Mrs Cobb by Jimmy Osmond

20th November 2015 at 00:00
Amid the many distractions of touring – not least the lure of Elvis Presley’s foot spa – one teacher fought to keep this child star’s tuition on track

I was performing with my family from the age of 3 so I never went to school. Instead, I was taught on the road.

In California, every child entertainer had to have a welfare worker or teacher who went with you wherever you went. I had lots of them but Mrs Cobb, who taught me a lot in my younger years, stood out because she really cared about me.

The law states that you can only work a set number of hours before having a break and then doing a certain amount of schoolwork. Mrs Cobb didn’t mind which big star she was dealing with – it could be Andy Williams or Jerry Lewis, but if they ran one minute over their allotted time, she would make a scene.

Producers never liked her, as she’d cause trouble on set with lots of loud outbursts. Later, I realised this was because she had my interests at heart and I was appreciative of that. Now, it means a lot to me.

She was elderly and had bright red hair. I used to call her Mrs Corn on the Cob. She was pretty extrovert and used to smack the table to get my attention. I tried to be a diligent student, but I had so much stimulation as a kid it was difficult to focus.

Sometimes I was taught with my sister Marie, but as I was the youngest I was usually on my own. I completed correspondence courses, so I’d receive the work by mail, follow the curriculum and then go to training centres to be tested. I missed out on the social side of school: proms and football and all that. My school reunion is a class of one.

It would have been fun to have friends my age – most were older – but then I never would have had the life experiences I did.

If we’re praising teachers, I also have to pay credit to my mother, Olive Osmond. She came from a line of schoolteachers and she made sure that none of the family slacked off on our education.

My brothers and I had military bunks because there were so many of us, and we had a schoolroom with a chalkboard. She would get us up in the morning and we would read and write and study.

Was she strict? Not really, but my dad was an army sergeant and he made sure we did what she said.

I would do my schoolwork anywhere and everywhere. In the 1970s, we shared a schedule with Elvis Presley and performed in the same Las Vegas hotel. We did two shows a day and I’d study in between. Elvis always let me work from his penthouse suite. I remember once my feet were killing me from tap dancing so I sat among his jumpsuits and used his foot spa. I felt so stupid when he came in.

My education suffered because I didn’t have consistency as a child. Later in life, I completed courses to bring my reading, writing and maths up to the standard they should be. Although I had great successes in many other parts of my life, I don’t know if I was good at anything academically and that affected my self-esteem.

However, thanks to Mrs Cobb and my mom, I completed high school and went to college.

I grew up in such a unique way that it was difficult for me to concentrate on my education, so I’m grateful to them for keeping me on track.

Jimmy Osmond was talking to Kate Bohdanowicz. He is performing alongside the rest of The Osmonds as part of the Andy Williams Christmas Spectacular tour in December. For tickets, visit ticketmaster.co.uk

Stage schooled

Jimmy Osmond

Born 16 April 1963, California

Education Homeschooled; Brigham Young University, Utah; Stevens-Henager College, Utah (both for a short time)

Career Youngest of the 1970s group The Osmonds and a solo artist in his own right

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