Newspaper Articles

Sang lead for band that became model for Partridge Family
By Emma Poole
January 20, 2006
Times Colonist
Victoria, Canada

CALGARY -- When William (Billy) Cowsill moved to Calgary in the late 1990s, local musicians -- many of them already fans -- waited patiently for their chance to play alongside the legend.

Not all got their wish, but those who did realized the honour.

"I just feel lucky about that. He was my favourite singer in the whole world," said Tom Phillips, a local musician with the band Tom Phillips and the Men of Constant Sorrow. "He had that rock'n' roll voice. It was a piercing, right down to my soul."

On Saturday, after battling for years with emphysema, Cushing Syndrome and osteoporosis, Cowsill passed away at his Calgary home. He was 58.

Cowsill's family learned of his death on the same day they had gathered in Rhode Island, for a memorial for Barry Cowsill. He drowned in the wake of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Billy Cowsill was the lead singer of the 1960s family band The Cowsills -- an act that inspired the TV series The Partridge Family.

His music career continued to thrive when he moved to Canada in the early 1980s.

Cowsill led the band Blue Northern, and later The Blue Shadows.

He also formed the Calgary-based quartet The Co-Dependents. The band released its second CD -- titled The Co-Dependents Live at the Mecca Cafe (Volume 2) -- in December. The album is currently No.1 on the best-seller list at Megatunes in downtown Calgary.

Phillips had long been a fan of Cowsill's, and said he wasn't the easiest guy to get to know. But once a friend, he was loyal for life, he said.

"He was a prickly guy, but once you got to know him, he'd kiss ya every time you saw him," he said.

The two musicians met over a decade ago and had been pals every since.

Phillips recalled a time when Cowsill came to his apartment unannounced. He declined an invitation to come inside, instead opting to sit on the front stoop for a quick chat.

"He said he thought I was the best singer he'd heard in Calgary," he said. "I'm lucky to have known him."

Years of hard partying and hard living eventually caught up to Cowsill.

He had three major back surgeries and a hip replacement.

He walked with two canes, and was hooked up to oxygen.

"His body was slowing down. He lived a life, and there was a lot there," said Suzanne Leacock, whose husband, Tim, played in The Co-Dependents.

Leacock often helped take care of Cowsill as his health deteriorated. She'd do his laundry and take him for groceries.

Cowsill's tough exterior, she said, was a far cry from his real demeanour.

"He came to Calgary when he needed some support and I think people opened up their arms," she said.

"He would have gone to the end of the Earth for you. I'm going to miss a good friend."

Bandmate Steve Pineo said the music community has lost a pioneer.

Cowsill, he said, would often stop playing in the middle of a set if someone was talking or making noise in the audience.

"He cared about manners and social graces," he said. "He was a pretty fiery guy."

Cowsill's fans were mourning his passing Sunday on Internet chat rooms and blogs.

"I am very, very sad. I am a big Billy Cowsill fan," wrote one fan. "What a voice and what a performance."

Another wrote: "I was left speechless upon hearing the news about Billy. I was literally left breathless."


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