Final crazy horse ride into Norwich for The Osmonds
For more than 50 years, The Osmond Brothers have been entertaining us. However, good things must come to an end. DEREK JAMES talks to Jimmy Osmond about their final goodbye tour which arrives in Norwich for two dates this week.
It had been a busy day for the assistant Scout master. His boys teenage Zack and Wyatt had made sure of that and they must have been very proud of their dad.
He's none other than Jimmy Osmond.
'It's been good fun working with the Scouts today but they all have so much energy – and it is very hot here,' said the child star of the original boy band of the 1970s who has became a much-loved stage of stage and screen across the UK.
He was talking to me from his home in Utah where he was spending some time with his wife, Michele, and their children, they also have two girls Sophia and Bella, before heading to our shores for the winter.
For more than 50 years, The Osmond Brothers have been entertaining us and their 50th anniversary tour a couple of years ago was almost a complete sell out.
However, good things must eventually come to an end and to that end, they are undertaking their final UK tour – and it's their biggest ever.
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Thanks to their appearances on The Andy Williams Show on TV, The Osmonds became world-wide stars.
When they started to release records and tour the reaction was so powerful that 'Osmondmania' hit the world, with scenes reminiscent of 'Beatlemania' from the previous decade as they amassed millions of - predominantly female - fans.
Their hit catalogue is pretty impressive, with smashes like One Bad Apple, Let Me In, Crazy Horses and Love Me for a Reason being the pick.
Not only that, it wasn't long before members of the family went solo and for a time the charts included hits by The Osmonds, Donny Osmond, Marie Osmond, Donny and Marie Osmond and Little Jimmy Osmond. They have sold more than 100 million records and have garnered 59 gold and platinum discs as well.
Jimmy was never a part of the group back in the 1970s, he arrived on the scene in 1972 with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool — he remains the youngest performer to top the UK singles — but 20 years ago he decided to join them in touring.
Speaking from his home in Utah, Jimmy tells me Britain has a special place in his heart. Along with the rest of his extraordinary family, he has led a bizarre life in the spotlight. But talking to him is like hanging over the fence and chatting to your neighbour. He is easy-going, friendly extreme polite and genuinely looking forward to visiting Norwich for the first time.
You feel as if you have known him for years and in a way, many of us have.
'If it were possible I would love to live in the UK,' said Jimmy. 'The Osmonds originally came from Merthyr Tydfil and moved to America during the industrial revolution of 1869 and settled in Utah. Jimmy's great, great, grandfather Dr John Martin was chief surgeon at the Merthyr Steelworks.
'I've always been welcomed in whatever I do, whether it be singing or doing panto. Since the 1970s, the UK has been amazing, not just to me but to all my brothers too.'
And, of course, they have many fans here; but here Jimmy contradicts. 'They aren't fans – they are all friends and we don't deserve them.'
Although Jimmy has no intention of retiring this will be the last time he tours with his brothers and it is their way of thanking the British fans for being so loyal to them over the years.
The tour brings them to Norwich Theatre Royal on March 22 and 23. 'It's a part of the country I have never visited before so I am especially interested to taking a look round.'
He asked how big the Theatre Royal was and when I told him it could seat around 1,300 he replied: 'That's perfect. Just the kind of place we want to play and get close to the people.'
The line-up for this final UK tour is Jimmy, Jay, Wayne and Merrill. 'Yes,' Jimmy says, 'this line-up has been the core. It's my 'safe' place really.
'The brothers haven't really stopped performing in all this time, they are the longest running group in history with the same members and it's all down to the older brothers who made it happen.'
There have been times when different combinations of the group have toured, sometimes with four members and sometimes only three, but Jimmy says these fluctuations don't affect the arrangements to any large degree.
'No, not really, however the barbershop quartet is sometimes affected when there's only three of us and Merrill and I switch lead singing duties.'
After a trio of top 20 hits, Jimmy seemed to disappear from the scene and got involved with other things, as he explains.
'I never really stopped myself actually. I performed a lot in Japan and then I got involved in other people's careers from Bon Jovi to Michael Jackson.
'Then about 20 years ago I was thinking what I wanted to do and I wanted to get involved with my brothers again – after all, they had sacrificed a lot and pushed us younger ones forward.'
Despite that he celebrates his 48th birthday on April 16 - a rare day off on the tour - he still has to sing the hit he had before he was ten, in fact he is still the youngest person to have a chart-topper in the UK.
'I learned a long time ago that you don't mess with people's memories. I left the song out of the set, but we were at the Wembley Arena and the place erupted and I had to sing it – so basically it was a case of 'just shut up and do your job'.
'Amazingly, it was the biggest selling UK hit for anything with The Osmonds' name.'
He is comfortable with it though and even jokes about it. A few years ago, when on tour with his brothers, Jimmy came to the front of the stage and said 'okay, let's get it over with' and sang the song.
'The good thing is that people have allowed me to grow up. But this tour is really about my brothers.'
So what kind of a show can we expect? 'All the favourites. Songs people have grown up listening to and enjoying. Music is so powerful, it means so much to people,' said Jimmy.
He admits to not really having a favourite Osmonds' song. 'I don't really listen to our songs as I'm not that narcissic, I tend to like classic rock and The Eagles.'
But he does have a soft spot for one of his brothers' albums. 'I love The Plan [their 1973 concept album about their Mormon religion]. Up to then, all the hits had been chosen by the record company, but the brothers rebelled and it paid off – I think people recognise what's sincere. I'm so glad that they stood up for what they believed in – it was like their White album.'
And when I mentioned I loved Crazy Horses his voice lights up. 'Isn't it great! We still love singing it. A real rock'n'roll song that we wrote ourselves, not the kind of manufactured pop we had written for us in the early days.'
This tour is the biggest one they have undertaken in Britain – 46 concerts in 55 days - and Jimmy is well aware of it.
'There's no doubt that it's gonna be a gruelling tour, but we love what we do. We do about 200 shows a year and you can't fake it for that length of time.'
Not only does he enjoy performing for their many fans, the brothers enjoy being together. 'It's great we can celebrate 53 years and still be friends.' Jimmy states.
'However, we don't always get along and we do have our rows.
'This last tour is important to us though. It's going to be a lotta fun.'
? The Osmonds play Norwich Theatre Royal on March 22/23, �29.50-�6.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk