Family Band: The Cowsills Story Trailer
Craig: You’re on John, look at that.
John: Where am I?
Craig: Little did you know when you woke up today that you’d be on television.
John: No, I didn’t know I was going to be on TV.
Craig: Actually well into your day you didn’t know you were going to be on television.
John: No, two hours before this happen. Hi Mom.
Craig: I appreciate you for coming on and just as long as you’re still laughing about the Kegal excercises, I found this. I don’t know what this is.
John: It’s a lap band.
Craig: This can’t be a lap band. It’s something to do with
John: It’s an exercise band. It is.
Craig: It’s something to do with the pelvic floor. It’s Kegal related.
John: You put it around one leg and you spread your legs
John: I’m not kidding. You hook that up to the leg of a living room chair and then your leg is in it with the couch or something and you pull away.
…. More misc odd stuff …
Craig: John Cowsill thank you for …. We won’t talk about your golf game although we do have a comedy show here (John laughing).
John: Once I got the black crap off my hand from the handle I was holding.
Craig: The handle was from the ‘20s. I think Sam Sneed used your clubs. He says “I golf” when I met him and then ….
John: I said I do. I said I play occasionally and he went on to something else while I was trying to tell him how poorly I golf. I have the texts to prove that I said, “ You know I suck.” He says “Oh we all do.” But, then you get out there and he just woops your ass and it’s like …. The club was the size of a Rodney Dangerfield club.
Craig: Oh I know,
John: And I’m using a … He says “What is that?” I said, “That’s a 1” He says, “What’s a 1?”
Craig: Mine was a driver and mine was the size of a washing machine. I was swinging a washing machine and John - Sarah is back with us and Joel just split.
John: Wait a second. I show up – new guy on the turf - and these guys break out the same club. All three of ‘em bring out these giant – like Mickey Mouse’s feet – so I swear to God.
Craig: He has this garage sale 1 wood which was …..
John: So what …. I had the best tee of the day – first thing off.
Craig: That’s true.
John: Craig goes, “Whoa” Like there’s some competition here. And then slowly it went down like my bowling game.
Craig: What went through your mind when you did that? Were you shocked by that, cuz I sure was?
John: I was but I never show that. I always say, ‘I meant to do that.’ Whether it’s bad or good.
Craig: Like those shots in pool when it goes off four bumpers and goes it and you say, “I called that.”
John: Oh yeah it’s like when I used to play Roulette. I used to play Roulette. And I never played, I gambled. And gambled means you shoot your wad in one move. So I would go to the Roulette table and play a color – red or black . And I would ride it man. When I first joined the Beach Boys they gave me a pile of cash per diam. And I said, “What’s this?” Like equal to my pay and I ‘Oh my God I’ve never had this…’
Craig: What was this?
John: My per diam. I never had carp …
Craig: How fast did it leave?
John: Oh as fast as I got it.
Craig: Yeah. You put cash in our hands, an entertainers hands.
John: Free money
Craig: You didn’t play in the days when they said, “Do you want to be paid in green or white?”
Craig: I played in comedy
Craig: Coke was the white, yeah and I
John: Oh no, of course not.
Craig: No, not in your day. Your day was Garanimals. I mean you were 10 years old.
John: You say Coke took on another meaning all together and it usually had cherry in it.
John: and Vanilla. Pop? Where are you from, Michigan?
John: Holy mackerel, pop.
Craig: Yeah the whole Midwest calls it pop.
John: I know and she’s such a gal. What a gal.
Craig: He’s from Rhode Island. (Picks up the exercise band.) Oh we were talking about this while you were in the bathroom or whatever you were doing out there.
Sarah: What is that?
Craig: This is a – oh you want to know, don’t you?
Sarah: Yeah I do
Craig: This is a band, I think you put – oh John actually knew – he said that you put one part of the band on like a chair or something stationary and the other part goes on your thigh. It’s like a reverse Thigh Master. And you’re working these muscles.
John: It works your lower extremities, your hips, your pelvic, your but-tocks
Craig: My wife is going to be ready for the Love Master.
(More sexual talk I’ll skip)
Craig: Speaking of women. John is married to one of the founding member, and members of The Bangles.
Sarah: I love The Bangles.
John: I love them too.
Craig: No you can’t say “them.” Can you tell her that you love “them?”
John: Hold it. When they are on the stage you can love them all. When they get off, you take one home.
Craig: Not many of us have that option.
John: No, no I do.
Craig: Jay Roach has that option. You have that option.
John: I’ve ask her many times to wear the Les Paul home. And the naughty school clothes. But she comes out – I’m marri – at home I’m married to you know – what’s her name - (doing Katherine Hepburn impression) “the calla lilles aren’t in bloom.”
Sarah: Katherine Hepburn
John: Katherine Hepburn in the gardening outfit, that’s what I’m married to.
Craig: She’s not a Bangle at home?
John: Oh God no no no. She’s like an ad from 1972 and works in the garden. And she is that.
Craig: So we all picture her rockin’ out.
John: Me too. I have to stalk her on the internet, you know as she walks through the kitchen. I’m like (fake typing) looking at her in the naughty skirts you know.
Sarah: How long have you guys been married?
John: Ten years October 25
Craig: To be hones with you, one of my favorite people that I’ve met in the last little while, yeah. She’s ….. and you to (to John).
John: I know – you said – I know believe me my fondness goes female.
Craig: I’m talking about people in general.
John: No, no she lights up the room. I know. She lights up the frickin room.
Craig: Let’s talk about this. I don’t even know about her room. She’s kinda like my wife. It’s not a whole room, but her area is lit up with her aurora.
John: Yeah, yeah, I see that. I totally agree.
Craig: And she was something else.
John: I know
Sarah: Which Bangle is she?
John: Mine That’s my Bangle. I got one.
Craig: She’s one of the two sisters.
John: Its Vicki Peterson
Sarah: I like Vicki !!!
Craig: She’ll come in here. If it wasn’t last second I’d …..
John: You know and I ask her today because you know Craig called us last week to see if we could do this. No, I mean, a couple hours ago.
