Interview by Graham Chalmers
I’m determined to get Jimmy Osmond in a fish n chip shop when The Osmonds tour comes to Harrogate. It would make a great picture.
And I think I may be in with a chance. The youngest member of the legendary hit-making family admits on the phone from Utah that he is a fan of fish n chip shops.
“I’m the chippie one in the group. I love chips.”
The Osmonds certainly have form when it comes to the subject. Another 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.
They may be as American as apple pie but The Osmonds have enjoyed a close relationship with the UK since the early 1970s and ‘Osmondmania’.
Come December their latest tour will see them doing something completely new - 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 in the 1960s.
I tell him I can vaguely remember seeing the show myself and that my late father used to play his Andy Williams albums all the time when I was small.
To illustrate this, I try singing a bit of one of Andy’s songs and Jimmy tells me it‘s Little Green Apples.
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.”
The family were driven hard 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.
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 and his apartment is next to the beautiful Andy Williams Moon River Theatre which, coincidentally, he now owns. He also owns all the rights to those hit Andy Williams TV shows.
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’s true - the family that plays together does stay together.
At any rate, Jimmy was no slouch in the hit stakes. He’s quick to tell me how he received his first gold record at age five for My Little Darling, a song he recorded for the Japanese market in Japanese.
And, of course, there’s Long Haired Lover from Liverpool. I remember hating the song when it number one in 1972 but if you’d said to me back then that I’d be talking to “little Jimmy” 40 or so years later my younger self would still have been impressed.
I was a fan of Slade and The Beatles and David Bowie at the time and, save for the raucous Crazy Horses, had no time for The Osmonds.
It’s a story Jimmy has heard before, a story he’s 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.”
For Jimmy, the last couple of decades alone have taken in everything from movies to West End musicals to I’m A Celebrity.
I ask about the old days of Osmondmania and whether the fame and the lifestyle ever affected him and he says he did go a bit wild at times.
But I don’t really believe him. Discipline was drilled into him from a very early age and the story of the Osmonds isn’t one of a talented family undone by success in the same way as, say, The Jacksons or The Beach Boys.
This forever young singer, actor and businessman seems to delight in hard work for its own sake.
“It’s not about being a star. My career is eclectic because I’m easily bored. I’ve always said to myself that one of these days I would figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
The Osmonds present The Andy Williams Christmas Spectacular at Harrogate International Centre on Friday, December 11.
To book tickets online, visit Harrogateboxoffice