The Cowsills In Magazines

The Milk, the Park and the Cowsills
March-April 1979
Paperback Writer Magazine

In the sixties when you wanted to insult someone, you'd say they were either the president of the Wayne Newton fan club or chairman of the Cowsills chapter.

It was very hard to take this squeaky-clean, all-American, milk-drinking, apple-pie, freckled-faced family from Newport, Rhode Island who'd donned guitars, as a serious musical act.

It started as two brothers. (Bill & Bob) attaining guitars from their sea-faring dad. After years of constant rehearsal they had a number of tunes down. Brother John joined in on drums and other brother Barry plunked bass. The boys pushed their little combo in the northeast for a good while before Lenny Stogel caught their act at a local talent show and was so impressed became their personal manager. Lenny Stogel at that time with Leonard Stogel Associates brought them to the attention of MGM Records who'd agreed to partially finance the promo push for the new band. Stogel faithfully provided the rest.

When the Cowsills began their first MGM recording sessions mother Barbara was there to tend to her sons' every needs. One need in particular was a sweet harmonic voice, so Barbara conceded. Their first MGM LP was a collection of wholesome ballads, adult in nature reminiscent of early sixties albums. The single off the album (the gem of the collection) called The Rain, The Park, and Other Things sounding

'Hair, from the Broadway musical became another number one for those smiling, look-alike, singers From Newport ..."

remarkably like the Mamas and Papas shot to the top of American charts. This was the spark that ignited the fire which found the Cowsills as being hot property. A number one hit by an all-family group that began touring the country selling out every venue.


The Cowsill entourage took advantage of the new found publicity and added little sis Susan to complete the all-family concept. Father Bud was helping as concert consultant and non-performing brothers Paul and Dick were roadies. All one could ask for new was a second number one.

It came in their second album properly entitled We Can Fly. Somehow the Cowsills were keeping up with the sign of the times in clean, uncorrupt ways, escaping reality through their lyrics, but even harder to realize because of the candy-coated flowing harp, treatment.

With the release of their Captain Sad

& His Ship of Fools LP, the band began experimenting with more original tunes as their basic LP format, at the same time the American Dairy Association signed them as their publicity campaign pop group to promote milk to the younger masses. This didn't really help the "wholesome" image that was trapping this musical family. MGM Records had only contract for two more albums from the band. The next entitled, The Cowsills in Concert, a live album caught the energy the group could muster onstage and as example of how well they could do copy tunes. (Paperback Writer and Good Vibrations are almost unrecognizable from the originals.) The album also


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included the next Cowsill hit that was to take the country by storm . . . Hair.

Hair, from the Broadway musical became another number one for those smiling, look-alike, singers from Newport, although with this hit and album the band moved to Santa Monica, California to form their own company on the musically notorious Sunset Strip.

Hair, opened doors for the Cowsills again maybe even doors that were never opened before. Teenyboppers and hippies alike would be singing the rebellious lyrics to Hair for months to come. And with this revitalized interest came job offers. . . From Paramount came the first offer to a pop group to record the title theme to a new TV series started Love American Style. They were commissioned to record the theme song to the David Niven movie The Impossible Years and were even offered their own weekly TV series about a musical family in a situtation comedy. They refused the latter offer which became "The Partridge Family."

With their last album on MGM the Cowsills were producing, writing and performing all of their own music. The broken bond with the music trade bureaucracy was obvious on their II x II album. The II x II album received no airplay on American radio, and one wonders if the cause for this was

because of the stifled efforts of a now disinterested record label or if the band had truly worn out their "unadulterated" welcome in the hearts of their squeaky-clean fans. One thing was for sure. . . the Cowsills were now making music to please themselves, not to please their managers, promo men or label. Their lives as musicians began with the II x II album.

London Records released the last Cowsill album entitled On My Side a collection of the best original music written by this band. It had country & western, good 'ole rock 'n roll, and that soft ballad stuff with lifting harmonies that made them famous. Special note should be made of the Merle Haggard-like singing of John Cowsill on Cheatin' On Me and the great songwriting by Barry Cowsill on Dover Mines . . .

The band literally traded the flowing harp for a feeding-back biting lead guitar on this album, and it was a shame radio or its audience were listening no longer. Two more singles were released on the London label before the band stopped recording altogether. Covered Wagon the last single could have been slipped into the most hard rocker albums to date without being distinguished as a Cowsill song. The band had changed that much.

To date: The band is currently small gigging it in the Frisco area



Mercury-Wing/SRW 16354 The Cowsills plus the Lincoln Park Zoo
Pickwick-33/SPC 3227 The Cowsills/The Serendipity Singers
MGM/SE4498 The Cowsills
MGM/SE-4539 The Cowsills We Can Fly
MGM/SE-4554 The Cowsills Captain Sad and His Ship of Fools
MGM/SE4597 The Best of the Cowsills
MGM/SE-4619 The Cowsills in Concert
MGM/SE-4639 The Cowsills II x II
MGM/SE-4706 Bill Cowsill Nervous Breakthrough
MGM/Gasl03 The Cowsills All Time Hits
London/PS587 Cowsills On My Side

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