Craig: That is true.
John: And because I am a musician, I had plenty of time to come.
Craig: No you didn’t. You told me you have to write a bridge – we’ll get to that.
John: I have to write two bridges.
Craig: Or jump off a bridge. It was one of the two he said.
John: No, my brother jumped off a bridge. That really hurt.
Craig: Oh seriously?
John: Seriously he did but it didn’t hurt. I mean it hurt him, it didn’t hurt me. He tried to kill himself off a bridge.
Sarah: He did not succeed?
John: We’re going to cut for a commercial and we’ll be back after this and we’ll get deeper into the ….
Craig: You’re going to be seeing more of this. This is an afterschool special. Their story – nothing would surprise me. I’m surprised that he did live.
John: Which camera should I tell the story to.
Craig: You tell it to me and Sarah
John: Sarah and Craig – so you’re in my shot you are. No, no, it was, my family is funny and not in a ha ha but
Craig: By the way, you’re the perfect guest for our show. That’s why it resonated with the documentary which we talked about. Not the greatest editing and so forth and not shot the best.
John: No, no I don’t want to
Craig: The essential documentary
John: It was good.
Craig: It was really, really good because
Sarah: Where can you see it?
Craig: Netflix, Showtime
John: You know I’m selling them downstairs in the parking lot in my car to try to pay back the person who made the film, so that in another millennium we would probably start reaping the benefit from this.
Craig: Why don’t you tell us where we can buy it. Let’s buy it.
John: I don’t know. I don’t know where you can buy it. Let’s see if get it on Amazon right now.
Craig: If I gave him a chance and didn’t call him two hours before the show
John: I don’t think it’s streaming.
Craig: Well, it’s definitely on Showtime.
John: Do we get call-ins here because if we do, don’t anybody call. You can call someone else at another hour.
Craig: We do get call-ins. You can call us now. Even, by the way, I was talking – now “Hair” was one of your favorite – your big songs. Do we have that queued up?
John: It was. It was queued up because they playing it before I came on.
Craig: Oh really? Now the song “Hair” it’s an amazing story. I had no idea, and you don’t either, most people don’t have any idea that it was these kids and their Mom, that’s the band. It’s The Partridge Family basically, do that song, because all you think of is hippies when you think of that song and you think of the play Hair. But they made it into this big hit. The Cowsills who had sang songs that were NOT like that leading up to that, am I correct? You would sing happy songs.
John: (to Sarah) Are you OK?
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. Do I seem not ….
John: OK good.
Craig: He’s codependent like me.
Sarah: I’m great. I’m listening.
John: Can I get you guys towels and water.
Craig: What’s this one?
John: It’s the beginning of “Hair”
Craig: Is it? Oh
John mouthing the words to “Hair”
Craig: You’re one of these parts.
John keeps mouthing words.
Craig: That’s your older brother.
John: This is a re-recording. This is a re-recorded version of this song.
Craig: With you? Are you in it?
John: This is my brother Bob singing lead on this. This is not the actual. This is KTEL Presents the original artists. Thank you very much.
Craig: So the KTEL people get people to re-record …
John: No, this version is, I don’t know where he got it.
???: I’m on Spotify right now. Yeah, it says Cowsills, The Very Best. At the very top in the corner you can, it does say KTEL. It’s like very small.
Craig: Is that one off, or do you get money for that?
John: You know there was one time that, it is KTEL, you’re serious, correct?
John: OK because, oh my God, we were working with Chuck Polkin at Clover. He did Bruce Springsteen and Orleans and whatever. Anyway, so we were in a studio and a friend of mine, Smitty, he played keyboards and stuff for Bob Dylan and stuff, he had a, he was a one-hit wonder in the ‘60s, gees I can’t remember the song off my head, but he says “Hey man there’s a guy down the street here from Nashville wanting to pay money for you guys to re-record your songs.” We’re such whores. OK, where? Can we get a hundred bucks? So, we went down and re-recorded. Susan, Bob, Paul and myself went and recorded these things. And it came back to bite me in the ass later on. I was in Germany working with a band and the Antebrian (???) which is the radio station over there started playing this song and it was “The Rain, The Park and Other Things.” And I heard it and thought “Ah it sounds a little off.” And I’m just being a goof-ball off in the lobby. And the guitar player comes to me, “That’s you singing.” And I went ‘No, it isn’t.’ And I’m listening – and now I’m really don’t want to say it’s me singing cuz I’m hearing it and it is me singing it. It’s like oh my God that is the worse rendition of one of our hits. But we just recorded it, took the money and split.
Craig: It must have been difficult because when you recorded it the first time you had not hit puberty. So how do you do the puberty version of a 10-year-old?
John: OK because later on I was older so I sang my brother Bill’s part on that song.
Craig: Well how becomes the soprano? Who becomes the 10-year-old?
John: Well now my range is this big (arm gesters huge) so I can still sing up here (talking high pitched).
John: Seriously (John does a run to show his vocal range)
John: Hey in the morning I’m Barry White. Thank you very much. You know they
Craig: Now you’re Michael Jackson
John: They gave Arthur Brown a standing ovation in Russia for doing just that.
Craig: Nice. So I’m going to do that in my show from now on.
John: Have I jumped off the track of all these subjects.
Craig: A lot of subject, but you were basically the Jackson Five before the Jacksons were …
John: We were the pioneer of the family band of pop/rock music.
Craig: Before the Osmonds. They were this family that went around, their Mom in this pants suit just like Mrs. Partridge.
John: They did wear pant suits, I got to say. I mean they had us in tuxedos and s***.
Sarah: Where were you in range of the family?
John: I’m the youngest boy and I have five older brothers and one younger sister.
Sarah: And one younger sister. So you were kind of the baby of the …
John: I’m the baby boy.
Craig: But picked up the drums instantly. Actually one of the guys was already the drummer and you go over ….
John: Yeah, my brother Barry
Craig: And he moved to another instrument.
