Charles Osgood, music man

Charles Osgood, music man

Anthony Mason with a tribute to just one of the “Sunday Morning” anchor’s many talents:

For the past 22 years, “Sunday Morning” didn’t need a house band. We had Charlie. He was his own accompanist.

Even in his office, you would catch Charlie at the keyboard.

Charles Osgood and the Boston Pops

Charlie, who owns three Steinways, fell in love with music hearing his mother play piano at home.

Mason asked, “Piano was your first instrument?”

“Well, a toy piano was my first instrument!” Osgood replied. “I started playing by ear, before I started taking lessons.”

And did he have musical aspirations? “No, I never thought I would be a professional pianist,” Osgood said. “And I don’t think I could get a job being one even today.” 

But music’s always had a leading role in his life. In 1955, when he was about to be drafted into the Army, he met an officer in dress blues -- a member of the United States Army band. “And I said, ‘What instruments do you play?’ He said, ‘I’m the announcer.’ Dong!  So I said, ‘When do you get out?’ And he said, ‘Next month.’”

Osgood saw a job opening. He would serve three years as the Army Band’s announcer.

When President Eisenhower was recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Charlie was enlisted as his personal disc jockey.

Charles Osgood sings for his 80th birthday

“I was put into a studio with a stack of records that had all been chosen as his favorites,” he said. “And I spent most of the day playing records for Eisenhower.”

Charlie started writing songs, too. He even had a Top 40 hit.

Working with John Cacavas, whom he’d met in the U.S. Army Band, he wrote a tribute to America’s fighting forces that in 1966 was recorded by Senator Everett Dirkson.

“And he couldn’t play anything, he couldn’t sing anything,” Osgood recalled. “And so he recited those lyrics: ‘Down through the years, there have been men bowled down, men who have died that others might be free...’”

In January 1967 “Gallant Men” would reach #29 -- one spot above “Wild Thing.”

"Gallant Men"

What did he think when the song started climbing the charts? “I was delighted; I think he was delighted, too.”

In the sixties, he also wrote a song called “Black Is Beautiful.”  Nancy Wilson recorded it, and later sang it with him on “Sunday Morning.”

As host of “Sunday Morning,” Charlie was able to explore his wildest musical fantasies.He performed at the Grand Ole’ Opry, and played banjo with the Boston Pops. 

He’s played the organ at Yankee Stadium, and more exotic instruments, like the dulceola.

Charles Osgood performs "I'll be Home for Christmas"

And he’d end every year with a Christmas carol -- often solo, sometimes with special guests.

Charles Osgood has always understood the enduring power of music at transitional moments in our lives, as he himself explained in a 1995 story on the anniversary of V-E Day: 

“With every parting there was always a fear that it might be -- and the hope that it would not be -- the last parting. Maybe that is why this song that Vera Lynn use to sing became an anthem that even to this day can bring tears to the eyes of many an old soldier.”

So, play it again, Charlie:

We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when.
But I know we’ll meet again
Some sunny day.