The Cowsills have several phenomena to their credit:
- They are numerous (nine in total),
- They are a family which sings, plays, stays together (and still like one another)
- And as The Cowsills (to distinguish from the Cowsill family), they have taken family singing and made it top pop material.
Although it might seem difficult to maintain individuality within a group structure sech a The Cowsills’ professional life, Bub, Barbara, Bob, Paul, John, Barry and Susan succeed admirably and easily.
The family now lives in a rambling, Spanish-style house in Santa Monica, Calif., which is both homey and roomy, the latter a necessity, the former a natural result of numerous people living happy and healthy lives.
The sides of the pool boast an accumulation of bikes and water-sports paraphernalia. At one side is the former bath house which now serves as The Cowsills’ rehearsal hall.
The high ceiling of the living room ha the acoustical power to boost their six voices to the pitch of a good sized chorale and transform two guitars to a full orchestra sound. Upstairs are the boys’ lairs and Susan’s own room (a distinction she rates as only girl, share by Bob Cowsill, as oldest son living at home).
The kitchen is large; the dishwasher is a perpetual motion machine; the pot of coffee on the stove ever full. The laundred shirts piled on top of the dining room table waiting to be packed stagger the imagination.
And, somehow, Barbara Cowsill manages to keep family and fireside in running order.
It isn’t “Hollywood” thank goodness. It’s home.
And The Cowsills aren’t just performers, they’re marvelous people.
Their original cast family runs something like this:
Bud Cowsill, the “pater familias” of the Cowsills, is obviously the founding father of what has proven quite an American institution. He’s also quite obviously an organizational genius.
Barbara Cowsill, Bud’s wife, mother of seven Cowsills, and The Cowsills’ “mini-mom,” is a self-admitted professional housewife and kitchen singer who became a professional entertainer by accident and coercion on the part of her offspring.
Bill Cowsill, the eldest son of the family, has not been singing with the group he originated for – spell. He is now married and following his inclination to become an independent record producer.
Paul Cowsill, until recently, was the football-playing member of the Cowsills. He joined The Cowsills when Uncle Sam picked Dick and Bill moved on to do his thing.
Dick Cowsill, formerly, road manager for The Cowsills, is now winding his tour of duty in Viet Nam, and is a non-singer both by inclination and family request.
Barry Cowsill is the Cowsill family’s personality with a capital “P.” Both singer and guitar man for the group, his feminine teenage fans are legion (“e-e-ek! Ba-a-a-ar-r-y!”)
John Cowsill, the youngest male Cowsill, is also the youngest drummer ever to play on a hit record. The Cowsills’ recent million – selling “Hair.” He is the lead singer for The Cowsills’ recent hit, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” and like Barry, has a sizable femme following (“Dear Mrs. Cowsill: I have a problem. I’m in love with your son, John, and my parents think I’m crazy.”)
Susan Cowsill is the youngest and only girl Cowsill. At 10, she’s not yet a femme fatale, but she’s definitely a charmer as witnessed by her Thanksgiving appearance with Dean Martin – and working up to the first category.
Suebar Cowsill isn’t a “Blood relation,” but an adopted member of the Cowsill family, Susan’s black poodle. Depending on which Cowsill you consult, Suebar’s reputation runs the gamut from “adorable” to “dumb dog.”
Although as entertainers The Cowsills lead a hectic life, it’s also a happily “normal” as the lives of any American family whose closest contact with show business has been a seat in a movie theater or a chair in front of the TV.
The kids have the usual love/hate attitude towards education, dependent on the day of the month, the hour of the day. But they all do well in school. As Susan once explained, “I hated math until I learned how to do it.” It’s as simple and profound as that.
Bob Cowsill, starts UCLA in January, 1970. The remainder of the performing Cowsill tribe attends a Hollywood school which does make allowances for the professional demands on their lives. But you’ll find that The Cowsills usually only do concert dates during weekends or summer or Christmas vacations: they even record during “after school” hours.
Barbara and Bud Cowsill don’t delegate their parental responsibilities (and worries) to anyone. Barbara reacts like any other mother when Paul drives the rest of the kids to school for the first time with his newly-acquired drivers’ license – borderline panic – the visions of a phone call and headlines “Family Four Dead in Crash” which, of course, never materialize.
But it’s the little things that are the secret weapons of The Cowsill Success Formula. It’s the little things that have allowed them to remain successful human beings as well as to grow into highly successful public figures in the highly competitive world of show business.
You can be “good” without being “real.” Which isn’t the case with The Cowsills, it turns out, ARE phenomenal.
The group appears on the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium stage at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug 27. All seats are reserved; tickets are on sale in the auditorium box office.