John: Yeah, it all happen really quick too, because The Beatles came on Ed Sullivan which just happen – that tribute thing. It was a pretty good show, some of it wasn’t, but some of it was good.
Craig: Oh yeah right. Just had the tribute show about the 50th Anniversary of their debut on the Ed Sullivan show.
John: That’s what I just watched.
Craig: So that was right at the same time that you guys were forming this band.
John: Oh yeah, we were singing long before that happen, but just folk music.
Craig: Together, fairs?
John: No, no, no, no, no well kinda. So, how old was I? When I was seven I was playing bars so what year was that?
John: seven if I’m fifty eight.
Craig: Ahhh that was ’62, right? Around 1962
John: So yeah, right
Craig: So when the Beatles came over in ‘63
John: We started playing a little carnival down and I wasn’t even playing drums like you said. My brother Barry was the drummer first, for about two months and then. I would go into the bedroom where the kit was and I always remember light bulb in my house not functioning so I would turn on the amp and that little red light … you know like the clock in the hotel room when you staying in it illuminates the night in the middle of the night. It’s like ‘Whoa that’s f****** bright.’ But when you go to bed, it’s nothing. So, I would get used to this little red light and I would pound on the drums and nobody ever told me to shut up.
Craig: What was the red light? Did you get that?
John: On the amplifier. Fender amps have red lights to tell you that it’s on. So that was the light. Or the blue
Craig: Your que?
John: No, no I just went into this bedroom and that was my lighting in the house, where the gear was.
Craig: Oh I got it.
John: I’m painting a picture of poor white children in the 5th Ward of Rhode Island.
Craig: Which is true.
John: Which is true.
Craig: You guys were poor and then.
John: My Dad’s in the Navy with seven kids. You got to be kidding. And he moonlit a lot.
Craig: Right. What was he moonlighting doing?
John: Painting house and that kind of stuff.
Craig: OK Yeah In the moon that’s even tougher.
John: It’s tough because it casts a different set of shadows and you have to go back and fix the holidays. I hated painting.
Craig: Big Irish Catholic family. So, instead of just having a station wagon and every kid scatters and does their own sports and things, they all did the same thing. Except one brother, except one brother was not included in the band and he actually went away into the Navy or he went to Viet Nam, right?
John: Yeah he did.
Craig: Very sad story.
John: I get, I mean, yeah it is.
Craig: For me to see
John: It is because you saw it all in an hour. I lived it so it went reeeaaallly sllooooww. So, yeah, I didn’t like him when I was little. He was mean to me. He threatened my life, that brother so, you know, we’re fine now. We’re all …
Craig: He’s alive?
John: Yeah he’s alive.
Craig: But he was the only one not in the band. And I thought one part of the movie, I don’t want to spoil the movie, which by the way you can get at amazon.com, or they can go through our banner at craigshoemakershow.com. Look at that. We put a banner up just for you. You can get it through the Craig Shoemaker Show. So, you really do want to see this documentary cuz it’s fascinating. And there is so much. Just think of a family documentary, period, let alone a family that’s on the Ed Sullivan show, Mike Douglas and so forth. With hits like “Hair” and other hits.
John: Yeah like what, Craig? What else?
John: Happy? Happy the clown
Craig: They had a lot of songs with happy in it. I thought, John, I want to ask you something, which is what is great about interviewing, I thought at the time, as The Partridge Family was stealing your thing, they did a song called “Come On Get Happy” right? You did one that sounded just like it, so they were … what was the name of that song?
John: Yeah Our song was “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” and they refer to it as “He’ll make me happy, happy, happy, Flowers in her hair. (In her hair) Flowers everywhere. I love the flower girl Cuz it’s so groovy now”
Craig: It’s a groovy song
John: Anyway so, but the thing that happen was that it was not until “Indian Lake” that we came across a record producer named Wes Farrell. And, you know, wherever Wes is whatever God Bless him and stuff. He did “Hang On Sloopy” so he was credible and cool. He was a producer for that song.
Craig: “Hang On Sloopy” in the ‘60s was a big giant #1.
John: My God we all played it in the bars. It was huge, you know.
Craig: And you ran into him. He becomes the producer.
John: Well they fired our producer, Artie Kornfeld, who you saw in the documentary. It was just an idiot move my father did and they brought in this guy, Wes Farrell, who my brother Bill just said …. You know when they brought us this song “Indian Lake” he said, “What is this piece of crap?” that we have and he turned it into as he called it – I love his interviews on that thing. It’s so funny. “But you know I took that piece of s*** and turned it into, you know, something worthy of a pop kind of thing. Made some sense out of it” or whatever he said. But it was Wes Farrell, and then after we were done with Wes Farrell, a couple of songs and he had his writer with him, who was Tony Romeo, who was a great guy and he wrote a couple of good songs. “Indian Lake” was not one of my favorite, but he wrote “Poor Baby” that we did that was not a hit. We have a lot of non-hits.
Craig: That were good that you think should be hits.
John: No, yeah but we were The Cowsills at that point. We were branded and we were turned away.
Craig: It’s always interesting to me. Let’s pin that by the way. Let’s get back to that thought.
Sarah: Which one?
Craig: Pin that thought. I want to get back to hits that didn’t become hits that should of. Pin it.
John: Pin it Sarah. I love you already, even though your smoking e-cigarettes. That’s cool, whatever.
Sarah: Yeah, you saw it. Wow he moves fast.
John: All the sudden you walk into a room and the chick is so hot and she breaks out a cigarette and it’s like “No date.” “No date.”
Sarah: No problem.
John: But I don’t date anyway, so don’t worry. You’re too young for me. But my wife wouldn’t like that.
Craig: I love to be in the middle of uncomfortable.
John: Was that uncomfortable? Man I’d be peeing my pants if I was uncomfortable. What are you talking about? Oh my God
Craig: So now
John: So Wes Ferrell, Wes Ferrell Screen Gems had been talking to us about this TV show and I mean I was already … my nose was like Carl Malden’s by that time. Puberty was really in motion and my arms were down to knees, you know. I mean I’m really tall and I’m galky and zit faced purple. So we weren’t cute for this TV show. No, we were not. They could have taken Susan and made a whole show out of that because she was still adorable and cute. So they decided, “Well you know this isn’t going to work.” They had already casted Shirley Jones as the mother. And supposedly I hear rumors about “My Dad snuffed the whole thing because they didn’t want my Mom.” I think it was more because we really weren’t actors and we were beyond the cute stage. And so they hired all these actors.
