy Rogers’s band, after Rogers heard them play in St. Louis. But within a year of the band moving to New York in 1940, the trio broke up and left Rogers’s band, having found husbands. Osborne married trumpeter Ralph Scaffidi, who encouraged her musical career.


In the 1940s, Osborne sat in on jam sessions on 52nd Street, where she played with some of the biggest names in jazz and quickly made a name for herself.

In 1941 she went on the road with jazz violinist Joe Venuti. In 1942 she was working freelance in Chicago when she made a recording with Stuff Smith. In 1944, as you’ll hear on this week’s Phantom Dancer, she sang and played her electric guitar in the Gay Claridge Orchestra. In 1945 Osborne headlined a performance with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins and Thelonious Monk in Philadelphia, to reviews and audiences that praised her specifically. She, Tatum, and Hawkins went on to record in concert in New Orleans.

In 1945 Osborne moved back to New York. There she recorded with Mary Lou Williams in 1945, Coleman Hawkins, Mercer Ellington, and Beryl Booker in 1946, and led her own swing trio. You’ll hear two of these sides played by jazz critic Leonard Feather on this week’s Phantom Dancer.

Her trio lasted from 1945–1948 and played in clubs on 52nd street, had a year-long engagement at Kelly’s Stables, and made several recordings. Throughout the 1950s, she played with Elliot Lawrence’s Quartet on The Jack Sterling Show, a daily morning CBS radio program, and appeared on the television show Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.

In this week’s PHANTOM DANCER VIDEO, you’ll see her with a band of jazz greats backing Billie Holiday on an Art Ford Tv show.

The last few years of the decade she spent recording, both with Tyree Glenn and as a leader. Shortly after, Osborne felt that she had been doing the same thing musically for too long and wanted a change. In 1962 she started learning Spanish classical guitar under Alberto Valdez-Blaine. She used classical techniques, such as pick-less playing, in her jazz playing.

may osbourne guitar and sax player


In 1968, Osborne moved and settled into Bakersfield, California, where she lived the rest of her life. With her husband, she started the Osborne Guitar Company. She taught music and continued to play jazz locally and in Los Angeles. She played in the Newport and Concord festivals in the early 1970s, and in the Kool Jazz Festival in New York in 1981. In 1989 and 1990, she played at the Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival, and in 1990 also played at the Playboy Jazz Marathon. In 1991, in what would be her final performances, Osborne returned to The Village Vanguard in New York for a week-long engagement.

Make sure you come back to this blog, Greg Poppleton’s Radio Lounge, every Tuesday, for the newest Phantom Dancer play list and Video of the Week!


Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney, Live Stream, Digital Radio
Community Radio Network Show CRN #426

107.3 2SER Tuesday 3 March 2020
After the 2SER 12 noon news, 12:04 – 2:00pm (+11 hours GMT)
and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm
National Program:
1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Sunday 10 – 11pm
5GTR Mt Gambier Mon 2:30 – 3:30am
4NAG Keppel FM 3 – 4am
2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am
2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4pm
2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4pm
3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm
7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm
2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm
3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am

Set 1
A Date With The Duke
Take The A-Train (theme) + Carnegie Blues
Duke Ellington Orchestra
‘A Date With The Duke’
ABC/AFRS Re-broadcast
Otto, Play Thar Riff Staccato
Duke Ellington Orchestra (voc) Ray Nance
‘A Date With The Duke’
ABC/AFRS Re-broadcast
All At Once + Yesterdays
Duke Ellington Orchestra (voc) Kay Davis
‘A Date With The Duke’
ABC/AFRS Re-broadcast
Set 2
Australian Radio
Brown Slouch Hat
Joan Blake
‘Song of Australia’
ABC Radio
4 Sep 1948
Wally Portingale All-in-Fun Revue
‘Army on Parade’
2CH Sydney
0ct 1943
Waltzing Matilda
116th Rhythm Ensemble (voc) Ron Williams
Set 3
Trumpet Playing Band Leaders
Memories of You (theme) + The Wish I Wish Tonight
Sonny Donham Orchestra (voc) Tommy Randall
‘One Night Stand’
Terrace Room
Hotel New Yorker NY
AFRS Re-broadcast
16 Jul 1945
Open + Blue Skies
Lee Castle Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Ice Terrace Room
Newark NJ
AFRS Re-broadcast
20 Feb 1934
Eight Bar Riff + Rose Room
Harry James and his Music Makers
‘One Night Stand’
Casino Gardens
Ocean Park Ca
AFRS Re-broadcast
22 Sep 1945
Set 4
Mary Osbourne – Pioneer Electric Guitarist
Apple Blossoms in the Rain + Kentucky
Mary Osbourne (voc and eg) Gay Claridge Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Chez Paree, Chicago
AFRS Re-broadcast
22 Sep 1945
Mary’s Guitar Boogle
Mary Osbourne Trio
‘Jazz Club USA’
Voice of America
Low Ceiling
Mary Osbourne (eg) Beryl Booker Trio
‘Jazz Club USA’
Voice of America
I Love You
Mary Osbourne (eg) Gay Claridge Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’
Chez Paree, Chicago
AFRS Re-broadcast
22 Sep 1945
Set 5
1944 Swing Radio
I Cover The Waterfront
Benny Carter Orchestra
Trianon Ballroom
Southgate Ca
Minnie the Moocher (theme) The Very Thought of You
Cab Calloway Orchestra and voc.
‘One Night Stand’
Club Zanzibar NYC
AFRS Re-broadcast
22 Sep 1944
The Lion and the Mouse
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
Terrace Room
Hotel New Yorker NYC
After You’ve Gone + Goodbye (theme)
Benny Goodman Orchestra
New York City
21 Jul 1944
Set 6
Louis Armstrong Radio
The Blues
Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller
New York City
Oct 1938
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
Louis Armstrong
Wintergarden Theatre
19 Jun 1947
You’re Just In Love
Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton
‘Guest Star’
Radio Transcription NYC
12 Dec 1954
Royal Garden Blues
Louis Armstrong
‘Damon Runyom Memorial Jazz Concert’
Blue Note
WENR ABC Chicago
11 Dec 1948
Set 7
1930-40ss Women Singers
By The Light of the Silvery Moon
<div class=”style1″ align=”left”Ruth Etting
‘Ruth Etting Show’
13 Jun 1947
It’s You, You, Darling
Marian Mann (voc) Bob Crosby Orchestra
Terrace Room
Hotel New Yorker
WOR Mutual NY
25 Mar 1940
Whistling in the Dark
Loyce Whiteman (voc) Gus Arnheim Orchestra
Cocoanut Grove
Radio Transcription
There’s a Small Hotel
Hal Kemp Orchestra (voc) Maxine Gray
‘The Lady Esther Serenade’
26 Aug 1936
Set 8
1940s Modern Jazz Radio
C-Jam Blues
International All-Stars
Dec 1947
Back Talk
Woody Herman Orchestra
‘Wild Root Show’
8 Feb 1946
Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra
Winter Palace
Radio Sweden
2 Feb 1948

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