NEW YORK – In the world of “now” music, ya gotta have a name. And brother, do they have them! There’s the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Jefferson Airplane, the mamas and the Papas, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Kings, the Cowsills – the WHO?
If you don’t know what the Cowsills are, they are a singing group. They are also members of a family named Cowsill. They didn’t make up the name, they didn’t make up the relationship.
They are not just a couple of brothers who thought they’d give rock and roll a whirl. The actual singers are four brothers and their mother, but the entire family is involved.
They are one of the hottest new things in show business.
Success began to hit them in a hot blast last summer, and in four months they have been signed with MGM records; they have put out one album and a single and are in the process of making a second album; they have appeared on the Tonight show; and, most incredible of all, Ed Sullivan took one look at them, booked them to appear in October on his show and signed them to a 10-appearance contract through 1969.
So what’s so special about the Cowsills? Well, for one thing they have a very nice sound. For another they write their own songs, and the lyrics have meaning and the words are honest.
And that’s the key to their impact: they are honest, come across as what they are: a large, musical American family that sings about things common to all of us.
But it should quickly be noted that there is nothing sticky-sweet about them.
They are an on-the-ball, sensible, reasonable sophisticated family who customarily live in an outsize, over-grown 23-room mansion in Newport, R.I., that is straight out of Charles Addams.
The family consists of Bud and Barbara Cowsill and their children: Bill, 19, who does most of the song-writing and arranging; Bob and Dick, 18; Paul, 15; Barry, 13; John, 11; and eight-year-old Susan, the only girl in the family.
The spring that winds the family very obviously is Barbara Cowsill, distressingly referred to in their official biography as the Cowsills’ “mini-mommy.”
Barbara Cowsill is a small woman with blonde hair as short as Mia Farrow’s, large brown eyes and a sense of inner strength.
Seated, surveying the chaos of the three-room apartment into which all the Cowsills were jammed when they first came to New York, she tried to explain what had happened to htem, and how they got started.
“The nucleus of the group are Bill, Bob, Barry and John,” she said, “and Bob and Bill write their own songs.”
“We’ve always been a musical family. Bill had a nice voice and then Bob came along and they had a natural harmony together. And Barry had a little set of bongos and then of course John wanted to play the drums, too, and it happened that those two had a natural harmony as well.”
“Pretty soon they began to play college dates, and my husband took them around for about three years.”
“And then we met Art Kornfeld and then Lenny Stogel got excited and – and here we are,” she concluded.
Art Kornfeld is a producer and writer who came across the Cowsills last July. He introduced them to Lenny Stogel, who is now their talent manager. Lenny Stogel introduced them to Ed Sullivan.