Legends Of Country Guitar – Legends In Concert

The Osmonds are an American family music group with a long and varied career—a career that took them from singing barbershop music as children, to achieving success as teen-music idols, to producing a hit television show, and to continued success as solo and group performers. The Osmonds are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their religious values have influenced their careers.[2]

When it began as a barbershop quartet, the group consisted of brothers Alan Osmond, Wayne Osmond, Merrill Osmond, and Jay Osmond. They were later joined by younger siblings Donny Osmond and Jimmy Osmond. Their only sister Marie Osmond, who rarely sang with her brothers at that time, launched a successful solo career in 1973. Older brothers George Virl Osmond, Jr. (Virl) and Tom Osmond were born deaf and did not originally perform,[2] although they later made occasional appearances, most notably on the family Christmas specials from the 1970s. All of the Osmonds were born in their hometown of Ogden, Utah except the youngest, Jimmy, who was born in Canoga Park, California. The group have sold 102 million records worldwide.
Early years: barbershop and variety shows

The Osmond Brothers’ career began in 1958 when Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay began singing barbershop music for local audiences in and around their hometown of Ogden, Utah. In their made-for-TV movie “Inside the Osmonds,” the Osmonds explain that they originally performed to earn money to support Virl and Tom in buying hearing aids and serving missions for their church.[3] Despite their young ages (in 1958 Alan was 9, Wayne 7, Merrill 5, and Jay 3), within a few years, the boys’ talent and stage presence were strong enough that their father, George Osmond, took them to audition for Lawrence Welk in California. Welk turned them down, but on the same trip, they visited Disneyland and were hired to perform there [4][unreliable source?] after joining an adult barbershop quartet for some impromptu singing.[5]
The boys with Andy Williams in 1964. From left: Alan, Wayne, Williams, Merrill, and Jay.

While the Osmond Brothers were performing on a televised Disney special, Andy Williams’ father saw them and was so impressed he told his son to book them for his television show. Andy did, and the Osmond Brothers were regulars on Andy Williams’ show from 1962–1969,[5] where they earned the nickname “one-take Osmonds” among staff due to their professionalism and tireless rehearsing.[6] Donny soon joined them on the show, making the Osmond Brothers a 5-member group. Marie and Jimmy were also introduced on the show as the years went by. During this time, the Osmonds also toured Europe, performing with Sweden’s most popular singer, Lars Lönndahl, and even releasing a single where they sang a Swedish version of “Two dirty little hands” (“Fem smutsiga små fingrar”).[7]

The Osmond Brothers were regulars on the Jerry Lewis Show in 1969, and they continued to tour and perform with Andy Williams.[5] But soon the Osmond Brothers decided they wanted to perform popular music and shed their variety-show image. They wanted to become a rock-and-roll band. This change was a difficult one for their father, who was suspicious of rock and roll. But he was persuaded, and the boys began performing as a pop band.

To this end, the Osmonds recorded a single, “Flower Music”, for UNI records in 1967. [8] They achieved only modest success at first, but they found fame in 1971.[3]
The Osmonds: a pop music success – 1971–1972

Record producer Mike Curb saw the Osmonds (no longer called “The Osmond Brothers”) perform as a band and recognized that they combined a rare mix of polished performing style, instrumental skill, and vocal talent.[5] He helped the Osmonds get a record contract with MGM, and arranged for them to record at Muscle Shoals with R&B producer Rick Hall.[3] Under Hall’s guidance, the Osmonds hit the top spot on the pop chart with “One Bad Apple” (Billboard No. 1) in 1971. The Osmonds soon had hits with other light, R&B-style pop numbers like “Double Lovin'” (Billboard No. 14) and “Yo-Yo” (Billboard No. 3). In each of these hits, the formula was the same; Merrill sang lead, and Donny was “co-lead” in essence, singing the “hook” or “chorus” of the song.
The Osmonds in 1971. Clockwise from top right: Merrill, Jay, Donny, Alan, and Wayne.

At this time the Osmonds also recorded several hits that were billed to Donny, the lead soloist on the songs. They included “Sweet and Innocent” (Billboard No. 7), “Go Away Little Girl” (Billboard No. 1), “Hey Girl”/”I Knew You When” (Billboard No. 9), and “Puppy Love” (Billboard No. 3). It was at this time, 1971 and 1972, that the Osmonds were at their peak of popularity.

