The singing Osmond siblings from Utah – Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay and Donny – had been performing together for nearly 10 years before they caught the eye of a record company astute enough to realise that The Jackson 5 in white would be a good earner.
As soon as the ink was dry on the contract, The Osmonds went into the studio to record One Bad Apple. The single went to #1 in America for more than a month, selling over a million copies.
It was shortly afterwards that the solo potential of the group’s 11-year-old lead singer Donny was also recognised, and while The Osmonds racked up five gold albums between 1971 and 1973, Donny’s parallel career scored four gold albums and seven Top 10 singles.
Then off the Osmond production line came sister Marie and youngest brother, the well-nourished ‘Little’ Jimmy.
Curiously, after the initial flush of success was over, The Osmonds (both solo and as a group) actually did much better in Britain where Osmond-mania really got a hold in July 1972 when Donny’s Puppy Love topped the UK charts for five weeks.
Jimmy also had a solo #1 hit in the UK at Christmas 1972 with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. Nine-year-old Jimmy admitted in interviews that he had absolutely no idea where Liverpool was but became the youngest ever UK chart-topper, and the song (which shared the UK Top 10 with Crazy Horses by his brothers and Why? by Donny) became 1972’s biggest selling single. Sister Marie had her own hit with Paper Roses in 1973.
When The Osmonds visited the UK in 1973, a wall at Heathrow Airport collapsed from the pressure of 10,000 youngsters waiting to see their idols. One girl was seriously injured and had to have a kidney removed.
When a crowd rushed the Osmond motorcade outside their hotel, another girl had her hand run over. When the group performed at the Rainbow, scores of teenage girls were treated for hysteria in mobile medical facilities.
Predictably enough, the antics produced a backlash. A national daily newspaper devoted its lead editorial to the crisis, and several papers demanded the group keep its future whereabouts a secret to avert a tragedy.
By 1979 though, ‘Little’ Jimmy was no longer small or cute and Donny and Marie’s material had descended into the worst type of countrified mawk – It was something they had always threatened (notwithstanding Donny’s ill-advised forays into Disco) – and then Donny did the worst thing possible . . . he grew up.
The altogether rather sensible LP Donald Clark Osmond got no further than the Top 160 in America and bombed completely in the UK. But for a few years, when The Osmonds were big in the ’70s, they had no equal. They were B.I.G Big.
Vocals, guitar, keyboards