Walking with your heroes can be tough, especially for musicians. You are, first and foremost, a fan. Playing someone else’s tunes is tough enough without having the extra baggage of really liking both the original artists and the material. Okay, you get the idea. Now, if you are a musician who is probably a hero yourself, the stakes rise. Case in point is Billy Cowsill. Billy grew up in the public eye as a member of the popular 1960’s group of siblings and their Mom, The Cowsills. The band scored a bunch of Top Ten hits including a version of the title track from the hip and popular musical, Hair, as well as delivering the theme song for the television program, Love American Style. So, Billy was a hero to many.
Listening to the re-issues of The Blue Shadows work casts a neon arrow towards the band that may have caught Billy’s attention, The Everly Brothers. Billy and Blue Shadows harmony partner, Jeffrey Hatcher, nail the two part vocal pairing The Brothers brought to life. The Blue Shadows stay true to the sound The Everly Brothers married to the voices. On some levels, the music of The Blue Shadows stays more Roots than the lean towards Pop of their forbearers.
After Cowsill fame, Billy toured Canada for a few years in the '80s with the band Blue Northern, putting out one album. He then led his own act, The Billy Cowsill Band playing traditional country songs. The creation of other bands led to the addition of Jeffrey Hatcher, whose cult status was cemented with Jeffrey Hatcher and The Big Beat.
The Blue Shadows were formed in Vancouver in the early 1990’s and landed a deal with Sony Music, releasing their debut, ‘On the Floor of Heaven’, in 1993. The band set their course guided by the star of honky tonk country, with a nod to early Beatles, incorporating simple George Harrison style riffs with big fat notes. The sound of The Blue Shadows, if set up against the music around today, is Alt Country gold. In the early 90’s, the only comparisons were Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds collaborations when they could be in the same room without non-musical drama.
Like all things, time and luck play a huge part in the success of projects. ‘On the Floor of Heaven’ received critical acclaim in Canada upon it release, as did its successor, ‘Lie to Me’. The band’s potential was never even given a chance in the United States. The debut was never released south of the Canadian border and the album became a last gem, gathering fans by word of mouth only.