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A decade of goody-goody music can wear a boy band down.
Throughout the ’60s, the Osmond brothers—Alan, Wayne, Merrill, Jay, and Donny, who ranged from 4 to 13 when they made their TV debut in 1962—had impressed viewers with tight barbershop harmonies and snappy dance routines as clean-cut, precociously talented regulars on The Andy Williams Show. But independence beckoned, and after a handful of records released in connection with the variety show, the five Utah-born brothers struck out on their own.
“We wanted to be our own thing,” eldest brother Alan recalls. “We were getting teen magazine recognition and we wanted to be musicians. We wanted to write our own music. We about starved to death that first year.”
The adolescent group’s 1968 debut flopped, but 25-year-old record producer and executive Mike Curb, who became president of MGM Records in 1969, identified the Osmonds’ commercial appeal and decided to throw his weight behind the band. Under the guidance of legendary Muscle Shoals owner and producer Rick Hall, the Osmonds struck radio gold in 1970 with the slick R&B of the bubblegum hit “One Bad Apple,” followed by the equally groovy “Double Lovin’” in 1971.
As the Osmonds were making commercial waves, so was Donny, who released his first two solo albums in 1971 as well—the year he turned 13. The pop success of early Donny hits like “Sweet and Innocent,” “Go Away Little Girl,” and “Puppy Love” reshaped MGM Records’ attitude toward the Osmond family’s output, as the powers that be spotted Donny’s potency sans his older brothers.
Despite their squeaky-clean image, the Osmonds—Donny included—were still teenage American boys, soaking up the early ’70s and idolizing rock bands like Led Zeppelin. With youngest siblings Marie and Jimmy now eyeing showbiz careers, the current band of Osmonds began to realize there might be a shrinking window of opportunity to break out of the teenybopper box.
In early 1972, the quintet hit the studio with producer and MGM vice president Michael Lloyd, then 23, with the intent of reintroducing themselves as proper rockers. Propelled by a peerless work ethic and innate musical chops, the Osmonds delivered Crazy Horses, a totally swaggering—and surprising—turn in their catalog.