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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March, 2005, 14:51 GMT
Osmond traces Welsh roots
Donny Osmond mobbed by fans in Merthyr
Star quality: fans in Merthyr chase Donny Osmond's autograph
Who would have thought Donny Osmond, the American heart-throb whose picture adorned a million teenage bedroom walls in the 1970s, had his roots in Wales?

Merthyr Tydfil, the powerhouse of the industrial revolution, is where the Osmond family roots lie.

A BBC Wales programme has brought Donny "home" to meet a cousin for the first time and visit his great-great-great-grandfather's grave.

Donny Osmond Coming Home was broadcast on BBC1 Wales on Tuesday.

It's hard for me to explain, but it does feel like I'm home
Donny Osmond

The programme is the result of two years' work - sparked off when Donny casually mentioned in a BBC Radio Wales interview that he had family links with Merthyr.

His family left the town at the heart of the industrial revolution in 1868 and settled in Utah.

In the 1960s four young Osmond brothers found fame singing close harmony on prime-time American TV. They were joined later by Donny, sister Marie and youngest brother Jimmy in racking up a string of hits and TV shows during the 1970s.

Osmond family
White teeth and white suits: the Osmonds in their '70s heyday
Donny was the biggest star of them all, and he has continued his musical career with stage shows and comeback singles. It was during a publicity tour that his Welsh connection came to light.

Independent production company Yellow Duck, which made the film for BBC Wales, contacted Donny and organised his flying visit to Merthyr by helicopter.

I'm more of a classical music person, so I think I probably didn't show the amount of enthusiasm that was expected of me
Donny's cousin, Jean Cresswell
The filmmakers found many of the Osmonds' ancestors were involved in running Merthyr steelworks, where his great-great-great-grandfather, Dr John Martin, was chief surgeon.

The Osmonds are devout Mormons, and genealogy plays an important part in the religion. Donny's late mother Olive was particularly interested in researching her own Welsh roots.

Male choir

The programme shows Donny at John Martin's grave, where he said: "It's hard for me to explain, but it does feel like I'm home, like coming full circle.

Donny Osmond in the 1970s
The young Donny found solo fame with ballads like Puppy Love

Donny, now 46 and a father-of-five, said: "I wanted to stand here for so long. My mother wanted to see this - I'm seeing it for her."

Michael Lewis of Yellow Duck said: "It was a whirlwind visit, but Donny spent time talking to local people.

"As well as the crowds of fans who followed him wanting autographs and pictures once word had got out, there were also locals who chatted to him over the garden wall as if he was just the bloke delivering the bread."

Donny also met his fourth cousin once removed, Jane Cresswell, who admitted that she was not so star-struck as some.

"I'm not a pop fan - I'm more of a classical music person, so I think I probably didn't show the amount of enthusiasm that was expected of me," she laughed.

"But he's a very nice person and it was nice to meet him."

Donny is also seen singing Bread of Heaven with the Dowlais Male Choir, whose chairman Graham Clarke said: "When Donny walked in, the lads were aghast."

But he added: "He so easily fitted in - there was no shyness.

"He came and stood by us and we sang a few pieces - great stuff."




SEE ALSO:
Mother of Osmond performers dies
10 May 04 |  Entertainment
The Osmonds and fans make comeback
14 Jul 03 |  Entertainment
Donny's doting dames
03 Apr 01 |  Entertainment
Osmonds hope for UK comeback
21 Apr 99 |  Entertainment


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