You walk into the Cowsills dressing room before a show at your own risk.
Bob, 20, will stop long enough to show off the scars on his stomach, and tell you how he got them.
His brothers – Paul, 17, Barry, 15, and John, 13 – are stripping off pants and sweaters in favor of blue shirts and purple tuxedos.
Little Susan walks in and one of her brothers hits her in the fact with her own dress.
Their mother, Barbara Cowsill, comes back in her stage dress, “Cool it, fellas.”
“Aw, Ma, these pants are ridiculous: they’re gonna split when I get on stage,” says one growing son.
Father Bud Cowsill just sits back and enjys the family bedlam. “As you can see, they’re all introverted,” he said.
He and his family were at the University of Alberta Friday night for a concert in the main gym of the physical education building.
In the last two years, the Cowsills have put out five albums and eight singles, all of them successful. Their father had borrowed $100,000 and was down to his last few dollars when The Rain, the Park and Other Things, their first gold record, started selling.
Since then, they’ve appeared on most of the big TV shows and at most of the bigger night spots.
During the school year, they perform at concerts two weekends a month. Barbara Cowsill performs on stage with her children, and Bud’s the manager
Until recently, their oldest son, Bill, 22, performed with them, but now he’s married and carrying on his own career as a record producer. Another son, Dick, 20, used to be their road manager, but he’s now serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army.
“These kids are going to grow up deprived. They don’t know what a generation gap is,” said Mrs. Cowsill.
Don’t they ever get tired of the family togetherness? “Constantly – that’s why we split in 10 different directions when it’s vacation time,” Bud said.
The family’s big concert Friday night was how to get Susan, 10, out trick or treating.
At intermission time, she got her chance. She didn’t get back on stag until her brothers had been singing for 10 minutes, but her bag of candy was safe in the dressing room.
“Nothing bothers us. We refuse to be bothered,” said Bud.
Not even ghosts can bother the family. Their home in Rhode Island was said to be haunted by a New England sea captain, and when they moved to Santa Monica, doors continued to band, and steps were heard in the night.
“We like to think he’s still there. It’s a heck of an excuse for banging radiators,,” Bud said.
The family’s natural exuberance carries over into their performances.
Bob plays guitar, Barry bass, Paul the organ, and John the drums. Susa dances, sings and scratches her nose. Barbara, in a yellow mini-dress that sets off legs no mother of seven has a right to, just sings.
All of them get the chance to do a solo, and prove that nobody’s hiding lack of talent behind the family sound.
Their voices are excellent, their harmony haunting and their presentation bouncy.