Craig: I didn’t get that from the documentary. I thought it was because you guys imploded.
John: No, there’s a lot of mis-…..
Craig: That was the major reason for this.
John: There’s a lot of mis-communication, or not all the information is on this documentary.
Craig: What I didn’t understand was why you didn’t become advisors and even writers for the music on the show.
John: We were not asked and
Craig: Now that part – seems like they stole it from you, they might as well give you that job.
John: Nobody …. They did, but they altered it just enough so that it wasn’t really us because then I would be Suzannah Crofts.
Craig: Susan Dey you mean
John: I’d rather be Susan Dey. I cut my hair. I can’t do that flipped thing anymore but …
Craig: Who was the drummer. Oh no the drummer was a little boy also.
John: Well the first drummer was Gelbwaks and then the next guy was Foster/ Forster or something. Jeremy Gelbwaks was the original drummer.
Craig: Did you have anything to do when they were forming The Partridge Family. Were you ever invited to the set?
John: No, never, never. And in fact, we were told – they were told when – I remember Shirley going – went on Johnny Carson ‘Was this the Cowsills’ ‘Oh nothing like that’ but now Shirley cops to the truth. She said, “Oh no, they came on the set and they here’s the people you’re going to be playing.” They really did that.
Craig: In the documentary Shirley Jones.
John: Shirley Jones. She’s in the documentary. She tells everything. She doesn’t care.
Craig: Yeah, she doesn’t care.
John: She’s so groovy, that chick and I have a crush on her. Damn, she’s so hot. She’s still hot. I would totally …. Anyway. Just got to get Marty away from her.
Craig: You got a Bangle.
John: I got a Bangle. I know. I know. I’m not really going to do anything but I just live in a virtual world, where ever, like I got a green screen. I can bang anything with that. It’s safe, honey.
Craig: As long as they don’t smoke electronic cigerettes.
John: And your face is not facing me, we’re good to go. Parts is parts. But, anyway, I didn’t say that.
Craig: So now they never invite you to the set.
John: No, but they did invite us – we got invited to a screening. And it’s so funny. We went onto the lot and we walk into this room and it’s just us. Just the Cowsills in this room with the projection guy. So nobody came in to say, “Hi I’m Shirley Jones” or “Hey man we just wanted you to see …” It was just like … and I peed my pants laughing. I’m a kid. I thought it was a funny show. I mean Ruben Kincaid. Dave Madden was phenomenal in that and Danny Bonaduce
Craig: And much, much nicer than your father.
John: Oh my gosh. My Dad. My Dad was an ass. He was not a nice, he was not a nice father. He was a nice guy. Everybody’s, “Ah your Dad’s a great guy. Man what a great…” … I don’t know.
Craig: I didn’t pick that up from the movie.
John: Because we didn’t interview his friends. We didn’t interview
Craig: So he fooled a lot of but he was so
John: No, I think he was a nice man on the outside but he wasn’t good with his children. Cut him some slack. He was an asshole …. When I was a kid I’m thinking “When he gets in a wheelchair I’m pushing him off a mother f****** cliff.”
Craig: And he wasn’t even as bad to you as he was the two older ones
John: No, and that’s what he told me one night.
Craig: And there was also would you say alcoholism or a lot of drinking. Did that go on?
John: Humm Long answer YES …. It’s like the type of guy you’d “Get over here” and he’ll hug you until he breaks your ribs. “Dad let go” you know.
Craig: But it’d because you were so young he didn’t project a lot of his stuff. He projected it more on the two older – a couple of the older brothers.
John: Well here’s the thing. I had one conversation with my father later in life that had any depth to it other than ‘Hey man how you doing?’ you know and he had a place down in Mexico and I went down there and he was talking about – serving a meal that I hated as a child, you know, the gag family, and it would be cream of salmon on mashed potatoes. I don’t know where he came up with that f****** thing, but I’m sitting there and I smell it in the house and I smiled to myself because I in my late 30’s early 40’s, I’m good. No, late – mid 30’s, whatever. Anyway I’m down there and I said, “Oh my God, you’re having that?” And this buddies are there. His surfer buddies down in Campolopez. And I said, “Man I hope you don’t throw that on me.” And he like turned on me like evil guy and said, “I never did that to you.” And I’m like, “Wow!” and I’ve been psych eval’d I’m good. I know body language and I said, “Man if nothing happen, what’s the reaction about, you know.” And he goes, “I never did that to you.” And I said, “Well that’s my story. That’s not your story.” I said, “That’s something monumental to me and I remembered.” And I didn’t mind cuz I didn’t get hit. I got food thrown on me instead. So I was thrilled with that outcome. And he says, “Well we need to talk” I said, “Wow OK a first.” And he – then he just went on talking to his friends. And that night we’re laying down and he had this you know one room building that he build on the beach in Cantamar in Mexico. And I’m laying in there with my second ex-wife. Thank you. I collect this whole series.
Craig: By KTEL
John: I didn’t date. I just got married. But wait, there’s more. And so, we’re laying across the room and he was a smoker and he’s in his bed with his girlfriend of the time. Literally opposite ends of the room and I see this cigarette light at the end light up you know. He goes, “John” He was from Providence, Rhode Island “John you know what’s with you kids?” And I go “What do you mean Dad?” “What’s the wall?” I said, “Oh the wall you built?” He goes, “OK OK What’s with you?” He says, “I didn’t beat you near as much as the other kids.” He says, “You had a fairy tale childhood.” I said, “Well since that I was epileptic and a bleeder you know it wouldn’t have been a great idea to smack me around as much as a kid.” I didn’t say that to him but that was going through my head. Yawwww
Craig: And also you had to witness it.
