A Day In The Life Of The Cowsills
Frantic! Hectic! Exciting! These are the only words to describe an average day spent in the company of America's First Family of Pop.
Frantic! Hectic! Exciting!
These all now seem to me to be words that were specifically designed to describe an average day spent in the company of the Cowsills.
... A day like the one I spent with them yesterday.
It began at 7:00 a.m. when, still rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I rang the buzzer of the apartment they call "home" while they're in
"Hi! I'm John!" a small boy dressed in bright red pajamas exclaimed, welcoming me in. His glowing smile and firm handshake reminded me of an experienced politician greeting potential voters for
"I'm—" I started to say, attempting to introduce myself, but before I could finish I found myself holding a tiny, black poodle puppy which
had been thrust into my hands by a little girl with the most unruly bangs hanging in her eyes that I'd ever seen.
"His name is Suba," the little girl said, introducing the puppy. "And I'm Susan."
"Hey, you kids, can't you give a person time to take off their coat? Where are your manners?" a slender, blonde woman, whose figure I automatically envied, scolded gently as she walked across the room to greet me.
"Hi! I'm Barbara Cowsill," she said, shaking hands. "You must be the reporter from IN. Can I offer you a cup of coffee?
"You kids hurry and get dressed now. You'll be late for school," Barbara ordered, accepting my nod for a cup of coffee and supervising the children at the same time.
"Do you find it more hectic managing the family since the whole star thing happened?" I opened, asking the most obvious question.
"No. Actually, I find that both their father and I spend more time with the kids than ever before. Naturally, it's hectic ..."
"You see, Mom heard of close families," Barry interrupted, holding out his choice of a tie for approval, "but not this close!"
"As I was saying," Barbara continued, nodding her approval of the tie and inspecting Susan and John's choices of sweaters at the same time, "it's hectic!"
"I'm really still in a period of adjustment. After twenty years of being a housewife and mother, suddenly I'm a singer—that takes getting used to."
At that point, Bud Cowsill (Father Cowsill) entered the apartment.
"Did you get them there on time?" Barbara questioned.
"Yep," Bud replied. "But the traffic sure was heavy."
"Oh! Pardon me!" Barbara exclaimed, turning her attention to me again. "I'm sorry. You see, Bill and Bob had to report to the Draft Board this morning for their physicals, and as usual, they overslept. Their Dad had to drive them downtown.
"Actually, I don't blame them for oversleeping this morning. They were up pretty late last night working over the arrangements for our next album."
"Right. We start recording this afternoon as soon as the boys get back," Bud said.
After overseeing Barry, John and Susan's departure for school, and fixing breakfast for Paul, the newest member of the group, Barbara and Bud took me upstairs to the office suite of their manager, Len Stogel. There the daily process of opening the Cowsills' fan mail began.
"Is it always this heavy?" I asked, looking at the two large U.S. Mail sacks next to the desk reserved for the Cowsills.
"Generally," Barbara replied, opening a letter.
"You know, I'm always amazed at the letters we get. They've really changed some of my own attitudes about what children think about. Like take this one
for example," she said, handing me a letter.
I was amazed. The letter, written by a fifteen-year-old fan from Chicago, asked Barbara in sensible and sensitive language to explain how she dealt with the problems of bridging the so-called "generation gap."
"How do you answer something like this?" I asked.
"I don't know," Barbara answered. "I guess, that I try to remember what I felt like at the same age and mix it with what I feel now as a forty-year-old woman and mother whose whole life has been forced to change because of what her children are doing.
"Actually, I guess I try to act in writing like I'd always like to be able to act in reality—like someone who understands everything that her own kids do and say, or tries to."
Lunch, despite the protests of a representative from their recording company with an eye on impressing the press, was had in the Cowsills' apartment.
Barbara's specialty, grilled frankfurters and beans, served in a casserole with a melted cheese topping, was, in fact, a welcome relief from expensive restaurant food.
By the time we had finished lunch, Barry, John and Susan had arrived home from school.