After this early “bubblegum soul” phase, the Osmonds began writing their own music, and their sound moved towards rock and roll with hits like “Down by the Lazy River” (#4), “Hold Her Tight” (Billboard No. 14), and “Crazy Horses” (#14).[5] The Crazy Horses album was the band’s first really personal statement—the brothers have been quoted as saying that the title song refers to air pollution from cars. They wrote all the songs and played all the instruments with Alan on rhythm guitar, Wayne on lead guitar, Merrill on lead vocals and bass, Jay on drums, and Donny on keyboards.[9] All the brothers sang back-up, with Jay and Donny sometimes singing lead parts.
Rock and roll and Osmondmania

With their clean-cut image, their talent, and their energetic pop-rock sound, the Osmonds toured to crowds of screaming fans in the U.S., and they even had a short-lived Saturday-morning cartoon series on ABC-TV during 1973–1974. By this time the Osmonds had broken through in the UK as well: all members of the Osmond family, counting group and solo recordings, charted 13 singles on the UK charts during 1973. Some observers coined a new word, “Osmondmania,” to describe the phenomenon, although it was genuinely a reference born of the mania attributed to the Beatles nearly a decade earlier. Though not remotely equaling the Beatles’ influence, the Osmonds’ popularity was at a peak at this time, and the same type of hysteria was generated at their concerts during this period, primarily the response of teenage girls in attendance.[5]

But changes and challenges soon arrived. The older boys were of age to go on church missions, yet they believed they could reach more people through their music. The Osmonds viewed their music as their mission.[3] As a part of their mission, they recorded an ambitious album in 1973 called The Plan, perhaps best described as a Mormon concept album with progressive rock aspirations. One reviewer suggested that The Plan carried a too-strong religious message—Mormonism is, after all, fairly conservative and not usually associated with the themes of rock and roll. He likewise suggested that the music was too varied and experimental.[10] The album produced only two modest hits: “Let Me In” and “Goin’ Home” both peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard charts. Furthermore, the older boys may have wanted to reduce the regular touring that is a necessity in popular music but not so good for marriage and “settling down”.[3]
Solo careers take off

Donny, and to a lesser extent, Marie and Jimmy, soon began to emerge as solo artists. Jimmy had hits in Japan, and in 1972 had a No. 1 hit in the United Kingdom with “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.” Marie hit No. 1 on the U.S. country charts in 1973 with “Paper Roses”–she was only 13 at the time. And Donny achieved Superstar status. He had a string of pop hits in the early 1970s, including “Go Away Little Girl” (Billboard No. 1), “Puppy Love” (#3), and “The Twelfth of Never” (#8). From 1971 to 1976, he had 12 top-40 hits, including 5 in the top 10. Of the all-time most popular teen idols, Donny is ranked at #2, directly behind Davy Jones of the Monkees.[citation needed]

Donny’s popularity, and his numerous solo hits, have led many to assume he was the group’s lead. But Merrill was the lead singer, although Donny would usually sing the chorus of the songs, therefore being a “co-lead” in the group. Donny’s emergence as a solo star, and the record-company’s desire to appeal to the teen-girl audience, often thrust Donny out in front of the group.[3]

By now the family was touring, recording, creating, and producing for 5 technically separate artists: The Osmonds, Donny Osmond, Marie Osmond, and Jimmy Osmond—plus Donny and Marie had begun recording duets and had hits with “I’m Leaving It Up to You” (Billboard No. 4) and “Morning Side of the Mountain” (#8). Through all the stress and pressures created by these many efforts, the family hung together. “Inside the Osmonds” depicts the family mottos as being “It doesn’t matter who’s out front, as long as it’s an Osmond” and “Family, faith, and career. In that order”.[3]

The original Osmonds as a group still produced hits. In 1974, “Love Me for a Reason” reached No. 10 on the U.S. pop charts and went to No. 1 in the U.K. The Irish boy band Boyzone took the song to No. 2 on the U.K. charts in 1994.
Donny and Marie: the show and its challenges
Donny and Marie, 1977.