John: Well that’s what I told him. I did. I told him that. I said, “Dad, there’s one thing worse than being mutilated” – because you’re protected by your third person when you’re in the throws of a fight. I mean, I know, I’ve been in fights. And I said, “There’s one thing worse.” And I can see that cigarette light up and I said, “It’s watching, and peeing your pants while you’re watching your brothers just get smeared, blood everywhere, not a spanking, but beaten up.”
Craig: About thinking you could be next.
John: I am next. Awful
Craig: Or fear. That’s the worst fear than actually being hit
John: I am next. I grew up with that and that pissed him off. He’d walk by us and we’d flinch. We were the flinch family. And that’d piss him off so he’d hit you anyway for flinching.
Craig: (singing) Flintstones, meet the Flintstonses (John joins in) there a modern stone age family (now just Craig) When the Daddy walks by
John: (still singing) We will pee your pants and he will say. (Talking) No, no, now another example of that kind of behavior, we were, I had never, we did milk commercials. Now some people might know that. We were in the school reader, Weekly Reader, Cowsills drink milk for vitality and thing. We were the first milk guys. Got Milk. And we had a one million dollar contract. We signed with the American Dairy Association. And so they came to us with that, so we never filmed anything … I half out of my mind at 12 years old, you know when this is going on. I’m just figuring out the groin area, you know, and so we go into the studio. We had a studio that we use regularly in New York City. And we go in. It’s just another day in the studio to me. And I’m sitting there drawing pictures and somebody’s out in the studio. And I …. There was a theme song that was written (singing) Oh it’s a milk day, one that’s sure to mooooove you, in a fun way, one that’s sure to groove you, milk is the lift that last” So I had heard that over and over while we’re going out. Well there’s talking sections now. Speaking section, but I don’t know this as a kid. I don’t know about voice overs and hooking up to a film, so were doing this and I’m sitting there and they call my brother Barry up, who is just a year and maybe a month older than me because we are Navy, we’re all that close to each other. And he goes out there and I’m half paying attention. All of a sudden, I mean literally the chair goes flying out like that (shoving chair out) and my Dad just gets up. He’s 6 foot 2 pile of a 190 pounds and he walks out to the studio and I’m like … my attention is so focused on what’s going on. I’m scared to death. And he goes out and just beats the living crap out of my brother Barry. And he takes him out of the studio. And like I’m shaking right now cuz it freaked me out and I’m sitting there and I’m going ‘Oh what just happened? I wasn’t paying attention.’ And I’m thinking ‘I’m next.’ like you said. Your next. Sure enough, twenty five minutes, half an hour, it seemed like three seconds, he comes back in. And he santers in and he sits down. “John, you want to go out there now?” I’ve already lost the battle in my brain. It’s like … anything to hold the pee and the tears in from falling out. And I go out there and I stand in front of the mic and there’s just a puddle of pee on the floor. And I sit there at the mic and I look at the stuff on the thing and I’m seeing my reflection in the glass and I’m seeing him back there with this cigarette lighting up. And I just lost it. I just started crying. And he came out and he lifted me up by the hair and my shirt and he threw me into the elevator, kicked my ass all the way down 7th Avenue, up 52th street – I hope I’m not making you feel bad, cuz I don’t feel bad -
Craig: And the crying makes it worse for him. That makes him more enraged.
John: All I’m doing … He’s kicking me. He’s saying “You call yourself a professional.” I’m 12. I didn’t call myself anything. And I’m hoping …People are on the street and I’m saying “Nobody is stopping this” you know and I’m saying “Yes, sir, yes, sir, yes, sir” cuz that’s what we had to say because we were Navy kids. And man I just never forget that. And if I saw something like that I would go over to that m***** f***** and I’d kick his ass and ask questions later. I don’t care what your kid did.
Craig: Now you would because you also went through it and you’d know what that child, you’d have compassion for a child going through this. A lot of people don’t know what to do in a lot of circumstances. I talked about this yesterday. I’m on the other end of borderline personality disorder person that you kinda in that fear and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. And a lot of people know this person and no one has ever said a word to her. And it’s similar to me that people who yell racist taunts at soccer games or any game. If somebody yells something racist, how many people would have to courage to actually say to that person “That’s not cool.” It’s really rare, when people have the courage. But then people do have the courage to be on the internet and have opinion or stuff like that but where are they at the time? I remember when I was a kid, so many times I just wanted to go, “Can you just protect me right now? Can you really give me an assist here?” I’d tell my Mom, “Can you just not make this about you and really step in here because I can’t handle this. I’m 11 years old. I do not have the goods to deal with this.” And I think – it’s not as common as it was when we were growing up, but I think it still exists that people stay quiet when they should really step up and have the courage to say something as simple as ‘don’t yell a racist taunt, that’s not cool.’ - to the point that we don’t see the beatings as much. By the way I was talking to my neighbor about this. She said – her son has autism and she’s afraid because he’s going to go to a regular school next year and she ask me about the schools she said – “Well what’s it like?” and I said, “To be honest with you, my son goes there – they don’t do it anymore. They don’t have fights”
John: No, they’re nice teachers
Craig: Were the boys being beaten by teachers? Were you
John: No, no I missed that. My brothers did.
Craig: You were – that’s another thing, you were tutored like on a bus
John: Oh ha ha ha ha ha
Craig: I guess not. How did school work when
John: there was no tutoring going on.
Craig: school work when you’re in a band and you’re 10 years old
John: How it’s supposed to work and how it works are two different things.
Craig: OK How did it work?
John: We didn’t do anything
Craig: First you’re on a bus, they had a tour bus, maybe it wasn’t as mod as the Partridge Family, but they had a tour bus.
John: You know what I mean there was supposed to be correspondence and stuff and the first tour we went on you know they had a little suitcase with our books in it from the school because really that hadn’t been figured out, how to do correspondence, kids going on tour because we were the only kids going on tour. There wasn’t any – no kids my age doing what I did. So, it was a new territory. But they packed books away and hired this 16 or 17 year old girl who my brother Bob fell in love with, so they spent most of their time … I don’t remember cracking a book maybe once or twice.
