by Steve Penhollow
April 29, 2011
Being a teen idol kinda sucks.
So reports Jay Osmond, who insists that he was not at all envious when his brother Donny became the Osmonds’ de facto epicenter of female fan fervor in the early 1970s.
“I remember so much of the pressure that was put on Donny,” he said in a phone interview. “I never went through a thing where I thought, ‘I envy your situation.’ Because it was not really an enviable position.
“That up-and-coming star Justin Bieber reminds me so much of Donny,” Osmond said. “Donny went through so much of that. I hope that young guy can hold it together.”
It’s been 53 years since four adolescent Osmond brothers began singing barbershop music in and around their hometown of Ogden, Utah.
Several hundred occupational course corrections later, the Osmonds are still touring.
Three of the brothers – Wayne, Merrill and Jay – will appear Saturday at the Honeywell Center.
Collectively, the Osmond brothers have been known variously as a pop band, a rock band and a country band.
Individually, they have been stars of Broadway, Branson, British Pantomime, the Big Screen and the Boob Tube.
They have been unafraid to perform almost any musical genre in almost any context as long as it did not dishonor Mormonism, and they showed even greater courage when they released history’s only prog rock concept album honoring Mormonism.
They have lived so long and seen so much that they no longer blush when they read such phrases as “Boob Tube.”
In short, there is almost too much ground to cover in a single show.
“The goal is to put in a little bit of everything,” Jay Osmond says. “Our audiences have such a mix of ages. We have fans who were kids when we were kids, and we have fans who are their kids. We have husbands who are dragged there and those who come of their own free will. It’s a real challenge. There’s a lot of variety.”
The public face of the Osmonds over the years has most been a smiling one, full of gleaming teeth. But into every smile a little plaque must creep.
In other words, it hasn’t always been easy to be an Osmond.
In fact, Jay Osmond says, there was a time when he wanted out of the group.
“It was when I was 16 and 17,” he says. “I wanted to be in a normal high school. I wanted to play football. I didn’t want to be on the road all the time.
“All the kids at home envied me because they saw this media version of our lives that had screaming girls in it,” Osmond says. “And, all the while, I was envying them.
“There was a part of me that just didn’t want to be an Osmond. It was really tough.”
Osmond says his parents convinced him of the value of sacrificing oneself for a greater good, the greater good in this case presumably having something to do with maintaining the Osmonds’ prominent place in the music business.
Whatever one thinks of the fruits of the Osmonds’ labors, one has to admit that the glue that has kept the siblings close over the years is as strong as family glues come.
“It’s what keeps us friends today,” he says.
And yet the band has not been without its internal conflicts, Osmond says.
“We were just hanging out with the Beach Boys in Miami a couple of days ago and we were laughing about all the different ups and downs,” he says. “They can relate so well … you just have to roll with the punches and take the worst a person has to dish out in stride. It’s like riding a roller coaster.”
The ride may be coming to an end soon.
“We know that it’s not going be that many more years…,” Osmond says. “I think maybe five or six years down the line we may decide to close this chapter. We go year by year. I’d like to see the band make it to its 60th anniversary. We still enjoy it, but I don’t know how longer we can keep enjoying it. The days are numbered. It won’t be too much longer.”
Some of the offspring of the original Osmonds have gone into music (Jay Osmond jokes that the exact number of living Osmond family progenitors, children and grandchildren is 4,280).
Osmond says he hopes there are always Osmonds playing music.
“Yeah, I would like to see that continue,” he says. “Only if they want to do it, of course. I would never want them pushed into it. But I think it would be fun to watch the kids carry it on.
“But only if they really felt up to it,” Osmond says. “If not, it’s been a wonderful run and a great journey. The family, as I said, has had its ups and downs but it’s all been worth it.”