With a career spanning six decades and including 200 albums released either as a group or individually, no one could begrudge The Osmonds if they wanted to take it a little easier these days, but that’s definitely not the case as Jay and Merrill Osmond are in the UK for a Christmas tour and have just released a new album of festive classics.
Andy Moseley spoke to Jay Osmond to find out more about the tour, what the rest of the family are up to, and whether we can expect to see an Osmonds musical at some time in the future.
The Osmonds rose to fame in the UK in the 70s around the same time as that other famous bunch of brothers from America – The Jackson 5 – but they actually released their first album in 1963. In those days The Osmond Brothers were Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay. I asked Jay about the early days and how they came to be the band that ruled the UK charts in the early ’70s.
“We started off as a barbershop quartet at the end of the fifties. We’d been singing together for a little while when Walt Disney discovered us. We were with him for about a year and then got our first guest appearance on the Andy Williams Show. That went so well that we did the show for about nine years. The rest of our family each did a couple of guest appearances with us over that time. My favourite was when our parents came on and our father sang and our mother played the sax.”
By the end of their stint on Williams’ show the Osmond Brothers had become The Osmonds as the line-up had expanded to include younger brother Donny and the only Osmond sister Marie as well as occasional appearances by Jimmy Osmond, who became the youngest person to top the UK charts in 1972 with Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.
What may surprise many people is not only the range of musical styles they have covered over their career – including rock, gospel, jazz and country as well as pop and barbershop – but the number of different languages they have sung in. There are eight in all with Swedish, Japanese and Latin amongst some of the least expected. But what is the record and language that might surprise people the most if they heard it? “The craziest one was Samoan. It was a song called Mollie A. It’s kind of a war dance song,” Jay tells me before singing a short burst of it down the phone. For anyone who hasn’t had Jay Osmond sing to you, you can find the original version on YouTube.
They are fantastically grateful to their fans who continue to come and see them live. The connection they feel with them is part of the reason they recorded new album A Very Merry Rockin’ Christmas.
“We listened to what the fans said, they wanted us to do a Christmas album and we wanted to put the songs on it they’d love to hear.” The tracklist ranges from traditional carols such as Silent Night and Little Drummer Boy through to Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody, Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone and Wham’s Last Christmas. They’re playing the songs from the album on the tour alongside the hits and classic tracks from throughout their career.
Although they tour around the world, with Sweden their next stop before the end of the year, they see the UK as their second home, “We love coming here, we’re over about three or four times a year and I lived in Chester for nine months last year” Jay tells me. The family’s links with the UK go beyond the continued support of their audiences and stretch back many generations, something they discovered through ancestry search site familysearch.org, “being Latter-day Saints – Mormons – we love tracing our ancestors and we discovered roots of the family in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.”
Along with their actual family connections, there is also the unofficial extended family that is The Osmonds’ fanbase. Jay says, “Showbusiness has been a wonderful journey for us. We’ve had so many wonderful fans who treat us like family and really know us.” The family feeling is mirrored in the audiences at their shows, “we see people of all ages coming to our shows, from the young to middle-aged and older people.”
You get the feeling that The Osmonds’ music is something that gets passed down through generations, and this is something Jay is proud of and is one of the reasons why they continue to tour. As he says, “It’s not the fame or the fortune that’s the best thing about doing this. It’s when people come up to you and say your music has made a difference to them or it’s helped them through a difficult time. They’re the things that mean the most to us.”
Of course, talking about family with one of The Osmonds, you have to ask how the other members of the family are doing and what they’re up to. Jay tells me they’re all doing well and that the most recent family get together saw the four original members of the Osmond Brothers back together for one evening only. “We’ve just finished a celebration for Marie’s birthday on Hawaii. She put it together to honour us for being in show business for six decades. It was a really fantastic evening and great that Marie did it.” Sadly, the reunion was strictly for one show, and Alan and Wayne have no plans to return to the stage full time having both retired two years ago, and a full Osmonds reunion is also unlikely to happen with all of the family busy doing their own things.
That leads me on to the final question, with Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You and a whole host of other jukebox musicals continuing to be crowd pullers, can we expect an Osmonds Musical some time soon? “You never know. We’ve had a lot of offers to do something and we have all kinds of surprises to come” Jay tells me, so maybe sometime soon Crazy Horses: The Musical could be heading to the stage. In the meantime, the brothers themselves are doing more than enough to continue to bring their songs to audiences throughout the UK and the world.
The Osmonds’ UK tour dates include Guildford – G Live on Friday 30 November, Glasgow – Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 6 December and Edinburgh – Usher Hall on Friday 7 December.
Full tour dates and further information at https://www.merrillosmond.com/osmondtourdates | Image: Contributed