Though the Cowsills are now one of the most successful singing groups in the country, life hasn't always been so good to them. There were times when so many things were going wrong that other people might have given up their dreams of happiness. Like the day they almost froze to death in their own home!
The Cowsills live in a twenty-two room mansion on a hill in Newport, Rhode Island. As soon as you drive up the twisting road leading to it, the first glimpse of the house takes your breath away. Ivy grows all over the walls, windows are broken and have screens hanging from them. The uncut grass is now about three feet high. The house and grounds resemble a forest, and Curly, the family dog, hunts rabbits and other wild animals in it! It is three stories high and has a "Captain's Walk." As the story goes, when the captain built the house a long, long time ago, he put the walk on the roof so his wife could watch for his ship to come into the harbor. These days Mrs. Cowsill uses it to escape from her eight "riotous Indians."
The furnishings inside are sparse. In the living room sits one large sofa, two chairs, and a TV set. All meals are cooked on a 1917 gas range stove, which does not always light when you want it to. In the so-called library there is a ping-pong table. In the so-called dining room there is a pool table. There are seven bathrooms and one shower. "Water pressure isn't so great," says Bob. "The best time to take a shower is around three o'clock in the morning."
The Cowsills haven't made many home improvements yet because for the last three years all their money has been reinvested in the tools of their
trade - musical instruments, sound systems and amplifiers. Their attitude is, "So, there isn't any furniture - we're happy."
And it is for the same reason that they once almost all lost their lives!
In little John's room, there is a cage made of wire which was meant to house a miniature monkey. It is kept to remind them of a time in their lives when death seemed to be an ever present shadow hanging over them.
"I saved my allowance for six weeks to get Clyde," John recounts tearfully the story of his pet monkey. "I waited for him to come and then, the next day after I got him, I woke up in the morning and there he was - lying in the bottom of the cage - frozen!"
And it almost happened to them, too! The Cowsills were broke and nearly on the brink of losing every thing. They had no money, the phones had been disconnected, and there wasn't any oil for the furnace. So they were doomed to spend the winter in bitter cold.
"Bill and Bob chopped up their dressers to make fire wood, and everybody huddled together around the fireplace," recalls Mrs. Cowsill. Desperate for money, they all came to New York. There, almost miraculously, they met Artie Kornfeld, a producer and writer. He saw their worth and introduced them to Lenny Stogel, a talent manager who also saw the "diamonds in the rough" that were the Cowsills. Their association lead to MGM records and the rest is history. In the space of a few weeks they became one of the hottest properties in the business.
But they had never forgotten when they were living in the coldest property in Newport!