One Bad Apple - The Osmonds
B-Side: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
From the Album: To You With Love, Donny
Released: November 14, 1970
Recorded: October 26, 1970
Genre: Pop, R&B, bubblegum pop
Label: MGM (MGM 14193)
Producer(s): The Osmonds
The Osmonds began singing as a family pastime when their father, George Osmond, taught Alan, Jay, Wayne, and Merrill how to sing “The Old Oaken Bucket” in a simple barbershop style. By 1960 the brothers had begun performing locally, at small parties, church events, and civic club dinners. Then, in the spring of 1962, they made their first appearance outside the state at a barbershop convention in Pasadena, California. Since Anaheim was nearby, the boys took in Disneyland, where they stopped to watch another barbershop quartet. The latter group, seeing the brothers’ identical suits, asked them if they’d like to sing. The Osmonds did, and drew such strong applause that they were signed to sing regularly at the park.
A few weeks later, the father of Andy Williams visited Disneyland and saw the four boys. Impressed by their clean-cut look, young talent, and MOR appeal, he offered them a five-year contract to co-star on Andy’s new TV series. The Osmonds hesitated; they had never heard of Andy and were, in fact, dreaming of a spot on the Lawrence Welk Show. When Welk failed to come through, however, they went with Williams in November 1962. With a big smile, Andy introduced his “discovery” as “the Ogden Brothers, from Osmond, Utah.” During the 1963-64 season, the boys picked up a second TV job playing the Kissel brothers on an ABC western, The Travels of Jamie McPheeters. They cut the theme song as a single in 1963, but it bombed, as did every other record they cut during the decade.
In 1966, little brother Donny joined the group, and three years later, along with the Jackson 5 with their explosive, high-energy, “black bubblegum” sound. It was fast, euphoric, and, best of all, a fun kind of music, and the Osmonds were obviously impressed. After four J5 records hit number one in a row, the Osmonds decided it was time to modify their style. They headed for Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where they booked time at the Fame Recording Studios, noted for their unique “Muscle Shoals Sound.” There, under the direction of producer Rick Hall, they put together “One Bad Apple,” written by George Jackson. Musically, it was a complete departure for the Osmonds, with a touch of Muscle Shoals soul and a more rocking, R&B feel.
“One Bad Apple,” featuring the lead voice of thirteen-year-old Donny Osmond, broke onto the charts during the first week of January 1971. It took off so fast that the boys had to leave the Andy Williams Show the very same month to begin an exhausting round of live appearances. By February 2, it was certified gold, and before long, platinum, selling in excess of three million copies. It spent five weeks at number one — almost four months on the charts in total. In 1971, the Osmonds were hailed as the Top New Group of the Year by all three music magazines — Billboard, Cashbox and Record World.
“Osmondmania” continued for the rest of the decade. In mid-1972, MGM announced that the five Osmond brothers had achieved eleven gold albums and singles in a one-year period, thus surpassing marks previously held by the Beatles (nine) and Elvis Presley (eight). By 1976, they had 26 gold records and had sold 70 million albums and singles worldwide. Their combined annual income was estimated at more than $10 million.
The Osmonds had nearly two dozen hits, despite opposition from many deejays who considered it “unhip” to program their records.
The Osmonds’ response was “You’re Mine,” a single mailed to radio stations in 1979 without any artist credit. Disc jockies raved about the record and played it heavily, until they learned who the “mystery group” was. At that point, the record died.
“It’s a little unfair,” said Wayne, “but once a person gets a hit with one or two of the same type of record, you know they’re bagged for life.” For that reason, and out of a need to establish their own identities, the Osmonds disbanded as a working unit in the summer of 1980. In 1982, however, they re-formed — as an instantly successful country act. They were named Billboard’s top new singles group in 1992, and have since been named Branson, Missouri’s group of the year. There they own, operate, and perform at the Osmond Family Theater, and are involved heavily in charity work for deaf and disabled children.