Craig: But he was cracking her
John: I don’t know that. I think they were just making out.
Craig: Come on
John: I hope he was. I hope he was getting’ some. I mean I just do.
Craig: Now I have to read something before we move on (this is like commercial stuff)
John: I have a voice over coach that maybe I mean you do really well. I think you have a natural something
Craig: A voice over coach. Maybe I should. I’m going in on a lot of auditions and getting none of them so
John: I don’t go on auditions, that way I’m successful.
Craig: Maybe I need the coach. So what would the coach do to me. They’d work on my accent right away and the word, ironically the buzzword that I have a hard time with is the word create. And they have create in there (the commercial he read).
Sarah: Create Why do you ….
Craig: I don’t know I swallow the r. I breathe in on the r when I should be breathing out.
John: You quee-ate.
Craig: I don’t say quee-ate like my son, his favorite train is Thomas type train is Percy and he can’t pronounce r’s so he calls it Pussy.
John: The fore language of children is phenomenal.
Craig: We actually hope he keeps his impediment.
John: Naw, naw, naw
Craig: It’s cute. It’s cute.
John: Not at 14.
Craig: At 14 he can drop it but all the way up till then just keep calling Percy Pussy and I’m happy.
John: Naw, naw I know.
Craig: It’s so funny. He’s adorable.
John: My daughter did Peter Piper had a Pack of Pickled Peckers with ummm what are those dots called, not measles, but
Sarah: Chicken pox
John: Chicken pox yeah mumps all over me. Muuumps
Craig: Look he does voices too. That’s Cookie Monster. You didn’t know you did Cookie Monster.
John: (can’t understand this part) Elmo likes Quid (??) OK ha ha ha ha ha
Craig: OK Voice over agents – talking about me doing the voice of the Cookie Monster.
Sarah: I’m curious at why at such a young age why the Partridge Family did it feel like such a rip off. Cuz isn’t that what happens is that you take something from real life and inspires a show or a movie. Is that what happen?
John: You’re slurring your words.
Craig: It wasn’t only inspired, it was completely taken. They took this and then they handed
Sarah: And you didn’t get
John: We got nothing because we’re pioneers. Pioneers get nothing except a historical nod. Well they were the first ones. That’s what I got. We’re the first ones. We’re the First Family of Pop music.
Craig: I bet Lewis & Clark died without getting ..
John: They got nothing.
Craig: They got little Sacagawea
John: Maybe. They sucked a lot of dust just like going to a horse show. I hate those things. OK that had so random but I was just thinking about horse shows and sucking dust and I do not like that.
Craig: Pioneer plus those were the days – I don’t know if you knew this Sarah, but in the ‘60s, they didn’t even have residuals. So everyone from Gilligan’s Island – by the way rest in peach Russell Johnson the last of the male survivor of the Gilligan’s Island. He kept them on that island making a
John: Gilligan’s not – Bob Denver’s not alive still?
Craig: Oh my God at least 10 years he’s got to be gone.
John: Oh my God, 10 years, I got to see this (he picks up his phone)
Craig: It’s true Skipper was in the early ‘90s
John: I knew Alan Hale Did you ever go to his restaurant, Alan Hale? Captain’s Table
Craig: Over on La Centa
Craig: The Skipper and you would go in there
John: And he was just the maître d’
Craig: Everybody, you’d walk in “Hey little buddy”
John: No, but that was like his carnie gig because he had no money. So he was the maître d’
Craig: There were no residuals.
Sarah: So there didn’t, OK wow
Craig: The didn’t make one dime beyond what they did for the episode. So that had to be written into the law probably about 1972. And then for child actors there’s the Jackie Cogan law because Jackie Cogan was used as a child in many films and made a lot of people a lot of money and he didn’t make one dime afterwards. And he made all these films. Judy Garland did. Mickey Rooney did and they all broke. Unless they continue their career and making money based on their performance.
John: It’s similar to our situation.
Craig: You had to basically perform to eat. It was the perform
John: Absolutely. It was the live shows that kept us alive.
Craig: No mailbox money. You didn’t come back to Rhode Island and have a bunch of checks waiting for you including …
John: No, in fact I
Craig: .. the money you told me just happen like a week ago. This is an amazing story. So I’m thinking when you see – I’m just telling you my perspective – so I’m seeing The Cowsills. I’ve known who they were for years, they have really cool songs, you just heard a couple of them, and you think ‘Oh my God, there’s ASCAP and BMI, the royalities they must be getting these checks all along.’ You see the movie you’re going – I watched the movie and I’m going ‘Jeez a couple of them are like broke and my God, my jeez what’s going on what the hell’s going on here.’ I didn’t understand who’s getting all this money. Nothing. They got nothing for all these years so tell me what just happen so we can have a little bit of hope in our show for you, so … Something happen, you told me a case was settled or something.
John: yeah a case has been settled. I won’t say with who (he points like here/down) but um (again points down) Well I haven’t signed the paper and I haven’t gotten a check yet, so be careful about what I want to say about other people. But things have been rectal-fied
Craig: First you took it up the ass and now
John: I think we’ve stopped the bleeding now and from here forward … I mean there wasn’t a lot of ….
Craig: These are 48 year old songs and they’re making no money so as of recently there now going to make money
John: It was nice to right the wrong. So from now on …. Cuz when I saw … my lightbulb went off when I saw Dumb and Dumber when that came out. Because I saw that movie and I’m just sitting in that movie with just my friends and all of a sudden I’m laughing (few words I can’t understand) I’m sitting there and I got an elbow in my side from my friend and she says, “They’re playing your song.” I went, “You’re right.” And they played “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” from beginning to end - and - (John looks to someone off screen) Excuse me. We do not live in a barn.
Craig: I think he walked out to actually do some production.
John: He actually went to the sound proof booth actually.
Craig: To try to find that song
John: But no, that’s me (looking into the camera) OK so I was in Dumb and Dumber
Craig: You’re watching this and you didn’t recognize that you needed the elbow to notice your own music?
