BACK when Little Jimmy Osmond made his TV debut on the Andy Williams Show in the 1960s, little did he know they would grow to be so close in the future.
Years down the line and Jimmy would find himself chatting with Andy outside their respective homes as neighbours and theatre owners in Branson, Missouri.
Sadly those chats are consigned to the past after Andy’s death from bladder cancer aged 84 in 2012.
But Jimmy continues to promote the singer’s legacy, and is bringing his tribute show Moon River and Me to the Grove Theatre in Dunstable later this month.
Jimmy, who now looks after Andy’s theatre in Branson, told Luton on Sunday it stemmed from a promise he had made to his old friend before he died.
He said: “The show stemmed from a promise I made to Andy before he passed away. He was not just at the start of my career, we both owned theatres in Branson, Missouri and he was also my neighbour. When he took walks he would say hello and we would talk about the pros and cons of owning theatres.
“He told me that since the 60s his Christmas shows had been tradition, and I said I would keep them going after he was gone. I was going to do this show just for my theatre, but once I did it people all over the world wanted the show.
“I said we’d do five, and suddenly it turned into 27. When you look at his repertoire and how many other people’s careers touched his, there was a real appetite to remember Andy.
“He had an amazing voice. In this show nobody pretends to sing like Andy. But it’s his style and that time in the 60s was just quite classy, he surrounded himself in it.
“He was always dressed up to the nines. But mostly it is his songs, they have truly stood the test of time. In an interview where I was there he wanted to be remembered for his music, and his music is a songbook for so many people’s lives.”
Jimmy revealed the show had been given the seal of approval by Andy’s family.
He said: “His two brothers Dan and Dick, and his wife Debbie, have all come to the show. They were really sweet, and it was very touching that they seemed pleased with it – that was my goal.
“You can get people getting quite emotional at the shows. People want an escape when they come to a live show, and that’s what we want to give them and let them forget any troubles they have for a couple of hours.
“I did one show in New Mexico and this military guy came up to me and started crying and gave me a hug. He was saying that when I sang ‘Moon River’ he thought of his mum. It was the last song she had sung to him before he went away on duty, and that when he came back she was gone.”
Jimmy is looking forward to coming to the Grove Theatre in Dunstable
So now he’s back in the UK, does he look forward to performing away from comfort of his own country?
He says: “When I’m doing a show I prefer doing it in the UK. You guys have always allowed me to be myself rather than being a guy from a band.
“I feel there’s a rapport and history there by allowing me to do that, and for me that’s great. I just feel more comfortable performing in the UK.
“I have a show in Vegas soon commemorating 50 years since I started, and I’m so nervous about it even though it’s not a massive venue. I crave coming back to the UK and doing shows.”
The key thing for Jimmy though, is paying tribute to an old friend who was there throughout his life.
“I don’t know if I needed therapy, but this is the best therapy I could ever have had,” he says.
“It brings me full circle with the man where my career really started, and who then became my friend and neighbour. It’s music that I remember and is my soul – and it makes me feel real good when I sing it.”
So why not head out and see Jimmy in his element? The show is at 7:30pm at the Grove Theatre on Wednesday October 19.
Tickets cost from £27.50 (plus £1.95 transaction fee) at grovetheatre.co.uk or by calling 01582 602080.