Even at 68 years of age Merrill Osmond, lead singer and bass guitarist with the Osmonds, can look back on an amazing 64 years in show business! From singing barbershop aged 4, to appearing on The Andy Williams Show and then heading the family group through the Osmond-mania of the 70s, Merrill has done it all. With a new live album due for release in August and a UK tour to look forward to, Merrill took time out from his preparations to give Northern Life the lo-down on his astonishing career.
He is now touring as a solo artist, to keep the Osmonds’ legend alive, after brother Jay decided to call it a day. Thankfully, the family have come safely through the pandemic. “Everybody’s doing great,” Merrill began. “A lot of them have retired and some have health issues but Donny, Marie and myself, we’re still out there kickin’. Jay’s pretty well retired, too. We used to be called ‘The Osmond Brothers’, now I’m called ‘Brother Osmond’, “he laughed.
“When the crowd all sing back to me, that’s some of the most joyful times I can remember”
“What’s wonderful is this is our 64th year. Some of the greatest feelings I have is when we sing a song like Love Me For A Reason or Let Me In and the crowd all sing the song back to me. I stop singing and listen. To me, that’s some of the most joyful times I can remember, when they all sing to me. I’ve got some of the most loyal fans in the world!”
All the magic of a Merrill Osmond concert has been captured on his new album, Merrill Osmond – Live In London scheduled for release on 6 August. “The album was recorded live off the streamed concert that we did, all the hits and a few others as well. We recorded it a few months ago at the O2 Arena in London and it was one of the first shows where they allowed some people in, so it was a lot of fun. The guys were ready, the band was ready, they had rehearsed so well and we just went live. We cut all the good stuff – and some of the mistakes!” he laughs. “It’s gonna be a fun album!”
Along with all the Osmond favourites, Merrill includes Sharp Dressed Man, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing and Born To Be Wild, all showing his rock credentials. “I’ve always been the rocker of the family, I gargle with rock every time I go out on stage, so I keep that sound!”
“Everything has been pushed back because of the virus and now we’ve got back-to-back shows and I’m ready for them.” Starting in August, Merril embarks on a huge UK tour which will see him perform across the country including in Stockton-on-Tees, Skegness and Settle.
“I’m ready to rock and can’t wait to be able to sing all the songs throughout the seventies that you all know. By the way, I’m bringing a lot of video with me. People can go down Memory Lane with me as they remember the song they heard as they first fell in love with somebody, or they were having a hard time – all the different feelings they might have had when they heard an Osmond record throughout the years.”
Time and again, musicians tell me how much they enjoy playing live because of the energy that feeds back from a live audience.
“Oh, yeah,” says Merrill. “And how many people in the entertainment business can say that they experienced mania? Mania is very different, even, to hysteria. Paul McCartney was the one who explained that to us early on. We experienced every type of crowd emotion, we experienced things that most groups will never experience. A lot of it was captured on film and video and, one of these days, we’ll probably release some kind of a video that will show people what it really was like to be amongst the crowds and the excitement that was shared, during the seventies especially.”
But, while the group were still young, they were already seasoned professionals. Merrill went on to tell me how it all began.
“I was just four years old when I was on stage, literally on stage, singing barbershop harmony. Barbershop harmony is so precise, you have to harmonise in total pitch. And so, when I was four years old, I was trying to be a barbershopper. Music, and the value of music, was taught at a very young age.”
I wondered, then, were the brothers born into a musical family?
“No,” he replied, “that’s what’s interesting. My father sang a little bit in a church group and my mother played a little bit of saxophone but, other than that, no. This came from out of nowhere.
“It was Walt Disney, himself, that really found us and put us on the streets of Disneyland, where we walked and sang for hours and hours. Then, on one of his Disney TV shows, Andy Williams’ father saw us and had us come down and audition for Andy. That, of course, was amazing. We were on his show for six years in a row.”
Back then The Andy Williams Show was, possibly, the biggest light entertainment show in the world and was, for many tears, prime-time Saturday night viewing for many millions in the UK, too.
“The amazing thing is that we weren’t invited on his show unless we had come up with something new every week. If we didn’t come up with, say, tap dancing, we weren’t on the show. If we didn’t play instruments, we weren’t on the show. If we didn’t even ice skate, we weren’t on the show. Our learning curve was immense, it was intense.
“None of us could have imagined being asked to perform in front of Walt Disney or Andy Williams at such a young age. We thought that was just for kicks, for fun. We were trying to raise money for to buy hearing aids for our two older brothers who were deaf. That’s what the story was about. But then, to imagine going into a world-wide rock ‘n’ roll era, we never, ever comprehended that, ever!
How did the family deal with that, I asked?
“We all lived in a bubble. Nobody was allowed inside the bubble, it was well protected by security and family. We lived in this bubble and we flew above the sixties, the seventies and the eighties. No-one really got into the bubble. When it came to the drugs and the sex, all of the stuff that was going on, we weren’t involved in it, we were just coasting on top of it all, learning, as it went, different types of entertainment and the shows we were putting together were non-stop.”
So, when the hits stopped coming, did it take time to adjust?
“It’s interesting because we weren’t singing and dancing as much but we went into the television business, we never stopped the entertainment flow. When Donny and Marie started to happen, I ended up producing the show, Jay did the choreography while Alan was directing. So, we built an entire TV studio, we built a radio station, then we went into motion pictures, we went into syndication, all of the aspects of additional entertainment knowledge. It never really stopped!
“The only regret I have, to be honest, when we stopped the Crazy Horses of the world, we stopped because of The Donny And Marie Show, they needed help in those other areas. We stopped recording and went right into the world of The Donny And Marie Show.
“Donny is now starring in his own show in Las Vegas at the Harrah’s, he has a six-year contract. I’m not sure what Marie s doing but she has a lot on here agenda as well. The two of them, and myself, we’re still very active.”
Merril Osmond Tour Dates:
Wednesday 11 August, Milton Keynes, The Stables
Thursday 9 September, Port Talbot, Princess Royal Theatre
Friday 10 September, Babbacombe, Theatre
Saturday 11 September, Yeovil, Westlands
Sunday 12 September, Hastings, White Rock Theatre
Monday 13 September, Dunstable, Grove Theatre
Thursday 16 September, Basingstoke The Haymarket
Friday 17 September, Clacton, Princes Theatre
Saturday 18 September, Hunstanton, Princess Theatre
Sunday 19, September, Peterborough, Key Theatre
Tuesday 21 September, Radlett, The Radlett Centre
Friday 24 September, Billingham, The Forum
Sunday 26 September, Cheltenham, Bacon Theatre
Wednesday 29 September, Cardiff, Acapella Club
Saturday 2 October, Penzance, Acorn Theatre
Sunday 3 October, Minehead Butlins
Monday 4 October, London, Pizza Express Live
Tuesday 5 October, London, Pizza Express Live
Wednesday 6 October, Corby, The Cube
Thursday 7 October, Birmingham, Pizza Express Live
Wednesday 13 October, Carmarthen, The Lyric
Friday 15 October, Chelmsford, City Theatre
Saturday 16 October, Skegness, Butlins
Saturday 20 November, Arbroath, Webster Memorial Theatre
Sunday 21 November, Settle, Victoria Hall
Sunday 5 December, Eastleigh, Concorde
For tour information and tickets please visit https://www.merrillosmond.com/tour-dates/
Merrill Osmond – Live In London is released on 6 August and is available as a Double CD and Digital Download. For more information please visit https://liveherenow.co.uk/pages/merrill-osmond