‘I was practically born on his show’ Jimmy Osmond on bringing tribute to legendary crooner Andy Williams to Scotland

Daily Record | Steve Hendry | Feb 4 2018

The popular entertainer talks about what his mentor and friend means to him and why he’s embarking on a new UK tour.

Jimmy Osmond made his TV debut on The Andy Williams Show on March 12, 1967, when he was just three years old.

It was the start of a long and varied career which saw him hit No1 aged just nine with Long Haired Lover From Liverpool and continues 50 years later.

His latest show, Moon River And Me – A Tribute To Andy Williams, keeps a promise to continue the crooner’s legacy.

But, for Jimmy, it’s also about paying his due to a man who supported not just him but the entire Osmond family singing phenomenon.

Jimmy Osmond is paying tribute to the legendary Andy Williams

Jimmy Osmond is paying tribute to the legendary Andy Williams (Image: Sunday Mirror)

The singing siblings were invited on to Williams’s TV show for a one-off guest spot in 1962 and stayed for eight years.

Williams was already a huge star with hits such as Music To Watch Girls By, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Days Of Wine And Roses and his signature theme Moon River.

His legacy lives on today, with his songs covered and sampled by the world’s biggest acts. Beyonce used his classic Can’t Get Used To Losing You on her 2016 hit Hold Up.

Back then, when the Osmonds were on the way up, Williams gave them unflinching support. Jimmy said: “I was practically born on his show. I performed with him and I eventually ended up, along with my brothers, being regulars on his show.

“He looked out for us. He surrounded us with the best choreographers and costume people and we ended up working with everybody from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley because they were his friends.

“That endorsement set our career up. It was amazing all the different experiences we had and they all start and end with Andy so it’s especially nice to pay tribute.

“We always gave him the credit due to him for us even having a career.”

If Jimmy’s relationship with Williams started with that first appearance, which saw him singing Red Roses For A Blue Lady, it picked up later in life when the crooner built the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

He performed there for the last 20 years of his career until his death in 2012, aged 84. Jimmy bought it and transformed it into the Andy Williams Performing Arts Centre and Theatre.

He said: “We toured the world and we kind of lost of touch with each other a little bit, although he was always there at the big moments, like when we had the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“Later in life, I was producing a show with my brothers in America and we hired Andy to be part of it. He told me about the theatre he was building in Missouri and invited me down.

Jay, Merril and Jimmy Osmond attend a memorial service for Andy Williams in 2012 (Image: Getty Images North America)

“My wife and I checked it out and ended up building the Osmond Family Theatre five doors down. My kids would trick or treat him and we became friends, not just professionally but also as neighbours too.

“He wanted me to buy his theatre and keep it going and I produced this show initially just for the theatre to honour him. Promoters from around the world started to hear about it and bring me over.

“People love his music and also the connection. Any of my family could have done this show and people get to hear the stories and know you were there.

“It makes it a special time for me, even if it’s all like it’s another life. You start to wonder yourself if you were even there. Thank goodness there is footage, pictures and reviews to bring all that back.

“My life has been so fast that it does feel like a different person because I just feel like a normal guy who puts a pair of pants on one leg at a time like everybody else.”

If the past seems like another life, Jimmy – who is married to Michele and is a father of four – has much to be grateful for.

The Osmonds became one of the biggest American family music groups of all time, while he, older brother Donny and sister Marie have all enjoyed solo success.

Jimmy, who is a Guinness World Record holder as the youngest performer to have a No1 single in the UK, has enjoyed more variety than most and has become an unlikely reality TV star in the UK, appearing in shows I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, All Star Family Fortunes and Come Dine With Me. In 2016, he was a finalist on Celebrity MasterChef.

An actor and producer, Jimmy also wrote children’s book Awesome Possum Family Band in 2014.

He said: “I have a very short attention span. I never thought showbiz would last for me.

“I was always trying to learn other jobs in the business that I could do and, 50 years later, I am still doing shows.

“I believe God gave us all talents and it’s fun to try them all. Some are stronger than others – I have failed at a lot of things but I have also been successful at a few. I think that’s what life is all about, experiencing different things and trying your hand at everything.

“It doesn’t always work out but it sure is fun and makes it interesting.”

It’s an ethos which has served him well and was perhaps writ large by his most recent appearance – in panto in Aberdeen.

Jimmy with his family in Aberdeen

Jimmy with his family in Aberdeen (Image: Collect Unknown)

He played villain Abanazar in Aladdin at His Majesty’s Theatre over the festive season.

He is looking forward to returning to Scotland with Moon River And Me, playing Kilmarnock, Inverness, Stirling, Glenrothes and Dundee in February.

He said: “How did I end up in panto in Aberdeen? I have no idea! We did 64 shows, saw 70,000 people through that theatre and it was amazing.

“I learned some Doric and what’s so great about those types of things is you get to stay in a place for a while and get to know the people and make friends.

“It was my sixth panto and I have gone from playing Billy Flynn in Chicago to the baddie in Aladdin.

“But why would you want to do the same thing every day? I love coming to Scotland, it’s always been fantastic and I have just made some great buddies there, some of whom will be coming to see the show.”

For Jimmy, introducing new friends to his old friends is a privilege but he admits it is laced with sadness at their passing.

As well as Williams, the show also touches on others who have passed away recently, including country singer Glen Campbell and fellow teen idol David Cassidy.

Jimmy added: “It also takes in other entertainers who we worked with at the time. Glen, for instance, was a good buddy of mine and a great friend of Andy’s so we do a little tribute to him as well.

“Everyone has a different faith but, for me, that kind of gives me a little peace to march through life and think, ‘Yeah, you’ve lost them but you have never really lost them.”
Article originally posted at dailyrecord.com.

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