Mary Osborne was an American jazz electric guitarist.
Osborne was born in Minot, North Dakota, the tenth of eleven children. Her family was very musically inclined; her mother played guitar and her father, in addition to constructing violins, allowed his barbershop to be the meeting place for the town’s musicians. As early as 3 years of age, she showed an interest in and a knack for playing music. Osborne’s earliest instruments included piano, ukelele, violin, and banjo. At age nine, she first played the guitar. At ten, she started playing banjo in her father’s ragtime band. She also came to be featured on 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”, or country music, 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 vocals. It was during her time in this group that Osborne, seventeen years old at the time, first heard Charlie Christian play electric guitar. She heard Charlie Christian play in Al Trent's band at a stop in Bismarck, North Dakota. She was enthralled by his sound, at first mistaking the electric guitar for a saxophone. She said of it, “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 her friend build her an amplifier. She even sat in with Christian himself and played music with him, learning from him his style on the electric guitar. Later, McDonnell’s trio got absorbed into Buddy Rogers’ 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 all found the men they would marry. Osborne married trumpeter Ralph Scaffidi, who encouraged her musical career.