John: I was just like
Craig: It didn’t dawn on you.
John: They noticed before it registered with me because I thought it was a funny movie. It was great. And so after the movie was over I waited for the credits because I said, “Wait a second. And it said “Rain, the Park and Other Things” sung by The Cowsills. Now I’m seeing my name I’m saying OK I didn’t know this was in this movie and shouldn’t I be getting some money for this? So I went home and I called the union because I don’t know who to speak with and I called AFTRA and I said, “Do you know, I just saw a movie Dumb and Dumber ” I got somebody who knew who I was on the phone because I’m older and they said, “No we didn’t know that.” I said, “Shouldn’t there be something?” I knew nothing. I didn’t even know the word licensing. Other than a California license.
Craig: A ten year old
Craig: No, I know but at the time that you were a 10 year old, did your father who was running everything.
John: I don’t know anything about the business. I just play music
Craig: We’re going to play a little clip from that
John: We’re going to show that clip. Here we go.
Clip: Dumb and Dumber
Craig: And about this time somebody jabs you in the side … and said
John: in the side And I’m going “Oh my God” and I was happy because how cool and then it made me sad because they just stuck it to us. They play the whole thing.
Craig: _____ licensing a tiny clip and no one know. I had to play $40,000 for 3 seconds of Tony Orlando “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree”
John: That’s Tony Orlando That’s …..
Craig: You’re The Cowsills for God’s sake. I’d take this over …. Look at that. That’s amazing. OK Thank you.
John: Thank you very much.
Craig: So now …. I didn’t pay it by the way. We mocked up another song that sounded like Tony Orlando. So see that’s what you do.
John: That’s the thing. You re-record your own songs.
Craig: So they went right in and took this. So, now how in the world legally can they do that? Are you talking about this is the check you’re finally going to get?
John: Oh no no. I mean this is whatever. I don’t know what I’m getting paid for or what has been settled. I think they are just basing it on record sales. I mean I think this is slipping through the crack. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Craig: This is an outrage.
John: But the lawyer we have is really great and he was given to us by a guy named Paul Peterson who is Jeff Stone on the Donna Reed Show and he’s the child’s advocate.
Craig: Yes he is. Child actor
John: So, he said, “Call this guy, I’m telling you right now.” And did. And did. It took a couple of years but
Craig: I’m telling you I’m glad you’re here because I’m more outraged than you are. Cuz I’m going to take over this thing. Just give me a little cut. Take me out golfing. I swear to God this is ridiculous. You know how much money you could make on just that movie. And you want to hear something really strange, is that there almost this 6 degrees of John Cowsill here. Is you’re married to a Bangle Vicki who is partners in the Bangles with the director Jay Rocha who directs comedies that Jim Carey stars in that was in Dumb and Dumber that used your … so go to Jay Rocha. He can tell you how to get the money.
John: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha
Craig: And just for me telling you that I just want a dinner. I’m telling you. I’m so outraged. Look I was outraged watching your documentary that … look, you’re talking about you guys were on top of the world and that’s what’s so strange to me and I’m, you see this as a kid. You’re on all of those shows that I watched Sonny and Cher and all those
John: We were just naive and dumb.
Craig: Everything Glen Campbell and you’re thinking my God there’re famous on covers of magazines and you all walked away with absolutely nothing.
John: No absolutely nothng
Craig: So, tell me something.
John: I walked away with a career so .. I was able to make money, not easily though cuz I was a Cowsill and it wasn’t cool for a long period of time to try get a job. To say your name It’s like “Oh you were in that family band.” It’s like, “No, thank you.” I ran into that all the time. My brother Barry jumped off a bridge because Cowsills was just torturesom. We wanted to be The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and then all of a sudden we go to MGM and THEY decide to put my mother and my daughter (yes John said daughter) in the band. Now it probably wouldn’t have been successful as it was, just the way things happen that they just did, but ….
Craig: Well who wrote that song that was in there. That’s the first …..
John: “The Rain, The Park and Other Things”? That was written by Artie Kornfeld who was at Mercury Records with us. He said, “I need to get you guys out of here. This is they had us doing …. We went from JODA records which is not in the documentary, they don’t even talk about JODA records which was our R&B label that we were on. The very first record label we were on which was Johnny Nash and Danny Sims and we were just four brothers doing (singing) “You can’t go half way. You got to go all the way to have my love” (does drumming sounds) It was some cool s***.
Craig: Now let’s bring that back (turning to Sarah) You forgot to pin that. That’s what I wanted to talk about.
John: The pendant?
Craig: Pin I wanted her to pin this topic that you just brought up.
Sarah: Songs that should have been hits.
Craig: See this is what I don’t understand. I don’t get this with the same with television. If you pitch and they reject it, why can’t you go in five years later and go .. This is what I want to ask you. If it at the time, the timing the alignment, the stars aren’t lined up for a song, why not take that song and bring it back or bring it to another artist or work with another artist as a duet or whatever it is. All those songs in your library where they sit and what are people doing with them.
John: I don’t know.
Craig: And have you thought about doing that. I think I have to be your manager.
John: No, Actually I need a manager. I need an agent. I could’ve been famous, oh my God.
Craig: Well you’re playing with the Beach Boys, let’s get to that.
John: Yeah I know, but I’m a side guy in the Beach Boys. I mean I’m just working for wage. I mean … and it’s a great gig. As a matter of fact, I just want to mention this …
Craig: 12 years
John: Yeah, 12 years They put my, they put our daughter through college.
Craig: Legendary But it’s a work for hire gig and I’m talking about mailbox money.
John: Yeah, I’m a side guy. I’m disposable.
Craig: Did you write these songs?
John: My brothers help write the songs
Craig: So, you wouldn’t get them anyway
John: I wouldn’t get anything. I mean
Craig: What about the brothers who passed away who wrote the songs. What, did they put in their wills? Who gets the licensing on these things? Someone has to be getting this money.
