A Family Reunion Tour
Bristol Evening News
February 9, 2012
He may be 48 years old, but Jimmy Osmond will forever be "Little" Jimmy, the youngest member of The Osmonds, the Mormon boy band from Utah who took the world by storm in the Seventies.
At eight years old, Jimmy had a number one of his own – and remains the youngest performer to top the UK singles charts with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool.
Before even hitting his teens, he had headlined Las Vegas and counted Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and Elvis among his friends.
"I thought that was what all kids of my age did!" smiles a softly spoken Jimmy, who has kindly agreed to have a chat with me on his day off.
The Osmonds are unique in their success as a band and as solo performers. They have recorded over 200 albums, selling more than 100 million copies with 59 gold and platinum recordings.
They have sold out venues worldwide, breaking box office records and received countless awards; most notably in 2003, when they were honoured by the industry and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Now brothers Wayne, Merrill, Jay and Jimmy are back with their biggest ever UK tour to date. Entitled The Osmonds – Final Tour – Up Close & Personal, the show takes in 50 dates, launching on March 9 at Bristol's Colston Hall.
"It's going to be a real special show for us," Jimmy tells me. "Having worked together for so many years, we can change the show as we go along, so that we give each audience a unique experience.
"We love touring and we're having a really good time. We often just stop and savour the moment and enjoy it for all the right reasons. I think the audience can tell if you're having fun, and they have more fun."
The tour will take fans on a journey through their many unforgettable hits – from classics such as One Bad Apple, Down By The Lazy River, Let Me In and Love Me For A Reason to Crazy Horses and Long Haired Lover From Liverpool – the 1972 number one from Jimmy, who has more recently appeared in London's West End in Grease and Chicago.
"This is special but it's also tinged with sadness because this is brother Merrill's final tour with us," says Jimmy dolefully. "He's moving on to other things, but we're a close family, so we'll always do something together.
"54 years is a long time for a family to be performing. The time just felt right and it was something that we wanted to do together.
"We also wanted to thank our UK fans," he continues earnestly. "I've loved the UK ever since I was a little boy and the UK embraced me from the beginning.
"You guys are a glutton for punishment – you keep letting me do stuff over here!"
It was five decades ago that four wholesome-looking young boys with glossy manes and white teeth were flashed across American television screens on The Andy Williams Show on what was meant to be a one-time shot at "the big time".
That single appearance led to such an overwhelming response that their lives would never be the same again.
It all started with Disney, Jimmy tells me. "Walt Disney gave my brothers their very first break when they performed in Disneyland for the summer. From there they got noticed by Andy Williams and started appearing on his TV show. Since then we've just carried on doing what we do."
Jimmy says that music and performing was always in the family blood. Their mother Olive played saxophone and piano in a dance band at High School and "adored music", while father George would sing as part of a barber shop quartet.
At home and on long journeys, their parents would encourage their children to sing together – and the seeds of a future global phenomenon were sown.
"All the family would sing together and from there my brothers started singing at little functions and at church. Soon they started raising money through their singing to help my oldest two brothers, who were born deaf. It just kind of evolved from there."
From performing in their own front room, the boys were soon being broadcast into other people's.
"Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, and later Donny, were already on TV when I came along," explains Jimmy, "so I never knew any different. I did my first live show when I was three with Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra at the famous International Hotel. I just thought that's what every kid did.
"My brothers had already been doing it for a while, so when I came along I just slotted right in."
Jimmy says The Osmonds' lives have been something of a circus – but a fun one.
"There have been many highlights – and they aren't necessarily the biggest arena shows. It's the little moments that make it special and the people you meet.
"Although saying that, one of the big highlights for me was meeting the Queen when I was a little boy and again not too many years ago – that was a big deal for us.
"Elvis was pretty cool too. He was always nice to me and my family and he really liked my mom because she reminded him of his own mother who had recently passed away."
The Osmonds, including heart-throb Donny and attractive only sister Marie, have had continued success both as a unit and separately.
In recent years, Jimmy has embarked on a career in musical theatre, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Boogie Nights, Grease and Chicago.
He has also become a familiar face on British TV, appearing in reality shows I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, Come Dine With Me and Popstar to Operastar.
But for now, Jimmy says his full focus is on the upcoming tour.
"We've done the arenas, so this time we wanted to play the smaller places so that we could go to more cities and reach a wider audience.
"It's great to play these more intimate venues and to travel around and see the countryside.
"It's a lot of fun and I think this is a really good show. It's exciting when it all comes together."
The Osmonds – Up Close and Personal appears at Colston Hall on Friday, March 9, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £27.50 or £29.50. Tel 0117 922 3686