Imagine combining a one-time American pop star and a veteran Winnipeg rocker and ending up with a country band.
The initial success of the Blue Shadows suggests otherwise.
Billy Cowsill, who enjoyed three Top 10 hits in the late ‘60s with the Cowsills, credits one-time Manitoban Jeffrey Hatcher with invigorating his career. It all began during an audition for a guitarist when Cowsill asked Hatcher if he also handled vocals.
“As soon as he started singing it got real exciting for me again. We knew it wa a musical love affair,” Cowsill said.
“He rekindled my muse. I was getting pretty tired after 15 years of the same old bar scene.”
The band released its debut album On The Floor Of Heaven in 1993 to critical acclaim. Their lovely harmonies immediately drew comparisons to the Everly Brothers and even the Beatles. They play the North 40 in Brandon Friday and Saturday night.
Hatcher is no stranger to the city, playing here with bands like Jeffrey Hatcher and the Big Beat. He moved to Vancouver in 1991, meeting Cowsill through K.D. Lang’s manager Larry Wanagas.
Cowsill and Hatcher now constantly write songs together, with a sensible solution for who handles lead vocals.
“Whoever sounds best singing it, sings it,” Cowsill says.
On The Floor Of Heaven sold 25,000 copies, an encouraging debut in Canada but far from the hundreds of thousands he sold in the ‘60s.
The Cowsills, which also included Billy’s mother and five of his siblings, was the premise for the TV sitcom The Partridge Family. Their hits included The Rain, The Park and Other Things, We Can Fly, Indian Lake, and Hair.
Cowsill prefers to leave those days in his distant past.
“That was kind of then,” he says. “I had a good time at it and it was a good run but it was almost 32 years ago. It’s kind of a fading memory.”
The unsuccessful launch of a solo career eventually led Cowsill through a bout with alcoholism and a nomadic existence that resulted in stops in Tulsa, Yellowknife, New Orleans and Austin. He landed permanently in Vancouver in 1979, a move he says he doesn’t regret.
“I’m a landed immigrant,” he says. “It’s really nice to have swinging doors. I love Canada and this is where I want to live. I wouldn’t live in the United States for a residence if you paid me. Look at it.”
Those swinging doors are beginning to open in the U.S. for the Blue Shadows. Three labels are currently negotiating for the right to release the band’s material in the huge American market.
And Cowsill suggests the followup album Luck To Me – which was released May 24 – should whet the appetite of country music fans.
“I look at it like this,” he says. “The first album was a medium pepperoni pizza. This one is the family economy size. It’s bigger, it’s wider and it’s deeper.”