The Jackson 5's popularity in the early 1970s spawned dozens of imitators, as record companies tried to apply the Jackson 5's formula for success to other teen groups. This week, we'll take a look at some of the family groups that tried for the J5's sound, look, and style, starting with the most notorious wannabes, The Osmonds.
There is no denying that the Osmond brothers -- Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, and Donny -- were talented performers. They had been in the business professionally since they were small, and had been regulars on the Andy Williams Show for years, as well as having a recurring role on a dramatic series The Travels of Jamie McPheeters.
But it was only after the Jackson 5 hit it big that the Osmonds began to hit the pop charts with their songs that borrowed heavily from the J5's sound. In fact, their first hit, "One Bad Apple," had actually been written with the Jackson 5 in mind, but Berry Gordy turned it down. Here is one of the better renditions of it, with the Osmond Brothers singing it live in about 1971:
I remember the first time I heard this song on the radio. I knew immediately that it wasn't the Jackson 5 because neither Merrill nor Donny sang as well as Jermaine or Michael -- they both have to strain to reach the higher notes. But I knew that it was someone trying to sound like the Jackson 5. And, of course, I was incensed that they were stealing the Jackson 5's sound. The Osmonds began to get all the space in the teen magazines that I thought the Jacksons should have had instead.
But before long, the similarities between the two groups got almost comical: Donny went solo / Michael went solo. Jacksons had a little brother waiting to join the group / Osmonds had a little brother waiting to join the group. They were even scheduled to tour England during the same week in 1972. Check out the slide show I put together a while back for more eerie similarities between the two groups.
Of all the groups that imitated the Jackson 5, no other evokes the ire among hardcore J5 fans that the Osmonds did. Maybe that's, in part, because they came closest to capitalizing on the group's success.
Tomorrow: The Sylvers