The singing Cowsills are a reasonably average American family who are enjoying extremely un-average success as a musical group.
The group embraces Barbara Cowsill and six of her seven children – Bill (20), Bob (19), Paul (17), Barry (14), Johnny (12) and Susan (9). Bob’s twin brother Dick, now in the Army, usually serves as road manager.
“My husband, Bud, isn’t a bit musical; we don’t even let him hum,” said Barbara. “But he’s the guiding light of the group. It was his faith in his kids that led to whatever success we are enjoying today.”
Foundation for the Cowsills’ success story was laid years ago when Bud, who served 20 years with the Navy, started coming home from his various ports of call carrying musical instruments as gifts for his children.
The group, which grew through the years with the addition of new Cowsills’ offspring and with the recent “drafting” of Barbara, plays and sings folk music, folk rock and popular standards.
When Bud retired from the Navy in 1963, he found his kids performing for local church benefits and parties. They were pushing toward professional status. Bud decided to help. He signed a recording contract and they cut their first disk, “Most of All.” It caused ripples, but no waves. Bud tried harder for his family.
“He started taking demo tapes around to everybody in the neighborhood and asking them if they’d like to invest in the group,” Barbara recalled. “I never really thought he’d make it. He had more faith than I did.”
Make it they did, but just in time. Bud had borrowed a total of $100,000 to promote his kids. They met with only modest success, and were down to their last penny when, late in 1967, they recorded their first big hit, “The Rain, the Park and Other Things.”