It’s hard to believe that almost 55 years has elapsed since The Osmonds started as a barbershop quartet in Ogden, Utah. More than a half-century and 100 million records later, they are one of the most legendary families of the entertainment industry.
From 1962 to 1969, The Osmonds were featured weekly on “The Andy Williams Show” and became national darlings. In the early 1970s, they chose to go the pop music circuit and became international superstars, even surpassing Elvis Presley and The Beatles in record sales one year.
Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of nine siblings, will join brothers Merrill and Jay for two concerts Feb. 26 at The Palms Theatre in Mesa. Now 50 years old and the father of four children, the actor, singer and businessman spoke to GetOut about all things Osmond.
Q: Take me inside the bubble of “Osmondmania” in the early 1970s and describe what that time was like.
JO: Well, you just had to be there. Nowadays when you talk about it, people don’t believe it happened. It was a time when there were only a few channels, and the groups that got prime time exposure like us, The Jackson 5 and a few others, were really exposed.
In the UK for us more so than in the US, we couldn’t go anywhere or really do anything. I remember one time in London these young girls took axes and broke down these plate glass windows of the hotel where we were staying, and the fire brigade had to hose them back … it was this fever pitch that was like Beatlemania for us.
I had my first hit record (“Long Haired Lover From Liverpool”) in the UK at 8 years old, and I played in this huge arena over there. Security brought me inside the building in a closed trunk because it was too dangerous to go in otherwise. It was wild. When I look back today, it blows my mind.
Q: I was surprised to learn that The Osmonds have sold more than 100 million records worldwide. I can’t think of too many other groups who share that distinction.
JO: The reason why not many people know this is because the rock media have not always been so kind to us. They seem to reward bad-boy behavior and mock those who have mainstream success. We were a family that was experiencing this success together, and then you throw in the LDS factor and that we were in the entertainment industry, which was a dichotomy. So the media didn’t really know how to handle us, even though we hold quite a few industry records. We were never really celebrated, which was sad for me.
Me being the youngest brother and looking at it from a different viewpoint and seeing how hard my brothers worked to get us there, their attitude has always been, ‘Well, we really don’t talk about this.’ But it gave us that fighting spirit to do things to keep us relevant like producing TV specials, playing Branson, Mo., or jumping around in different genres of music … it’s always kept us on our game and helped us to remain fresh.
We’re still hungry. We do 150 shows a year and have been at this now for almost 55 years, so I think that’s something to celebrate. We love what we do. You can’t fake it for that many years, and the public is so smart these days. They can spot a phony a mile away. In our day there was no auto tune, no backing track, or Pro Tools. You played your own instrument and sang your own songs or you didn’t have a job. That training has given us a foundation for a very long career, and I’m truly grateful for that.
Q: The public knows about the hard training that Joe Jackson put the Jacksons through, but I’m not sure the public is aware that your father was a former drill sergeant and put The Osmonds through the same paces.
JO: There was definitely a sacrifice made in our childhood. We kind of grew up (with) this sort of vaudevillian training, and our first big break was at Disneyland.
They demanded a lot of the brothers. I started with the group on “The Andy Williams Show,” and that was so much pressure because literally if you didn’t come to the rehearsal with something new, you weren’t on the show the next week. One week my brothers were told they had to ice skate, and they had a week to learn how to do it. They were told to play the saxophone, and had a week to do it. The banjo, they had a week to do it.
There are some emotional scars there because we worked so hard, but I’m so grateful for that training. To this day, if you look at any one of my brothers or sister, we have filled our lives with as many experiences as we can. We have never rested on our laurels. It was a lot of pressure for a kid and some of my brothers don’t look fondly at it, but for me as the youngest, I think it was the only way we could have made it through the maze of Hollywood and the record industry. It’s a brutal business and not conducive to a family environment.
Q: Now that you have brought up the business aspect, you are the entrepreneur of the family and the president of Osmond Entertainment. Why did you take on this role?
JO: We all had different talents, and I have always loved putting things together. Being in The Osmonds afforded us great opportunities and learning experiences, so with that, I started taking an interest on the other side of the business. I booked acts for Michael Jackson, worked for Jon Bon Jovi and a lot of different acts. What I eventually learned was that I wanted to help the people I loved the most, which was my family. The last 20 years of my life has been focused on owning theaters, producing tours and television specials, helping Donny and Marie mount a show in Las Vegas, and branding the Osmond name.
Q: You’ll be appearing with your two brothers Merrill and Jay at the Palms Theater in Mesa. What’s the show all about?
JO: The three of us have been performing together for so many years, so it’s a pretty polished show. I designed a show about 15 years ago called “American Jukebox,” which walks people through our career. There are also some video elements. We sing all the hits, which includes some songs from our barbershop days. It’s a high-energy, fast-paced American jukebox show that comes from our perspective and the people that we’ve worked with in the past.
If you go
What: The Osmonds in concert
When: 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26. The 3 p.m. show includes a lunch starting at 1:30 p.m.; dinner begins at 6 p.m. for the later show.
Where: The Palms Theatre, 5247 E. Brown Road, Mesa
Information: (480) 924-6260 or ThePalmsTheatre.com
• Read more at PressPassBlog.com, the source for Phoenix metro concert news.