Don: Well ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the Steel Pier Radio Show with my friend Ed Hurst. It is such a great pleasure. We haven’t talked in a couple years on the show that is. But The Cowsills are quite in the news these days and we’ve got Bob Cowsill, one of the founding members of the family band, The Cowsills with us on the Steel Pier Show. Bob, how are you doing?
Bob: Well founding, like a founding father (laughing) yet that’s just a position based on my age and the rank of children I think.
Don: It’s an homage to seniority within a group structure.
Bob: I’m doing great. We’re doing just great. It has been awhile, but it’s good to get back with you.
Don: You know The Cowsills spent some special day on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City and I know you remember those days.
Bob: There was nothing like playing the Steel Pier, because first of all the audience …. Look the core group was always there and they’d spend the week and go to every single show. Watch the movie every time that played just before you. And they were quite loyal. But what was fun really was that, of course being a huge tourist destination, the audience rotat… it shifted. And that was really great because by Thursday you’re playing to a whole different group. And then of course we’re having all the fun on the Steel Pier. The Belgium Waffles and the horse at the end of the pier that dove into the water, which fascinated us because we were teenagers. That’s incredible! Those fun things were great. And boy they you, your name in lights HUGE up on that boardwalk and …. I know it’s all changed and I honestly haven’t seen it yet since it got all different, but my memory is more nostalgic and fond memories type of thing because of my age, obviously.
Don: I tell you, your name was never bigger in lights than when you appeared at the Steel Pier, on the marquee on the boardwalk.
Bob: It was like fun. It was quite fun to see that at night and so festive of course, the boardwalk, the lights and there was your name and boy they did put it up there. God bless ‘em.
Don: You know we’re doing a couple things today. Obviously we’re visiting with The Cowsills, but also we’re looking back at the summer of 1971, which was one of the summers that you and the family played the Steel Pier. This one happen to be a twin bill with the Allman Brothers.
Bob: Oh that’s right. Yeah, but you know, that brought in two whole different subsets of fans and people, but we all got along because back then we all listened to each others music because we all had to listen to the same radio station. So, you know, if you were into the Cowsills you like that, but you heard the Allman Brothers music and you’d say, “Yeah it’s alright but …” you’re waiting for your favorite song. So, the Steel Pier was like visual radio, like it used to be. Now it’s all segmented and fractured but back then we could all get along. It was great.
Don: Isn’t that great.
Bob: It was
Don: I got to tell you first off, my congratulations. This documentary that you put together Family Band: The Cowsills Story People always ask. A family so hugely talented as all of you, the sibling and your mother, how talented that you guys were and that it didn’t last any long, in the sense that it seemed like a short ride for a few years but that documentary on Showtime and I want to bring people attention, it’s still playing even after several months on selected dates on Showtime television. What you did with that Bob is extraordinary.
Bob: Thank you. Showtime has been …. Look they … you hear “Oh the documentary is going on Showtime. They’re going to play it.” And I’m like “What night?” I didn’t know what was going to happen. What was about to happen was four months. And I think it plays through June 16th or something like that. But they’ve been really good about that and I guess it was a sign that it sort of struck a chord that it lasted that long on Showtime. So that’s good to know our story is something. I think people empathize and some lived a life like that but not on the stage, but there’s a lot of familiar things in our story to that of other families. And we had an acute version of some of it but I think people relate to how things were back then.
Don: I think if you look back, I remember the first time that we talked – and we’ve been talking for years now – but the first time I talked to you I ask you what happened to The Cowsills. And I don’t know if at that time you were really ready to tell the story, as you did. You really revealed yourself in this, didn’t you?
Bob: Well, it took years and we even stopped for two of them. Seven or eight years and we stopped for two of them. It was … look it’s therapy. And what I mean by that is if you’re going to do a documentary about yourself and be honest because documentaries I think by definition command honesty from the subject. And when you’re going to do that – oh boy – look the editor Bill Fil_____ and Louise Palanker, the director, these people saw the story in the story if you know what I mean. When we started, we ended up with 80 hours – well Showtime didn’t play 80 hours so somebody had to have the talent to get into that 80 hours and find the hour and a half. And that’s what Bill did. He’s just did such a good job and yeah, there’s so many hours. You could make a second documentary out of the same footage covering different stuff. This is so ….. There’s a lot of characters and a lot of people and we lost a couple brothers along the way and it was something to go through. I got to tell you.
