NATIONAL RECORDING STARS - Newport's singing Cowsill Family who departed Sunday to live in New York are shown receiving a City of Newport tile from Mayor Fred R. Aiefsin Saturday at City Hall. Seated at the table with the mayor are Barbara and Bud Cowsill. They are surrounded from left by Susan, Dick, Bill, Bob, Paul, Barry and John Cowsill.
Halidon Hall is a neo-Gothic gingerbread mansion keeping diligent watch over King Park and Newport Harbor. For decaded the house has been inhabited by a seafaring pollergeist named Capt McCormick. Saturday, after a month of dormancy, it pulsates with the presence of the Cowsill Family. Sunday it was empty again.
The Cowsills who not many winters ago were entertaining Their friends at C.Y.O. concerts, have become a very hot national property. This week their single, which has sold three quarters of a million copies is rated No. 4 in the nation by Record World magazine, edging toward the number one spot and gold recordom.
Ed Sullivan, who has catapulted scores of entertainers into the inner sanctoms of stardom, has called The Cowsills "the most important musical phenomenom of the decade."
Negotiations are under way to put a pair of "Cowsill Boots" on the feet of every clothes conscious American youth. There is talk of a plastic model Halidon Hall, a full-length motion picture, and within two years a television series.
The Cowsills are tottering on the brink of musical beautification. Friday night at a party given in their honor Bill captured the moment when he said, "This is sort of the end and the beginning for us."
Last Tuesday afternoon Barbara, Susan, Barry, John, Paul, Dick, Bob, Bill and Bud Cowsill returned home after a 30 day cross-country promotional odyssey climaxed by an appearance last Sunday on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Thursday night after an exhausting two-hour rehearsal the family sat around the kitchen table and discussed the tour that took them to 23 cities boosting their new album, cleverly called "The Cowsills" - for local D.J.'s members of the press and record distributers. A pot of coffee hissed on Barbara's 1917 Gibson gas stove.
"You could feel the pulse and the momentum build as we moved across the country," said Bill, eldest Cowsill son and unofficial captain of the recording team. "At first people would say, 'What's a Cowsill?' That's what we heard in Boston. By the time we moved into the South, the song had caught hold and people knew us."
"It was tiring," he said. "I mean each day we'd get up at 6 a.m., eat, pack and ride the bus five or six hours to the next town. Then we'd set up the equipment, and we would perform at night. We sang at special parties given for us by the MGM record people in each area. Each of them tried to outdo the other at playing host. It was fabulous. The family records are under MGM's Lion label.
Barry, 13-year-old bass player and the precocious recipient of dozens of letters daily from adolescent fans, was sitting at a nearby table working out a math homework problem. "We really build up muscles carrying the luggage and equipment," he said. "I gained 10 pounds and Bill gained 15."
As the bus snaked through the south carrying an entourage composed of the family, a female representative from Lenny Stogel and Associates their New York management firm, Sherry McClouglin, their tutor, and an MGM man. Bud, the father would designate one of the children as "navigator" to assist bus driver Jerry Hahn, in plotting the course.
"Jerry was a fantastic man," said Bud, a silver haired 20-year veteran Navy chief. "He was hand picked, an indestructible man."
"When we stopped at restaurants the boys would play touch football in the parking lot or bing their guitars inside and we would entertain the people," added Barbara Cowsill billed as the children's "mini-mon." Eight-year-old Susan sat at her side munching on a plate of chopped lettuce with French dressing.
"Sue only began singing with us when we started the tour, now she's stealing the show," Barbara said.
In each new city as record sales from their single "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" mounted, the parties became more extravagant.
"We hit people with their kind of music wherever we went," Bud recalled, "In Detroit we gave them the Motown sounds with 'Reach Out.' In Nashville it was 'Nashville Cats,' in California we sang 'Good Vibrations.' A guy came up to me and said he's never heard it sung better. He turned out to be the manager of the Beach Boys, who recorded it first."
The conversation fluctuated as thought were rekindled. Dick, who with his younger brother Paul acted as technical euqipment engineers on the tour, remembered the $18,000 Bash thrown for them in Beverly Hills by German starlet, Elke Sommer. Barbara talked of the two times in Chicago and Mobile, Ala., when Bill missed the bus.
Bill teased tutor Sherry about her encounter with actor Len G. Carrol, television's elder Man From U.N.C.L.E., on a tour through MGM's Hollywood sound studios. Someone brought up the Smothers Brothers, who had asked them to tape seven shows for them. For contract reasons they were forced to decline.
Then there was talk of Mike Nesmith, stocking-hatted member of The Monkees who went away from one of their performances speechless.
The one-night stands ended in Los Angeles where they took a therapeutic six-day vacation at the new Century Plaza Hotel. At L.A.'s famed Griffith Park they spent five hours in 100 degree heat filming a three-minute film clip to be shown with their songs on BBC T.V. in Great Britain.
By Oct. 21, they had returned to New York where they rehearsed for the Sullivan Show.
"All week producers, cameramen, set designers and make up people buzzed around us," Bill said. "We produced our own act and they were anxious to get camera angles for the show."
"We had a dress rehearsal Sunday afternoon. It lasted about two hours. It's customary to trim down the time length on acts during this run-through. Sullivan gave us an extra 50 seconds for nearly eight minutes of showtime."
At about 8:20 p.m. Sunday nearly 40 million people from Fairbanks to Far Rockaway heard Sullivan announce "And now here are the Cowsills from Newport, Rhode Island." Any smiles on viewing Chamber of Commerce members soon melted as the first 20 seconds of sound during the singing of "Rain" was blanked out.
"My stomach dropped about three feet," Bill said.
Mrs. Cowsill was unruffled by the mishap. "I wasn't nervous for the first time on the tour," she said. "I just told myself to sing to the 650 people in the audience. Soon they had the trouble cleared up and everything was fine."
The Cowsills are notably proud of the fact they are the only at in television history to sign 10 shows with nervous talent impressario Sullivan.
"Ed asked us to do his Christmas Show," Bud said. "It will be on Christmas Eve. Kind of a great way to spend Christmas, with the whole nation."
Empty Halidon Hall with it's lone pool table and color TV is silent one again. Success has deemed that the Cowsills leave Newport, at least until summer. Availability is the name of the recording game, necessitating the continual prescence of the Cowsills in New York City to meet sporadic recording timetables.
Susan, still working on the salad, expressed her pleasure at the prospect of attending a new school. "It has a swimming pool inside," she said.
When performing the Cowsills maintained an electrifying hold on the audience. Dressed in double-breasted white suits and dresses, they communicate a sort of hip wholesomeness devoured by teeny boppers and grannies alike. Saturday they staged their last locak appearance for some time at Popocrat Exposition Hall on Bellevue Avenue.
They have, in the past, and always will be the unofficial wards of the City By the Sea. Now Newporters must be willing to share The Cowsills with the world.