“We’re a closely knit group, but we’re all different. Still, we’re just a regular family,” said Paul Cowsill, 17, a member of the singing Cowsill family who were in Richmond for two shows last Saturday.
The differences in them are apparent by the types of music each prefers to sing.
Bob, 20-year-old and lead guitarist for the group, said that he likes “soft” songs like “Michelle” and “Yesterday.” “I like mellow slow songs,” he added.
“I like hard, gutty stuff – guess you could call it hard soul – like “Devil With the Blue Dress On” or “Proud Mary,” said Paul, organist for the group.
Bass guitar player Barry, 15, agreed with Paul, saying he likes soul. But 13-year-old John, the drummer, declared that he prefers country and western music. “I like the Nashville sound and Johnny Cash. I like the beat.”
The youngest Cowsill, 10-year-old Susan, said that she likes all of the music the group sings.
Example of their many tastes in music can be found in the group’s repertoire, which began with, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Their sound, which seems to rely heavily on polished harmonization, was displayed well in their next number, “When I Woke Up this Morning, You Were On My Mind.”
THE AUDIENCE, which filled approximately a third of the Mosque during the afternoon show, seemed to enjoy each successive number more than the one before it.
The group continued with “Poor Baby” and “We Can Fly.” They followed with “Indian lake,” one of their hits from summer ’68 and “I Really Want to Know You,” a smooth, slow song featuring Mrs. Barbara Cowsill.
Then there was a break in which they answered the most frequently asked questions:
“Yes, we are all one family; No, Cowsill is not a farm animal or a disease; Yes, Cowsill is the real family name.”
While the audience was just mildly enthusiastic during the first half, they became more enthusiastic after intermission. When the Cowsills began singing songs like “Hey Jude” and “Birthday,” the Mosque came to life. Picture-taking fans and admirers crammed the aisles. Some threw notes on the stage.
To go on tour, Bob cuts classes at UCLA where he is majoring in drama, and the other four children are taken out of the professional school they attend. Bob explained that they try to give concerts on weekends during the school year.
Susan, a fifth-grader, said that it really didn’t matter to her whether or not she missed school to go on a tour. “You don’t miss a darn thing – you take your books with you and work every day!” She added that her favorite class is lunch.
“If I was in school as a normal kid, I’d go nuts. At least I can get out,” said Barry, a tenth-grader. “My favorite class is English. I have this crazy 70-year-old teacher that reminds me of Bette Davis. She’s really weird. I want to go to Purdue, major in English and then teach English, but I won’t be crazy.”
THE COWSILLS seem to be a rather athletic family. Bob played right-end on his high school football team, but doesn’t have time for college sports. Paul plans to enter UCLA next year to major in physical education. Barry said that he likes to sled in winter and swim in the summer.
Bubbly Susan said she likes “to play basketball with my brothers, but they won’t let me play much. They say I’ll get hurt . . . I have a boyfriend – mark Lester of ‘Oliver,’ but I’ve never met him,” she added quickly.
On stage Susan, who plans to be an actress, never stands still. She is always dancing or jumping around. It’s the same backstage. No one can seem to hold her down.
NOW CALLING Santa Monica, Calif, their home, the Cowsills once lived in Portsmouth, Va. Bob explained that it was quite a few years ago, when his father was in the Navy.
“We’ll stay together as a family forever – even if we split the singing group, we’ll always be professionals – probably actors. Once you’re in the business, you never leave,” said Paul.
“Sue may even go on as a single recording artist, she has such a good voice. She’s already taped an appearance by herself on the Dean Martin Show. It will be run Thanksgiving night,” he added.
“We don’t make any long-range plans. When the kids don’t want to do it any more, we’ll just quit. I know they want to go into acting,” added Mrs. Cowsill.
Getting to the top wasn’t easy. Mrs. Cowsill said that Bill has been on the road with the group since he was 14. They played for high school dances and church socials in the beginning. They began receiving national notice three years ago with “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things.”
According to John, the group needs to practice about three hours daily. “But we’re human. If Bob has a date – he usually does – we end up practicing about one hour.”
To a person who thought that the Cowsills’ music was limited to “Hair” and “Indian Lake,” they turned out to be a surprise; for the Cowsills are a versatile group – there seems to be no type of song that they can’t carry off with success, be it country and western, rhythm and blues, soul or just plain rock.