he seven performing Osmonds actually made up five different recording "units": the Osmonds as a group; Donny and Marie as a team; and then Donny, Marie, and Jimmy separately. By far, the most successful was Donny, with eleven hits as a soloist.
Donald Clark Osmond broke into show biz at age four at a nightclub in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. His older brothers Jay, Alan, Wayne, and Merrill were appearing there as the opening act for Phyllis Diller. Donny, billed as "a special added attraction," made his entrance in a top hat and tux, descending a long staircase, singing, "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas."
That was in 1962, while the Osmond Brothers were still a barbershop quartet. The same year, he made his TV debut on the Andy Williams Show and also appeared in a musical special, "The Seven Little Foys." In 1966, Donny became an official member of his brothers' group, and soon after they shortened their name to simply "The Osmonds."
Throughout the sixties, the boys recorded for MGM, Uni, and Barnaby. All of their singles were total failures -- until "One Bad Apple." The secret of their success turned out to be Donny, who was not only cute but obviously was a fine lead singer as well.
With "Sweet and Innocent," Donny soared into the Top 10 on his own in the summer of 1971. At the same time, he was also singing lead on the current Osmonds' hit, "Double Lovin'." Over the next few years, Donny alone and Donny with the Osmonds took turns on the charts; the next release, a solo effort, turned out to be Donny's biggest hit single ever.
That, of course, was "Go Away Little Girl," a song created by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in 1962 (the same year Donny made his debut as a show biz toddler). It was written for Steve Lawrence, who had a number-one hit with it in 1963. At first, the Osmonds weren't sure if this was an appropriate tune for thirteen-year-old Donny. It dealt with dating, and the Osmond parents forbade dating until the age of sixteen. (As Mormons, the family shunned premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, and even caffeine.). Eventually, though, the decision was made to take the "risk" and record the tune, under Rick Hall's direction, in Muscle Shoals. Almost immediately after its release in August 1971, the record began to bound up the charts, and by the next month it was the best-selling single in the country. On Halloween, it was certified gold, and soon after, platinum.
Besides records, Donny also starred in three ABC-TV series during the seventies: The Osmonds (an animated cartoon); Donny and Marie (a variety program); and The Osmond Family Show (an attempt to rekindle the success of Donny and Marie later in 1979). In December 1979, NBC tried to revive Donny and Marie with only Marie; that show ran for only four weeks. Donny and Marie also made a film together in 1978 called Goin' Coconuts, but it went nowhere.
In early 1982 Donny appeared on Broadway in George M. Cohan's musical Little Johnny Jones, which closed on opening night. Donny then headed his own production company for a number of years before returning to recording in the late eighties. Peter Gabriel invited him to record in his Bath, England, studio, and some tracks recorded there landed Donny a deal with Capitol Records. In 1988, his album Donny Osmond spun off two Top 40 singles, "Soldier of Love" and "Sacred Emotion," the former going all the way to number two. In 1985, Donny surprised many people by speaking out against the Tipper Gore-lead PMRC. He has continued to work in theater and appeared in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
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