By 1976, though, the group’s record sales were softening, and the Osmonds poured themselves into a new venture: The older brothers began producing The Donny & Marie Show, which was a hit on ABC from 1976–1979.[5] But the success came at a cost. The family built and operated, at great expense, a first-class television studio in Orem, Utah, where the show was produced beginning in the second season.[5] As a result, the Osmonds as a performing band became a third or fourth priority to the careers of Donny and Marie, the success of the show, and the operation of the family studio. The older brothers deferred or gave up their dreams of being a rock-and-roll band. Donny experienced stage anxiety, a type of social phobia, and Marie had a brief bout with an eating disorder after a network executive told her she looked heavy. When the show was canceled, the Osmonds were taken by surprise, as they had believed that the show would have been renewed for at least another year, and found themselves in debt and without a clear direction.[3]

They recovered and eventually paid their debts and re-established their careers. Rather than go into bankruptcy, they resolved to honor all of their financial obligations. [3] But the Osmond artists and enterprises began operating separately.
After The Donny and Marie show
Ambox current red.svg
This section is outdated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (December 2010)

Jimmy worked as a businessman and manager. He eventually moved to Branson, Missouri, and opened the Osmond Family Theater, where he and his brothers performed until 2002. They now[when?] appear in Branson during the Christmas season.[5]

Marie recorded a number of successful duets with Donny and continued to sing country music; she had several top-40 country hits in the mid-1980s, the biggest of which was “Meet Me in Montana” with Dan Seals (country No. 1). She starred in the Broadway musicals The King and I (as Anna) and The Sound of Music (as Maria) in the mid-1990s. She returned to television first in the short-lived 1995 ABC sitcom Maybe This Time and then with Donny in 1998 to co-host Donny & Marie, a talk/entertainment show that lasted two seasons.

Donny returned to the pop-music scene in 1989 and had two Billboard Top-40 hits: “Soldier of Love” (#2) and “Sacred Emotion” (#13). He performed on Broadway as Gaston in the stage production of Beauty and the Beast, and also gave over 2,000 performances as Joseph in the touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He has hosted games shows in the US and UK (most notably the 2002-2004 revival of Pyramid and the British version of Identity), continues to appear on television, winning the ninth season (Fall 2009) of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and still tours in the US and England. Since September 2008, Donny & Marie have been performing a 90 minute show four nights a week, for a couple of weeks each month, in the Showroom of The Flamingo Las Vegas. It is currently extended through November 2013.[11]
The Osmonds performing in May 2008

Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay formed a country group and returned to using the name “The Osmond Brothers.”[5] They had two Billboard Country hits in the early 1980s: “I Think About Your Lovin'” (#17) and “It’s Like Fallin’ in Love (Over and Over)” (#28). They had other country successes, but mostly did not tour, preferring to stay in Branson and perform. The brothers continue to perform with various line-ups and sometimes with their children in Branson.[5] Merrill performs and records as a solo artist as well. Alan has multiple sclerosis, and does not perform as often today. All of the brothers are married, some with large families. Alan’s eight sons started performing in the mid-1980s as “The Osmond Boys,” now known as The Osmonds—Second Generation.[12]

In 2007–2008 all of the Osmonds went on a tour of Europe to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their career in show business. A special televised concert in Las Vegas (the only tour stop in the US), commemorating the anniversary, aired on US PBS stations on March 10, 2008. Alan played piano with the orchestra for most of the show and Virl and Tom provided signed lyrics for two songs. The Osmonds’ long-time friend and mentor Andy Williams made a surprise appearance, reminiscing about how his father had told him to put the brothers on his variety show.

In 2009, Donny and Marie Osmond will record a television special for the British channel ITV1. An Audience with Donny and Marie is the latest in ITV’s long running An Audience with… series and will be based on their Las Vegas stage show.[13]
Olive and George Osmond (aka Mother and Father Osmond)

Olive Osmond, mother of the Osmond siblings, died on May 9, 2004 at age 79. Their father, George Osmond, died on November 6, 2007 at age 90.[14] The couple were survived by their nine children and 55 grandchildren as well as a number of great-grandchildren; Olive by 22, George by 48. Before Mr. Osmond’s death, plans were being made for him and the 120+ members of the Osmond family to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show to celebrate the family’s 50th anniversary in show business. He died just a few days prior to the show being taped. The family ultimately decided to go on with the show as scheduled, and on Thursday, November 9, the entire Osmond family appeared on stage with Oprah Winfrey as a tribute to their father. The show aired the following day, the same day as Mr. Osmond’s funeral.
Hollywood Walk Of Fame

In 2003, the Osmond Family were honored for their achievements in the entertainment industry with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Many within the industry believed that they had earned this honor sometime previously, although it was eventually given to them, and, unlike a number of the various musical halls of fame, a specific time period was not required from the release date of their initial commercial recording in order for them to be considered.

Like This Post? Share It

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.