John: Well I mean of their personal stuff out there, they – that’s another entity, it’s just – the stuff that we’re covering is just “The Cowsills” stuff that we did together.
Craig: The catalog
John: And so
Craig: Which is large
John: It’s not that large
Craig: Well how many songs of that did you write yourselves? Or you just told me Kornfeld wrote that
John: We had (can’t understand) Kornfeld wrote that and the guy who wrote the play wrote that song “Indian Lake” Wes Ferrall brought that in with Tony Romeo. The only song that we had a Top 20 hit with, my brother Bill and Bob wrote was “We Can Fly” and that was our second one.
Craig: How does that go?
John: (Trying to remember it and so he starts singing this back ground part)
Song: We Can Fly
John: God you guys are f****** incredible. I feel like I’m playing with Captain Kangroo’s Magic Drawing board.
Craig: This is very magical 60’s.
Sarah: Where’s his Mom? Where’s your Mom?
Craig: You had to bring that up. That’s worse than me and the bridge.
Sarah: I was just curious. Where was she at with this stuff with your father. Is she still around now?
John: Well my Mom and Dad are dead.
Sarah: OK I’m very sorry
Craig: Watch the movie and see how they … how the band broke up. I don’t want to spoil how the band broke up but it’s all ____. It’s violent. It’s a story that’s in the movie, but when they broke up .. the downfall, they got rid of one brother.
Sarah: So your Dad beat the s*** out of your brother. Where’s your Mom? Was she in treatment or Alanon? Where was she?
John: Hiding, cuz she’s next.
Craig: Oh I see what you’re saying. During all this ….
John: My Mom, although whatever we can project on anybody, she should have stuck up for us but she would have been killed. Yeah, I used to hear the rebel rousing in the house so … They were both drinking. ___ ____ driving the car. You know the same thing we all heard growing up in that era. You know there was a lot of that kind of s***. I mean I’d hear the fights come on. The next morning they are all lovey dovey – well not lovey dovey but “Never mind that bruise on my face.” It’s like – whatever! We just wished he’d go the f*** away. We wish his ship would have sank out there or something. But I wouldn’t be where I am today if I … You know you can do that. You can do that with everything. If I hadn’t gone through every split second of that, well I’d probably be a famous actor and really tap dance f****** great. But other than that, I ended up a musician you know, not well schooled, and really just you know, hinting for a gig. Fortunately I don’t know why I’ve always been blessed to be working, cuz I’m not that great and I have a good personality.
Craig: That’s not true.
John: Well that’s my … We’re our own worse enemies, allow me that indulgence.
Craig: I’ll allow you the insecurity of saying…. No, you’re a really great drummer.
John: Thank you.
Craig: As a matter of fact I know other drummers that know you. And everyone - they all admire ..
John: I’m an entertainer. And that’s what I am. So, I’m fun to watch. And I’m good lookin’.
Craig: You talk about leaving here to go write a bridge. What does that mean? I know what a bridge is in music, but what does, what are you writing for?
John: Yeah, it’s a musical bridge. Oh right. I have this project going with Bill Mumy.
Craig: Oh my God. That’s the kid from
John: Lost In Space Will Robinson
Craig: Have you ever heard of Lost In Space ? I was a Sci-Fi show in the ‘60s. A red kid and a family called the Robinsons and they were lost in space. I, as a little kid, didn’t like the show personally. (John making space ship noises.) I’m not a Sci-Fi guy, but I did know Bill Mumy and a guy like this “Danger Will Robinson”
John: That was the robot
Craig: That was the robot but …
John: But I … he was in a lot of things. A funny thing was like he was in a movie, Rascal, for Disney that I went and read for and I love telling him that.
Craig: Who Bill Mumy?
John: No, we both read for this part. Of course he’s an actor and famous and cute and freckly and I was a non-actor, cute and freckly and he got it.
Craig: And he also went on and had his own band with other people.
John: Oh gosh. He was in America forever.
Craig: That I didn’t know.
John: He was … yeah, he played with Jerry and Dewey and
Craig: (to Sarah): You know “Ventura Highway in the sun …”
John: How old are you Sarah?
John: Oh you wouldn’t know much. I mean for our age.
(Craig and Sarah chat about how she know reference to things in the 1990-2000 that he doesn’t know, etc.)
John: Well OK This kid who I work with, and Vicki, we’re in this little thing together working. And so I have to go and finish a couple bridges. Our first recording session was yesterday.
Sarah: How’d it go?
John: It went great. It was so fun.
Craig: So you’re working with Bill. Any other child stars? He’s worked with other child stars. Eddie Munster he was with.
John: Look … Oh I know Butch Patrick. I went to school with him.
John: He’d bring Woof-Woof to school with him and he was like ready to give it to me. And I’m ‘You can’t give this to me. This is Woof-Woof’
Craig: This is an example where I would turn to Sarah (and it goes on to discussion from before about references)
John: It’s like he was a werewolf child in The Musters – you know what The Musters is? And instead of – you know a normal child having a teddy bear, he had a werewolf doll. And it’s name was Woof-Woof. And it was a scary doll. I mean live in person it was made up of this foam rubber thing and it was so real.
Craig: It’s over John Cowsill. Go to amazon.com and go get their documentary.
John: Please get the documentary.
Craig: And hopefully they’ll pay back this person that ….
John: No, no, it’s Louise Palanker and she did a great job. She did a great job. She got it aired and that’s an amazing thing.
Craig: No kidding.
Sarah: It’s on Showtime, right?
Craig: Law of attraction I said to myself “I’d love to meet them.” And then weeks later I met them. This has been wild what happen.
John: Yes cuz that was the first thing you said to me.
Craig: That’s crazy.
John: That’s all the time we have. We love you (blows kiss) Stay tuned for whoever is next.
Craig: Hold it. I can’t let him to the sign-off. I do the d*** sign off. Please rate us on iTunes. Donate at craigshoemaker.com That will help us pay Sarah. I don’t even care about me. I just want Sarah (he goes on from here)
John: You know I feel like I have a hairdo that is from The Hunger Games
(Close out chatter.)