One thing about the Cowsills – when they plug a product, it’s a product they believe in.
The musical family (which will appear Friday afternoon and night in the Mid-South Coliseum as a Fair attraction) is filming commercials for one of the biggest accounts in the history of advertising.
They’re being paid a cool million dollars by the American Dairy Association for doing something they do all the time anyhow.
“No kidding,” said Bud Cowsill, the group’s father, husband and road manager. “Some fellow who’s a member of the American Dairy Association saw us on television and asked somebody else, “Why can’t we have folks like that representing us?’ We got the job.”
“When I told the advertising men for the Dairy Association that my kids drink eight and a half gallons of milk a day they thought we were putting them on,” chimed in Barbara Cowsill, who doubles as mother and singer.
“WITH MILK bills like that we should put them on? No kidding, we drink that much milk. It’s great promoting something you believe in as much as we believe in drinking milk.”
The Cowsills began in Newport, R.I., where three of the six boys rehearsed in the family living room and played folk, folk rock and standards at teen clubs, church benefits and parties.
The other members of the family were added to the group gradually and the act was completed when little sister, Susan, who is 9, joined the group in 1967.
The seven performing members now are Barbara, who is 40, Paul, 16,l and Susan, singers; Bill, 20, and Bob, 19, guitars; Barry, 14, bass guitar, and John, 12, drums.
Bud who is 43 and retired after 20 years in the Navy, is general manager and sound man. Dick, Bob’s twin, is road manager and lighting technician.
Their two biggest single records to date are “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” followed by “We Can Fly.” Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the records were such a success the Cowsill family was sent on a promotional tour of Europe. They appeared in London, at the San Remo Festival in Italy and in Rome, Milan and Bolgna.
“WE TRAVELED with 50 suitcases and soon learned that the simplest way to keep everything straight was to line the baggage up on the sidewalk and let everybody claim his own,” said Bud “We tipped the bellboys to let us carry our own bags.”
Included in the assortment of baggage is a carrying case for a black poodle named Subar. “The combination of Susan’s and my first names,” explained Barbara. “She’s a widely traveled dog and quite motel-broken.”
Summertime is vacation time for most people, but for the Cowsills it has meant work.
“When school starts we only work on weekend,” said Barbara. “Susan is in the third grade this year, John the sixth grade, Barry the eighth grade and Paul the 11th grade. Bob and Bill are in college.”
“Bill recently took unto himself a bride, a pretty blond girl named Karen who plans to be a fashion designer.
“THERE are no big problems of rearing a family this size and having a wonderful time at it,” Barbara mused. “We’re having great fun and we’re all together but nobody’s locked into this. Off stage Susan still plays house with her dolls. The money the youngsters make goes into a trust fun. They’re working their way through college even before they’re through high school.”
They’ve “worked their way” onto the Mike Douglas Show, the Johnny Carson Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, and Kraft Music Hall with Eddy Arnold.
“Johnny Carson was really great,” described Barbara. “He knew I was nervous. Eddy Arnold? What a sweetheart.”
The Cowsills will be seen this fall on Operation Entertainment, the Jonathan Winters Show, the Red Skelton Show, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and “even our own special.” chimed in Susan.
That’s because they’re a special group with a special kind of music that appeals to a special group: “Everybody from 7 to 70,” said Bud.
They will appear in the coliseum for shows at 4:30 and 8:30.