Osmonds-mania set to hit Harrogate!

Jimmy Osmond in the early 1970s. He was having hits event then.
Jimmy Osmond in the early 1970s. He was having hits event then.

Amazingly, Osmonds-mania is still going strong after all these years, as anyone going to Harrogate International Centre in Harrogate on Friday, December 11 will find out for themselves.

Still, I’m not going to take up Jimmy Osmond’s offer of coming back stage for a chat at the show in Harrogate.

What on earth would I say to someone who first entered my consciousness as “Little” Jimmy Osmond, the boy pop star on Top of the Pops singing number one hit Long Haired Lover From Liverpool?

Speaking to him on the phone from Utah shortly before he and his brothers set off for another major foreign jaunt, I tell Jimmy I can vaguely remember seeing him as an even younger lad with his brothers on The Andy Williams Show on TV in the late 1960s.

Appropriately enough, their latest UK tour sees The Osmonds recreating The Andy Williams Christmas Spectacular and all the fun and razamatazz of the popular TV show where regular guest appearances with a large brown bear first brought Jimmy and the family fame in the USA.

It’s hard to believe that Jimmy was performing alongside the likes of Merrill and Jay and Wayne and Donny when he was only three-years-old.

Surely Jimmy can’t actually remember anything from those days?

“Of course I remember being in the show. I was the one doing the skits with Cookie Bear. It was live TV in those days and you remember those pressure moments. I was constantly working.

“But sometimes I can’t tell if it’s real memory or memories I’ve got from watching videos about The Osmonds. My life is so well-documented.”

Jimmy and his brothers have had a close relationship with the UK for decades, so much so they’re all fans of the quintessential British dish - fish n chips..

“I’m the chippie one in the group. I love chips,” says Jimmy who was having worldwide hits at an age when most other youngsters were playing cowboys and indians.

He’s not the only with an anglicized palate. One of Jimmy’s brothers, Merrill popped into The Wetherby Whaler in Guiseley last year while on tour - having done exactly the same thing the year before at the Jolly Fryer in Ripon’s Allhallowgate.

It’s possibly The Osmonds’ type of comfort food. The family were driven hard as children by their father who had been an US Army sergeant.

But all the hard work paid off as the nine boys, and one girl, Marie, went on to sell over 100 million copies of records such as One Bad Apple, Love Me For A Reason and Crazy Horses.

I worry that such a close-knit, driven family might have been a hotbed of jealousy between its various hit-making members - Donny who hit number one in the UK in 1972 with Puppy Love and sister Marie who repeated the feat a year later with Paper Roses.

“There was a bit of rivalry. Merrill was the lead singer on most of our songs in the 1970s and got all the early hits, then the record company pushed Donny to the front, then Marie.

“But everyone was given a shot. It wasn’t just about the money or the fame. I’ve got to pay respect to my brothers. It’s always been a team effort.”

It would be tempting to think Jimmy, as last to join in, might have had the easiest ride but, in a way, he cares most about the name of The Osmonds and is happy to shoulder much of the responsibility for their continued success.

Ambitious and dedicated, Jimmy doesn’t forget. The Cookie Bear outfit is still in his apartment which is located next to the beautiful Andy Williams Moon River Theatre which, coincidentally, he now owns.

No fool, he also owns all the rights to those hit Andy Williams TV shows.

I tell him I was a fan of Slade and The Beatles and David Bowie back in the 1970s as a kid.

Save for the raucous Crazy Horses, I had no time for The Osmonds.

It’s a story Jimmy has heard before, a story he’s probably spent a lifetime hearing.

“The press in the 1970s didn’t know what to do with us – a family of Mormon singers. The record company was pushing pop on us but our favourite numbers were the harder, driving songs like Crazy Horses.”

Fortunately time mellows everything.

“Things go in and out of fashion. For bands like Led Zeppelin to say tracks like Crazy Horses are their guilty pleasure feels great. It’s fun to be around long enough to get respect.”

Despite enjoying a career in show business spanning nearly 50 years, at the age of 52 Jimmy Osmond is at least 20 years younger than most of his contemporaries in the glory years.

I tell him he’s the youngest veteran I know. It’s as if he has stolen a march on the rest of the world.

“I don’t know about that. We’ve always liked doing new things. We’ve never just lived on nostalgia. I think that’s what’s kept us young. That’s why we thrilled to be doing our new show.”

The Osmonds present The Andy Williams Christmas Spectacular at Harrogate International Centre on Friday, December 11.

www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk