At the very moment Newport was becoming younger and hipper, the city was incubating a hot new band with a cool new sound. The Cowsill brothers - Bill, Bob, Barry, and John - were former navy brats who lived with their parents, Bud and Barbara, and their yunger siblings, Susan, Paul and Richard. They organized a classic garage band and played Beatles' songs at school dances, colleges, and local clubs.
It was a family affair through and through. Bud Cowsill managed his teenage sons and shuttled the group around in an old station wagon. They played regular gigs at Bannister's Wharf in downtown Newport and in the clubby basement of the Munchinger King Hotel on Bellevue Avenue. One lucky day, at Today show staffer was in the audience, and he was so impressed by the group's clean look and appealing, sunshine-pop sound that he invited them to appear on the show. The Cowsills charmed the television audience and won a contract with MGM Records. Eventually they invited their mother to become an official band member and expanded to include sister Susan and brother Paul.
The Cowsills perfected bouncy, four-and-five-part harmonies that made their songs upbeat and infectious. It was a "Newport" sound, high-spirited and redolent of blue skies, fresh breazes, and good times. "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" (frequently referred to as "the most tune-worthy song of all time") soared to number 2 on the Billboard chart, and "Indian Lake" and "Hair" were both top sellers as well. The family band even inspired the hit television series The Partridge Family, which starred Academy Award winner Shirley Jones and her teen idol stepson, David Cassidy.
In these relaxed times, some of the cottagers were surprisingly unperturbed about issues that would have had them in arms in the past. . . .