I decided to ask Susan about her feelings about being a member of the group:
"It's nice," she said, pausing for a moment from bouncing up and down astride an enormous red rubber ball. "You know, you get to go a lot of places and meet a lot of people."
"What's been your biggest experience as a Cowsill?" I asked.
"Almost meeting Davy Jones," she responded instantly.
"How did you almost meet Davy Jones?"
"Well, you see, when we were in California we were supposed to spend an hour with him seeing the studios. But then, his manager said we could only be with him for three minutes; so we turned him down.
"Now I don't care if I never get to see a hair on Davy Jones' head!"
"What do you like to do most?" I asked.
"I don't know. I guess sometimes I just like to be alone. When everybody else is out, I sometimes like to play with our
"How do the other kids in school react to your being Cowsills?" I asked Susan, Barry and John collectively.
"Well," Barry replied, "they're okay. You see, we go to a professional children's school where all the other kids are in showbusiness, too. So it doesn't impress them that we're stars."
"Do you miss living in Newport?" I asked. (Newport, R.I., is where the Cow-sill family comes from.)
"Especially now that it's getting near summer," John answered. "Here, if you want to be alone in the sun for a few minutes, you have to walk a mile to find a park. In Newport, we could just walk out our door."
"What about your friends in Newport?" I asked Susan. "How do you keep in touch with them?"
"I don't really," she answered. "Except for one. And she's my very best friend in the whole world. We write each other, and my mother says she can come to New York this summer to visit me if her mother lets her."
"Do you find it easy to make new friends on the road when you're travelling?"
"Not really," she answered. "We don't really have much time to meet people. But here in the city I'm friendly with our manager's daughter and some of the kids in school."
"What about the fan mail you receive? How do you feel about that?"
"It's lots of fun. There was this one letter I got from this girl. She lives in Grand Rapids. She said that her mother said it would be alright for me to stay over at their house anytime we're in Grand Rapids."
Bill, Bob and Paul returned as I finished speaking to Susan. They were soon followed by IN's record columnist and associate editor, Bob Arnold, and a team of IN photographers.
Together we all left to drive to a nearby airport where some of the photographs which accompany this article were shot.
On the way I asked Bob, who is a student at Pace College, how being a member of the group affected his studies.
"Of course, it makes it harder to keep up with the work," Bob said. "You know, both I and Bill, who is also studying at Pace, find we have to study twice as hard. But so far, we've both been able to maintain B+ averages."
"What about the Draft? How do you think that's going to affect your position with the group?" I asked.
"Naturally, Bill and I would rather stay on as active members of the group," Bob said. "But neither of us wants to avoid
"As you already know, Paul has joined the group. He'll be able to fill Bill's or my spot if one of us is called into the service."
At the airport things became even more frantic than ever. With small private planes taking off and landing all around them, the photographers and the Cowsills rushed to finish the photo session.
Here is where the Cowsills professionalism really showed. Normally, it can take hours to do a photography session with a group. However, with the Cowsills things went so smoothly that the whole session was finished in half the time that had been allotted for it.
At the end of the session the photographers complimented the Cowsills by saying they were "the most cooperative group" they had ever had to photograph.
Then it was back to New York to the MGM Records' recording studios. There the Cowsills were to begin work on their newest LP, Captain Sad and His Ship of Fools.
At the recording studio it was the same story of professionalism all over again.
Unlike many groups who waste valuable studio time by coming to sessions without having rehearsed properly, the Cowsills were ready to start recording the moment they came to the studio.
And all of the group were particularly proud of the songs they were recording, because they had been written by Bill and Bob.
I asked Bill why the group had chosen to do only Cowsill written material.
"Well, for one thing," he said, "it's become important in the music business that a group only record material written by members of the group. But more important than that is the fact that we know what we can do best and write with that in mind."
The session ended near eight o'clock.
After a light supper back at the Cowsills'
apartment. I bade them goodnight. I, for
one, was completely exhausted. But they
still seemed raring to go. But then, it had
only been an average day in the life of the
Cowsills—they were used to it.