Togetherness is definitely the motto of the Cowsill family, From the youngest to the oldest. they all work together to produce the happiest, new sound in music.
In the music business, as in every other business, there are some people who you like and respect because they are good craftsmen, and there are others who you like because they are simply nice human beings.
As far as I’m concerned, The Cowsills fall into both categories – good craftsmen and nice human beings.
However, I’ll be honest and admit that a few months ago I couldn’t stand to hear about The Cowsills. In fact, a few months ago I hated them.
I know that must sound as strange to you as the idea of passing-up a chance to date Davy Jones; but allow me to explain why I felt that way.
You see, more than a year ago, a group named The Cowsills had been brought to my attention by their, at the time, recording company. To say the best that I can about them, they were mediocre. If The Cowsills weren’t The Worst Group Of The Century then, they were running a close second.
So, having suffered through the first disaster, when the word started to go round that The Cowsills were going to be 1968’s Super-Stars, I shook my head in dismay. “They must have gotten a very imaginative publicity agent,” I said to myself.
They had – together with an imaginative, new manager, Len Stogel, and one of the best songwriters in the business, Artie Kornfeld. The Cowsills were a new package entirely.
However, packaging, as everybody knows, does not always make a quality product.
Quality, as far as The Cowsills were concerned, was the result of something different altogether. In fact, it was the result of what every teenager wants most – the inseparable duo, love and confidence.
And here is where I don’t want to get maudlin, because it’s easy, so I’ll ask you a question.
If you were to tell your parents that you still wanted to be a musician, having failed once, would you expect that they would sacrifice everything, including a house they loved, to see you succeed?
The answer has to be a logical NO. Right?
But that is exactly what The Cowsills’ parents did.
“If you don’t believe in your children, what else are you going to believe in?” Barbara Cowsill, The Cowsills’ incredible, 40-year-old, mini-skirted mother, told me recently at a rehearsal for The Ed Sullivan Show.
“We didn’t feel that we were making any real sacrifice as a family, because we were all sharing in the fun of seeing the group succeed,” Barbara continued. “Of course, we did get tired of eating beans all the time … But that’s another story …”
“And don’t get her started on it!” Bud Cowsill, Father Cowsill, who acts as the road manager for the group, broke in. “She enjoys telling people how poor we were. It’s her way of shaming me into buying her a new dress.”
Actually it would be very difficult to shame Bud Cowsill into anything. After twenty years spent in the Navy as an engineer, Bud gives orders – he doesn’t take them.
But, he does listen …
Especially when 20-year-old Bill Cowsill, the titular leader of the group, talks. Bill has the say where The Cowsills’ music is concerned.
Bill definitely appreciates his parents’ confidence in the group. “You know,” he told me, “everybody else who I know kicks about how their parents are always bothering them. But I’ve never experienced that. I’ve really got to compliment Mom and Dad for allowing us to do what we wanted to do. It wasn’t easy. They could have just said NO to the group at the start, but they didn’t. And that’s why we’re making it today.”
Barry Cowsill, who is emerging as the audience-idol of the group, agreed with Bill. “Mom and Dad – especially Mom – are more like friends than parents,” he said. “You know, they share the excitement of doing things with us, instead of sitting back and congratulating themselves about being ‘adults’.”
But, it was eight-year-old Susie Cowsill who summed up the feeling of being a member of the group perfectly. “It’s lots of fun,” she said. “We all have fun, because we like doing things together.”
One of the things that impresses you most about The Cowsills is their friendly attitude toward other people. For example, during the course of our interview, they took time out to play a number for the daughter of one of the stagehands in the studio. The girl was blind.
“A lot of people seem to think that it’s square to be nice to other people,” Bob Cowsill said after the incident. “But we don’t feel that way. We feel that it is right to go out of the way, if necessary, to be nice. You know, we feel that people should act like good friends toward one another.”
Maybe, it is The Cowsills’ friendly attitude that give their music such a neighborly sound.