Love, they say, is sweeter the second time around.
Well, success is even sweeter for Billy Cowsill.
There were times when the future looked anything but rosy.
Following the success of The Cowsills, who topped the charts in the ‘60s with songs like Hair and The Rain, The Park And Other Things as well as their version of Hair, Billy disappeared down a very large bottle with the help of some hard living friends like John Hiatt and Joe Ely.
“There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it,” says Cowsill, who performs on Prince’s Island with his mates in The Blue Shadows as part of the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
“Hell, it’s rare that I even have pipes left after what I’ve put down my gullet. We’ve all been there and to come back is a major miracle.”
That miracle is The Blue Shadows, which centres around the songwriting and singing of Cowsill and Jeffrey Hatcher. The group’s recently released sophomore disc, Lucky To Me, represents the full flowering of both men’s musical talent. It is a masterful blend of ‘60s style pop-rock and cutting-edge country, all of it delivered with harmonies that echo the Everly Brothers at their finest.
“It’s just evolution, just playing with the group and growing. There’s a tougher edge to The Blue Shadows now without losing that pretty quality. With the first record, we served our calling card. Now, we’re ready to kick the saloon doors in,” says Cowsill, who moved to Vancouver for the U.S. in the early ‘80s.
Cowsill says the first time the musical spotlight shone in his direction he “was 19, just coming up and everything was like a child’s wonder. I was just caught in a wave and had no control over where it took me.
“Now, well, it’s so novel to be present at one’s own existence and to be able to guide the ship to where I feel it should go. I feel really blessed.”
While the new album takes off for The Blue Shadows, which also features J.B. Johnson on drums and Barry Muir on bass and vocals, Cowsill already had experienced the “validation” of his many years in music.
He participated recently in a benefit tribute concert for Sweet Relief, the organization that raises money for musicians in need of fund for medical reasons.
“They hold these on a monthly basis and we were invited to one in Los Angeles and it was a tribute to the Everlys . . . how convenient,” says Cowsill, laughing.
“Just Jeffrey and I went down, two fools on stools, Brian Wilson performed Elvin Bishop sang So Sad To Watch Good Love Go Bad and it was absolutely chilling. Anyway, Jeffrey and I decided to do rarer, B-side Everlys and we just belted those puppies out.
“We did four songs and all of a sudden the first row stood up and then the wave happened and we got a standing ovation. The staunchest of Everly Brothers fans were coming up to us and saying: ‘You nailed the essence, man. You made our hairs stand on end.’
“It was a magical, magical time for me,” says Cowsill.
“It was a really cool validation of all the work I’ve put in and the bull that I went through and all those times and tribulations.”