The fact that Susan Cowsill and her big brothers Bob and Paul are part of the Happy Together tour is appropriate on a few levels.
First, the annual tour of 1960s acts is organized by Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who scored a No. 1 hit with “Happy Together” as members of the Turtles.
But for Susan Cowsill, that phrase — happy together — also expresses what it means to perform with her siblings.
“I’m so grateful to still be doing this,” she says. “How lucky can I possibly get to still be able to play with my brothers?”
She adds that she is also delighted to be touring with other bands known for songs from the mid- to late 1960s, such as the Association (“Windy,” “Cherish”), the Buckinghams (“Kind of a Drag”) and the Grass Roots (“Midnight Confessions”).
Also on the bill is Mark Lindsay, who sang lead on “Kicks,” “Just Like Me,” and other hits for Paul Revere and the Raiders. Cowsill laughingly admits that “back in the day,” she had something of a crush on Lindsay.
The Cowsills themselves garnered quite a bit of attention when they started recording in 1965. Here was a true family band: brothers Bill, Barry and Bob, joined on stage by their mother, Barbara. Their father, Bud, was their manager.
Shortly after the Cowsills cut their first record in 1965, the group expanded to include brothers Rich, John and Paul and, eventually, Susan, the youngest child and only girl. In 1967, they had a gold record with “The Rain, the Park & Other Things.”
Almost from the start, Susan knew that music would be her life, not a job.
“At first, I wondered if I really was a musician and an artist, or whether I was just doing this because my brothers did it,” she says. “About four months after I joined, I realized it. I could feel the music in my soul.”
The Cowsills enjoyed popularity in the late 1960s, thanks in part to the novelty of being an actual family, but also because of such songs as “Indian Lake” and “Hair.” The group was cited as the inspiration for the TV series “The Partridge Family.”
In the 1970s, the group dispersed. As with any family, members grew up and moved apart. Most continued to perform, sometimes in combination with the others.
Susan connected with the Americana and power-pop movements. She played with Dwight Twilley and later joined the Continental Drifters (which included members of the Bangles).
Inevitably, the Cowsills suffered losses: Barbara in 1985 and Bud in 1992. Barry, who had been living in New Orleans with Susan, died during Hurricane Katrina. The day before Barry’s memorial service in 2006, Bill, who had been in poor health, died.
Last year, Rich died, leaving Bob, Paul and Susan to carry on the Cowsills name. (John periodically plays with them, but more frequently he tours with the Beach Boys.)
Susan says the passage of time means little once she and her brothers take the stage.
“It’s like getting out an old bike and riding it,” she says.
“Back then, it was exciting and new,” she says. “Now, it’s dear and sweet and deep. The connection with the audiences is so strong. The look on their faces when we start to play ‘The Rain, the Park & Other Things’ is something to see.”
Cowsill enjoys being on the Happy Together tour.
“It’s fun being with our peers,” she says.
Apart from this tour, Susan divides her time between performing with her brothers (which she puckishly calls “Cowsills-land”) and her own group. In 2005, she released her first solo CD, followed by the album “Lighthouse” in 2010.
What’s more, she and her brothers will enter the studio in early 2016, with plans to record a new Cowsills album.
“Bob’s been writing songs. I have songs that don’t fit my Americana sound,” Susan says. “We’ll include unreleased songs written by Barry and Bill. John will join us. It’ll be the Cowsills, back together.”