MANISTEE — Anyone hankering to take a break from the headlines of the day need look no further than the 2018 Happy Together Tour, coming to the Little River Casino Resort this summer.
The concert will begin at 8 p.m. on Aug. 11. Tickets for the concert go on sale Friday at www.lrcr.com.
The tour is named for the solid gold single “Happy Together” sung by the Turtles in 1967. As founders of the tour, the Turtles will be a part of the show along with Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night; Gary Puckett & The Union Gap; The Association; The Cowsills; and Mark Lindsay, formerly of Paul Revere & The Raiders.
Paul Cowsill, in a telephone interview from his farm in Oregon, pointed out that his family band has loved every minute of being part of the tour.
“This is our fourth year and for me it’s junior high and high school all over again,” he said. “Four years ago when my brother and sister and I first went out on this tour we stood at the side of the stage and we were just loving it.”
These days the Cowsills consist of siblings Paul, Bob and Susan. For the past 14 years brother John has been busy as the drummer for the Beach Boys, so he joins them only on rare occasions.
In the heyday the group was managed by father William Sr., mother Barbara sang, and the other sons in the band included William Jr. and Barry. Barbara died in 1985, William Sr. in 1992, Barry in 2005, William Jr. in 2006, and Richard, the only nonperforming family member, in 2014.
The oldest Cowsill brothers began playing music together in the early 1960s, but it was after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 that they committed themselves to a career in music.
“The Beatles were definitely an early inspiration for the Cowsills,” Paul said. “My brother Bill, the oldest, and my brother Bob went haywire after they saw the Beatles. They had been playing folk music, but that Sunday night was the tipping point for my brothers.”
Cowsill said one thing his brothers learned watching the Beatles was that there could be a bass guitar in a band.
“Before long they started adding people and trying to build up a band like the Beatles,” Cowsill said. “Little did they know we weren’t going to be the Beatles or the Stones because real soon our mother was going to be in the band.”
If a family band with the mother in a lead singing role sounds like “The Partridge Family” TV show, that’s because the series that ran from 1970 to 1974 was based on the Cowsills. Paul said that when Screen Gems was working on the concept for the show they lived with the Cowsills for a week.
“Later on I learned that one of the young men who came to our house was Michael Eisner, who went on to become CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” Cowsill said.
None of the Cowsills were included in the TV show because Screen Gems had already cast Shirley Jones as the mother, so Cowsills father/manager told them if his wife could not have that role, none of the children were going to be in the show.
“We always felt that we were musicians and singers and we didn’t want to be actors,” Paul said. “We also didn’t understand television at that time, but I think if we had done the show a lot of things would have been different; and maybe not in a good way.”
Little did the Cowsills know, as they watched the Beatles on that Sunday night on the Ed Sullivan show, that just three years later, in 1967, they would be on it performing “The Rain, The Park and Other Things.”
Paul said he wasn’t with the band in the recording studio in the early days, “but I was singing when we were live and on the road because we were all on the road. In fact, once we started we were never at home again.”
Like the Partridge Family, they were off from Newport, R.I. on a bus tour of the United States and ended up in California.
“Our bus was like a Greyhound – it had all the seats in it,” Paul said. “It wasn’t set up for bunks or anything. We literally sat up in our seats for hours and hours.”
Hits “Indian Lake” and “Hair” followed “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” and their upbeat music started getting included in the bubble gum genre that popped up in the late 1960s.
“Bubble gum was a thrown-around description that was overused and became derogatory,” Cowsill said. “They called our music bubble gummy, but we were very serious about what we were doing – serious as a heart attack. That’s why I felt bad for the older brothers because they were working just as hard as Morrison or Jimi Hendrix or any of them.”
Cowsill said the term bubble gum music started with a Bob Dylan interview for Rolling Stone magazine.
“They asked him what he thought of music by groups like the Cowsills and he said, ‘Man, I think it’s great because with all the protest music and what is going on in the world today sometimes it’s nice to just sit back, chew a piece of bubble gum, have a carefree attitude and talk about love and happiness.’
“Overall Bob Dylan spoke in a very positive way about the kind of music we were doing, but it really hurt my older brothers because they took our work very seriously.”
Cowsill told a story about how the band was once attacked with bubble gum.
“We were on our way to a show at a college in Denver and the student body president met the bus to tell us the students didn’t want us to perform. He offered to pay us half of the fee just to leave. But we got together and decided we would do the show.
“So we went out there and they were throwing Double Bubble at us – which was OK with me because it’s my favorite gum. But then my mom and sister started getting hit so we sent them off and proceeded to play the songs from the Who album “Tommy” and everybody loved it and we got a standing ovation.”
Cowsill agreed that just as their music offered a break from the tensions of the late 1960s, the Happy Together Tour can do the same today.
“It’s a real good way to take a couple of hours and go back and enjoy some really good music by the guys who did it originally,” he said “We’ll play to 10,000 to 20,000 people at some of these fairs this summer and they are all our age. They keep coming to the concerts as long as we keep doing them.”
Sometimes younger people get interested in the music, such as when “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” was featured in the movie Dumb and Dumber.
“What they do these days is hear that song and they go on the internet to find out about it and they download it and then they come to our concerts and have us sign the old albums they’d found online,” Cowsill said.
“I remember one girl said,’Yeah, I loved the flower girl song’ and she got a serious look on her face and said, ‘and then I went very deep into your family.’
“It’s weird how they can get all the information just by the web. They can be more up to date than the people who lived it. That’s always interesting to us.”
Cowsill said they really enjoy hanging around after the shows to talk with the fans.
“They are so excited that they can still hear this music, and we’re excited to be able to keep playing it. ‘The Rain, the Park and Other Things’ and ‘Hair’ are two anthems that enable us to do what we are doing now.
The Cowsills website, cowsill.com, offers a petition to get the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“We do have some things under our belt that would probably allow us in there, but it’s a tough club to get into and I don’t know if we’re going to make it,” Paul said “But, you know, I’m going to say we deserve it because here I am nearly 67 and we’re still rockin’ this stuff – really, really rockin’ it. We don’t change any keys and people are seeing that we are the real deal. People hear us now and say, ‘These guys are good.'”
Happy Together Tour 2018
Formed in Los Angeles, 1965
Biggest hits: “Happy Together” (1967); “She’s Rather Be With Me” (1967); “Elenor” (1968); “You Showed Me” (1969)
Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night
Formed in Los Angeles, 1967
Biggest hits: “Mamma Told Me Not to Come” (1970); “Joy to the World” (1971); “Black and White” (1972)
Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Formed in San Diego, 1967
Biggest hits: “Young Girl” (1968); “Lady Willpower” (1968); “This Girl is a Woman Now” (1969)
Formed in Los Angeles, 1965
Biggest hits: “Cherish” (1966); “Along Comes Mary” (1966); “Windy” (1967); “Never My Love” (1967)
Mark Lindsay, former lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders
Formed in Boise, Idaho, 1958
Biggest hits: “Kicks” (1966); “Hungry” (1966); “Indian Reservation” (1971)
Formed in Newport, R.I., 1965
Biggest hits: “The Rain, the Park and other Things” (1967); “Indian Lake” (1968); “Hair” (1969)