The Cowsills In Magazines

The Cowsills: "How Do You Get Fired From A Family?"
Freckles, laughter, big brown eyes and a "mini-mommy."
These are some of the trademarks of those wonderful Cowsill miracles, Bill, 19, Bob, 18, Barry, 13, John 11

by Marvin Grelfinger
February 1968
Screen Parade Magazine



STANDING among the wild, cheering crowd at Malibu Beach Club, watching these four talented youngsters perform, I couldn't help smiling as I thought of something Bill Cowsill had told me earlier . . .

I first met the Cowsill family two weeks before, at a private reception given by MGM Records. The things you are aware of at first meeting are: lots of freckles, laughter, big brown eyes, and a "mini-mommy," as they like to call Barbara Cowsill. Bill, 19, Bob, 18, Barry, 13, and John, 11, form the nucleus of the group. Their mother Barbara, besides acting as chaperone, and general trouble-shooter, lends her clear voice to the boys' harmony whenever it is needed. Their brothers, Dick and Paul, chose not to enter the performing end, and became the road managers, keeping the equipment straight and orderly throughout their journeys. Then there is a baby Cowsill, Susan, who is constantly teased by her all-brother family. Though they'll never admit it publicly, they adore her, and it's her job to steal the show every time they perform. Last, but surely not least, is the man whose job it is to coordinate the whole conglomeration, their father, Bud Cowsill.

Bud Cowsill runs his family on love. "When the kids do something right, they know it, and that also applies when they do something wrong. If I slip in some area, love will cover it. It's crazy, but I think you understand," he told me. "Whenever any of us has a problem, we do like all families — sweat, all the while helping it work itself out."

Barry and John gave little sister Susan, left, a big thrill. They took her to Coney Island, and they went on all the rides. Dig Susan's wild expression!

I left this first meeting marveling to myself at all the talent from this seemingly average All-American family. That is, if you know any average All-American families who live in a 22-room "Munster-like" mansion on top of one of Newport, Rhode Island's few hills. The house, I was told, has ivy growing all over the walls, windows are broken, and screens are hanging, in the manner expected of a house which boasts of seven growing youngsters. The grass has grown to a height of 3 feet, and Curly Cowsill, the family dog, and an important member,

hunts rabbits and other wildlife in this amazing forest. The house is three stories high with a "Captain's Walk." As Barbara Cowsill told me, when the Captain had the house built way back when, he put the walk on the roof so his wife could watch for his ship to come into harbor. Today, she has a different use for the walk—to escape from her eight little Indians, and to think and relax. It is her favorite spot in the world. The inside of the house is in keeping with the outside. The favorite gathering

Barry, Bob, and John, front, and Bill, rear, cut up at Lincoln Centre in New York. They're a real-lively crew!

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place, the living room, contains one large sofa, two chairs and a TV set. The kitchen contains a stove which needs a match (and a prayer) to light it. The would-be library has a ping-pong table, and the should-be dining room has a pool table. There are seven bathrooms and just one shower, "Water presure isn't so great, "Bob told me. "The best time for a shower is about 3 o'clock in the morning."

Things are now going nicely for the Cowsills, but they can't forget that a very short time ago, they came close to losing everything. There was no money left, the phones had been disconnected, there was no oil for the furnace, and it was bitter cold all winter. Bill and Bob made firewood by chopping up their dressers, and they all huddled around the fireplace. Then came the thing that gave them the strength to fight with all their might. For their beloved house was about to have its mortage foreclosed. Desperately in need of help, the Cowsills came to New York.

Call it luck, or fate, but they met Artie Kornfeld, a writer-producer, who was just one of the links in the chain of success. He introduced them to Lenny Stogel, a talent manager who understood what had to be done, and more important, knew how to do it. Lenny introduced them to MGM, who liked what they heard, and in a few weeks they came to be considered hot property.

My second meeting with the Cowsills took place on a Greyhound bus, which had been hired to take them, their equipment and a handful of people in the trade, like myself, out to Atlantic Beach, L.I. During the ride, I shared a seat with Bill, and he filled me in on the group. Bob, who alternates on vocals, and plays the electric organ, is a natural-type person who can enter the coldest room and warm every corner of it. Even though he is always on hand when all the crazy things happen in the Cowsill house, he occasionally takes to disappearing, and hours pass before he is seen again. He's usually reading, something he loves to do but is finding less time for. Barry is the family court jester, and is most at home with people, in front of a camera, or just talking. He is a natural-born entertainer, and used to be the group drummer, until John was old enough to take over. Now Barry plays bass guitar and sings. He attends school with John, St. Augustine's School in Newport, where he is an honor student. John, a pint-sized Ringo Starr, could win the Battle of the drummers contest with his eyes closed. Freckles are his trademark (he's loaded with them) and he loves to play basketball when he's not practicing. Right now, if he could have anything in the world, it would be a motorcycle.

Bill, who is the oldest, proudly told me that he is used to having his brothers look to him for advice. He is the very serious member of the group, and has a keen wit. When he attended Rhode Island College, his best subject was English. He loves to write, anything from poetry to rock 'n' roll lyrics. He is probably the most talented and complex member, and it will be quite some time before all his resources are tapped.

Bill and I got on the subject of other groups, and how there is so much shuffling, fighting, and splitting up among the members. He thought about this for a while, and turned to me and said: "That is something that will never happen to us. After all, how do you get fired from a family?"

My wandering mind was brought back to reality by the deafening screams of the youngsters who had heard and loved the music of the Cowsills. Their doubts and fears were unnecessary, since they were a big hit. I looked over at Mr. and Mrs. Cowsill, who had pride in a job well done written all over their faces, and wondered what was going through their minds at this time. I know it wasn't the end result of weeks, months and years of practice, but the beginning of many, many more. And it couldn't happen to a nicer family.

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