What began as a musical project among family members more than 50 years ago has blossomed into one of the most well-known musical acts in history. The Cowsills began in the 1960s as a family venture consisting of brothers who sang and played a variety of instruments. The Rhode Island band quickly became a success, and national notoriety soon followed.
Eventually other family members joined the group, and the legendary band continued to amass fans and records. Over the years, there have been reunions and lineup changes, but the music still endures.
Their music has included the singles “All I Really Wanna Be Is Me,” “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” and, of course, “Hair.”
The Cowsills will play Wednesday, June 14 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as part of the Happy Together tour. They will be joined on stage by The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night, The Association, The Box Tops and Ron Dante.
Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Paul Cowsill about the band’s history and upcoming concert in New Jersey. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.
With such a musical family, was a life in the music industry always in the cards for you from a young age?
Looking back, I guess so. I wanted to be a baseball player or a football player, and I was very good my freshman year of high school. But even [though] my parents said I could stay with a family and continue playing sports, we were a family, and I couldn’t leave the family — mainly my brothers and sister. I loved them more than anything and still do.
Why do you think you and your family’s music has endured for so many years?
I think because of our audiences. They were our age when we were kids, so the music from the ’60s flows through all of us Baby Boomers. I find our audience never had MTV and grew up listening on the radio and going to concerts because that’s where they saw all the bands of the day. It’s timeless music to all of us who lived it.
What can audiences expect when you come to New Jersey this week?
The audience can expect to hear 30 number-one hits done by the people who did them, sounding just like the records. You notice I said record not CD or tape or zip drive. You will be transported back to your junior high days or high school days. That’s what it does for me every night.
How did you first get attached to the Happy Together tour?
Well ,about five years ago, we started hearing about it. We thought we would be perfect for it. Tried and tried to make it happen — with no luck. Then there was a documentary about the family which helped, and Paul Revere, God bless his soul, made a call. And Mark [Volman] and Howard [Kaylan] always wanted us on the tour, and then the stars aligned. And here we are doing it for a third time. We thank Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan and all the agents and all the promotors that took a chance on us.
What would you be doing if not playing music?
I would be working in the studios — television and motion pictures. I have done that kind of work for the last 20 years. I’ve never not had a day job. I’m a greensman, which is a landscaper. I was the on-set greensman for the first Twilight movie, and for the last six years I’ve been working on a TV show called Grimm and most recently was a scenic painter on a show called The Librarians. So I’m a busy guy, and I love it all.