July 12, 2006

The Cowsills

From the Wikipedia entry:

"The Cowsills were a band specializing in what would later be defined as 'Pop' or 'Bubblegum' Rock. The band was formed in the spring of 1965 by four brothers — Barry, Bill, Bob, and John Cowsill — in Newport, Rhode Island.
After their initial success, the brothers were later joined by their siblings Susan and Paul and their mother, Barbara.

Originally inspired by the Beatles, the Cowsills developed their musicianship and harmonized vocals in performances at school dances and churches in their hometown. They were encouraged by their parents, Barbara and Bud Cowsill, who drove them around to shows in the family's station wagon.

The band drew increasing attention through the 1960's as their musical proficiency improved. In late 1965, the initial four members were hired as a regular act on Bannisters Wharf in Newport where they would sing Beatle songs hour after hour.

In 1966, the band were signed by MGM records, and shortly after Barbara - who would become known to their fans affectionately as "Mini-Mom" due to her diminutive stature - joined the group to record 'The Rain, The Park and Other Things'. Shortly thereafter the band was expanded yet again to include siblings Susan and Paul.

cover by Jack Davis

With the success of 'The Rain, The Park and Other Things' the band quickly became a popular act in the U.S., and achieved significant airplay in England and other parts of Europe. 'The Rain, The Park and Other Things' wound up reaching #2 on the Billboard charts, and sold some three million copies in its first release.

In 1969 they had another number two hit with their version of the title song from the musical Hair.

The Cowsills also made many television appearances throughout the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, including on their own television special. They were approached at one point to play the roles of the children on the television series The Partridge Family, but they were not willing to have actress Shirley Jones play the role of their mother instead of their real mother. The Cowsills were also known as spokespeople for the American Dairy Association, appearing in advertisements promoting milk.

In 1971, following a series of personal problems among the family members, and sqabbles and disagreements between each other, the Cowsills stopped playing together as a band. The individual members went on to various career attempts within and outside of the music industry, and some produced albums and performed from time to time, albeit not as the Cowsills in their full membership during the remainder of the 70's and up through the majority of the following decade."

A group of fans have started a a drive to get The Cowsills inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and they compiled the following list of career accomplishments:

  • The Cowsills hold more gold records than 115 of the 147 current Hall of Fame members inducted as performers.

  • Billy played guitar on the song "Right On" recorded by Ike Turner.

  • Susan is the youngest rock performer to have a Top Ten hit.

  • John was part of the first American rock group to play in the Republic of China.

  • The Cowsills had the first live album to feature a studio track when In Concert featured "Hair."

  • Hall of Famer Bob Marley used to cover Cowsill songs.

  • The Cowsills were the first of only 5 album covers done for rock bands by famous cartoonist Jack Davis.

  • Billy once recorded with a guitar borrowed from John Lennon.

  • The band's true worth is illustrated by the fact that they were initially "discovered" by Johnny Nash's all black R&B label, JODA and they were ask to headline with future Hall of Famers' Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and The Beach Boys before they had their first hit record at Soundblast '66 in Yankee Stadium.

    Don't you know there's a great story there (behind the scenes)! A book search at Amazon.com for "cowsills" turns up nothing. That's unbelievable. No documentaries on DVD or VHS, either. They sort of dropped off the pop culture map. That's too bad. This person was involved in creating a documentary called The Family Cowsill. I asked her about the documentary in a post mentioning the debut of the documentary's ten minute trailer. She said it's not out yet. I'd really love to see it. The poster for it is intriguing:

    "At home, violence ruled"?? Wow, and I at first thought those mikes and mike stands were bullet wounds with blood dripping down. Is it just me??

    Here is what she says about it in her post: "The ten minute Trailer for our documentary, The Family Cowsill debuted at the Newport, RI, film festival where it appeared as a short film. It was such a hit it was selected to be screened at the Rhode Island Film Festival in August. We are currently sifting through 100 hours of footage in pursuit of our goal of making an entire movie. This we will do. It will be a great movie."

    I can't wait!

    Until then, this is a video with a great compilation of footage of the Cowsills from YouTuber louisepalanker (the same person involved in the aforementioned documentary). The song is called "Some Good Years," and it was on the first album of all new material since 1970, called Global (1998). In the group for Global were Bob, John, Paul, and Susan. At the very beginning is Barry, showing his "luncheon cave." Barry died last year in New Orleans as the result of Katrina:
    Finally, here is the group performing "Folsom Prison Blues" around 1970 from YouTuber mcfaden1. It looks like drummer John (on acoustic guitar) is doing the singing on this one:

    Anonymous said...

    The Cowsills played a live show at my elementary school a few years back. here are the photos of that event.


    Chris said...

    It must have been nice! You are lucky. I didn't see Susan or Barry. Thanks for the link.

    Anonymous said...

    The Cowsills album (with the song "Hair") was the second album I ever bought as a teenager. Wish I still had it.

    Chris said...

    That must have been The Cowsills: In Concert. Those kinds of things get lost in the shuffle too often.

    Anonymous said...

    This is great! Thanks for the update on the documentary.

    Chris said...

    I know, Leslie! I hope they are able to finish it. I'd love to see it in any shape.