Don: Yeah I think that because you worked so long at it, everybody is included. You got your brothers, you got your aunts and the family members that could reflect on all this history and …. I think you nailed it, Bob. I think that you guys delivered the goods.
Bob: Thank you
Don: I think you really revealed yourselves and all of the experience, not just the happy times.
Bob: No, you get … well you never get used to it, but you get accustomed when the camera is rolling – because you do agree to do this and that means you got to go through it. You got to put yourself through it. Like I said, we shut down for two years. I mean it was such a new experience. You go, “Gees, this is like psycho-therapy.”
Don: Now having done this experience, and it’s been out there for several months now. It’s playing on national television. What has it done for The Cowsills?
Bob: It’s been great and the reaction has been really wonderful from everybody. And the name recognition went up a lot. We’ve actually gotten movie and book offers. The real deal kind. This is a level we’re not used to since the old days. So there’s a resurgence in our story and of course that’s the irony of our comeback as I call it. Is that it’s being led by the story, not by the music. And the music has always continued. All of us individually, collectively, this version, that version, never stopped that. So people say, “Hey is there any music?” Yeah, there’s a ton of it. Go to iTunes or CDbaby or our website and there it is. It’s all new to you. About that, we made two really good records in our opinion through these years, Cocaine Drain and Global just because we’re artists. We always were. And anytime something went bad in the family or you just needed to …. That’s where you went. To the music. To write. To peform. And we all stuck with that, just from the very beginning that was a odd kind of gene that manifested itself.
Don: This song “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things“ I got to tell ya, it’s a favorite of mine. I guess it’s become your signature song, I would say.
Bob: I’d say so because it became timeless to people and it stood the test of time is what it did. And Artie and Steve who wrote it – it’s just a great song. And they wrote it for us so you had that kind of magic going on. We didn’t just find it, you know.
Don: The harmonies, Bob, the harmonies involved in it are so intricate. I was talking to Ed Hurst just before the interview with you and I was thinking how many groups could actually sing this song and I came up with The Beach Boys. I think The Osmonds could do some justice to it
Bob: Oh sure
Don: But once again I’m thinking about this and it just so happens that all these groups were all family, you know, for the most part. So ….
Bob: Yeah, that’s right.
Don: So, the harmonies that are required, I find that song to be a masterpiece, I really do.
Bob: Thank you. We loved doing it live. It’s a challenge, I’ll tell you, because back then we were making records like of like Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” You’re having these arrangers and these kind of orchestras and … it’s not your four piece band is what I’m saying back then. There was some control around us. We kept thinking “Where’s our gear?” you know, “What is this?” The new way of doing it. But honestly that song, you know, and we had recorded it … we were done recording it and Mom still wasn’t in the group. She still wasn’t in it and we had that record done and then she was put in and then we had to go back in the studio, get her on that thing and that’s her singing the high melody but she was so scared. I had to stand behind her. And it’s both of us singing the high harmony. It sounds doubled. It’s me and Mom, to get her through it. That’s her and me doing that “I love the flower girl” – the melody but she was supposed to do it alone but she … her knees were shaking. It was something. But Mom – just if I could say something about Mom – for being reluctant and for being a Mom – remember she was only in her upper 30’s. You know we thought she might as well been 80, you know, you’re putting her in our band. And so she did a good job because she was reluctant also.
Don: Really good work.
Bob: Absolutely good work. We had a hit record with her. Susan came in and it became the family band that we didn’t know it was going to become and now we’re older adults of course now you see it. You understand it better too. It was great.
Don: Well Bob I want to thank you so much for coming back and visiting with everybody on the Steel Pier Radio Show, and also congratulations again to you and the family on the Family Band: The Cowsills Story. If people – if you want to find out what happen to The Cowsills, you’ll be left with very few questions after watching Showtime this month and into June. You want to catch this on the Showtime TV network. It really is well done Bob, I want to congratulate you again.
Bob: Thank you so much
Don: Well Bob Cowsill, you’ve been a pleasure as always and we’ve got to keep in touch and best to you and the family.
Bob: Thank you so much.
Ed: That Bob Cowsill is some guy to speak to, isn’t he Don? Did a great job. Thank you