After 52 years, Osmonds making final curtain calls

12 Jun

Jay, Jimmy and Merrill Osmond

 

You may think you know the story of the Osmond Brothers—their early years singing barbershop  quartet-style in Utah, later being discovered by Walt Disney himself and performing at Disneyland, and of course their many appearances on Andy Williams’ long running NBC variety show. You’ve probably followed their careers through more than 50 albums, thousands of live concerts, the additions of brothers Donny and Jimmy to the original four-member band at various times, and of course the emergence of  Donny and Marie as both solo artists and brother-sister superstars.

                But you may not know how the whole thing came about more than five decades ago in northernUtah. The original four-brother act sang for a reason—the gift of hearing. They still do.

                The Osmond Brothers are coming back to the stage here inUtahthis weekend, when they perform in concert on June 16 at the West Jordan Arena. It may well be the last time, or close to the last time, they’ll appear live in concert in their home state.

                “This could be the final time,” lead singer Merrill Osmond told me shortly after the brothers returned from an ambitious 50 concerts in 60 days tour of theUnited Kingdom. “We’re all involved in a lot of things right now. We’re excited to be performing inWest Jordan, and doing it for our mother’s foundation. It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for months.”

                Merrill and two of his sons, Shane and Justin, have been working to create a summer concert series to benefit the Olive Osmond Perpetual Hearing Fund, named after their late mother. The series, which has also featured country singers Clay Walker and Nathan Osmond, and will include a concert by JoDee Messina on August 11, raises money to provide hearing aids for children in theSalt Lake Cityarea. Two of those children will receive hearing aids at the June 16 concert.

                “My older brothers Tom and Virl were born hearing-impaired,” Merrill said. “My brothers and I started singing in order to earn some money to pay for hearing aids for Tom and Virl, because our family couldn’t afford them. Our mother Olive founded the organization, and over the years, we’ve been able to provide the gift of hearing to more than 2,000 kids.”

                The Osmond Brothers who perform on stage now include original members Merrill and Jay, and younger brother Jimmy. Older brothers Alan and Wayne have both stepped aside from performing due to health issues. That hasn’t dampened any of the enthusiasm of the group’s long-time fans. During those 50 shows in theUK, the Osmonds played in sold out venues.

                “Any time you do 50 shows in 60 days of any kind, it’s going to wear you out,” Merrill said. “Our fan base in theUKhas been phenomenal through the years, and this was our way of showing our gratitude. We’re very humbled and grateful for that support.”

                The thought of calling it a career as on-stage performers is bittersweet for all involved.

                “We’ve had such great support through all the years, and we’re very grateful that we can give something back through these benefit concerts, as well as the Youth Pioneer Pageant we’re producing later this summer in West Jordan.” He’s also proud that the brother’s opening act will be the Osmond Second Generation, sons of Alan Osmond, including country breakout artist Nathan.

                So, will there be any surprises at the June 16 show? Merrill smiled, then replied that he “wouldn’t be surprised if we see [Alan and Wayne] at the concert. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see any of the Osmonds who still have teeth make surprise appearances that night.”

                For those of you who live here in theSalt Lake Cityarea, showtime Saturday is 8 p.m., and the West Jordan Arena is located at 8125 South 2200 West. Tickets are on sale now through SmithTix.

                “My mother always said she was thrilled to be able to bring music to the ears of so many children,” Merrill said. “So that’s our theme—each show we are bringing music to your ears.”
                Figuratively, and literally, the Osmonds have been doing that for a long, long time.

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