Part 11. The Osmonds

At the last count there were over four hundred thousand Osmonds and it wasn't so long ago that there was genuine fear that they would overrun the planet. Thankfully we now know that the population has reached equilibrium.

The Osmonds were first discovered working in a barbershop by the impresario Snippy McAlister. Formerly a top stylist, McAlister had by this time hung up his curling tongs and moved into management, grooming many a promising young hairdresser for success. It was McAlister who first spotted Jeff Lynne giving feather cuts in an experimental salon in Carnaby Street; and had it not been for McAlister's eye for talent the world might still be unaware of Meatloaf's legendary blow wave.

Right from the get-go it was clear that the Osmonds could pull a crowd, with people coming from all over the country to see them give a short back and sides. Gradually they started to play some of the bigger hairdressing festivals and it wasn't long before they were topping the bill.

In the beginning there were only six Osmonds - Merril, Jaye, Donny, Beaky, Mick and Titch - and quite often there would be arguments over curlers, or fights about thinning scissors. Mostly these were just minor spats that amounted to little, but in time resentment grew. Things finally got out of hand at the National Wig Convention in 1971 when, just after the group went on for the second half of their set, a badly wired hairdryer exploded in Jaye's hand. There was widespread panic as the local hair brigade rushed to the scene and made the appliance safe. Jaye suffered seven degree burns, one more than the recommended dose, and doctors proclaimed that he would never drive a tractor again. The official story was that the group had been sabotaged by a rival salon but Snippy McAlister knew that it had to be an inside job. The Osmonds and their entourage were consumed with suspicion as the blame was variously placed on individual members. But when the smoking screwdriver was eventually discovered in Beaky's dressing room, he could no longer deny his guilt.

Beaky was ejected from the group, a decision he took extremely badly and he swore to avenge himself by wiping out his brothers with a diabolical death ray. The episode was something of a setback for Osmonds and heralded a period of reflection, particularly for Donny who opened a mirror shop. They didn't perform in public again for another six months and when they finally re-emerged they took a radical new direction. Hairdressing, they decided, was old hat. Whilst they were growing up Solly 'Scissors' Shapney, Colin 'Three Fingers' Phillips and indeed Snippy McAlister himself were all big stars. Kids looked up to them as heroes, had posters all over their bedroom walls and collected their bubble gum cards. But this was the seventies, the music scene was where it was at and the Osmonds knew that they would have to adapt. It wasn't easy. Music and cutting hair might seem like two sides of the very same coin but in reality they were actually very different and at first Meryl found it very difficult to resist the temptation to drag members of the front row up on stage and treat them to a buzz cut.

As for Beaky, well to date he has not made good on this threat to vaporise his former band mates, variously excusing himself by saying that he couldn't get the parts for his death ray or that the financing had fallen through. Nevertheless, he is remembered today chiefly as the 'Evil Osmond', and was last heard of attempting recruit henchmen in East Asia via a reality show called North Korea's Got Villains.

None of this is true, by the way.

Ricky Stratocaster is currently offering a reward for any information that might lead to the recovery of his missing haddock, Geoff.

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