Newspaper Articles

Newport Ensemble Plays Music - But Not Chamber Music
By T. Curtis Forbes
December 8, 1966
Newport Daily News
Newport, Rhode Island

Us At The Show
THE COWSILLS - Starting from left corner and clockwise are: Bill 19, Bob 17, John 10, and Barry 12.

The Cowsills (pronounced as written) - a rare breed of young male songsters, all of the same family, capable of singing more than 400 well-known songs and composing an additional 60.

Though give to frequent travels for the purpose of singing, their home is a large, many gabled Neo-Gothic mansion on Halidon Hill. The breed, though rare, is far from extinct.

The rarity of the Cowsills is their uniqueness. They are different from the vast majority of folk-rock troubadours selling live music all over this land.

Their identity is not ersatz, long hair, a "new" sound or a weird crazy name. They are themselves, clean-cut, uncomplicated and gimmickless. Besides they are extremely talented. They've got it.

First, there is Bill Cowsill Jr. Bill is first because he is the oldest and the leader. Tall angular, sharply defined, Bill is 19 and began strumming a guitar when he was seven.

On state, it's Bill who calls the plays for the group and the audience. Bill of the expressive hands, the forceful eyes and the convincing voice hold it altogether.

A master psychologist, Bill quells the unruly charms the girls and makes the boys sing. It is Bill who makes the Sunday night magic at Dorian's when half the house is pitted against the other in a duel of music. His specialty is the rhythm guitar.

Basically an extrovert like all the Cowsills, Bill has an introspective side. His favorite hobby is keeping a journal recounting the Cowsills' adventures in music land.

Bob, 17, is next in age and authority. Heavier set and slightly shorter than his older brother, Bob plays lead guitar, organ, banjo, rhythm and bass guitars, drums and is learning to play the piano.

Bob got his cue from Bill but is no mere copy of the older Cowsill. He's his own musician and his musical interest range from the latest big hits to the esoteric and the oriental. He enjoys listening to the Japanese sitar.

Bob, a master of the double take and feigned surprise, is Bill's partner in the two-way banter between the older brothers of the group.

They form the horizontal axis for the quartet with Bob on one side and Bill on the other. Between them on a slightly raised platform is 12-year-old Barry. Behind Barry, on a higher platform, is John who is 10.

Both younger brothers were born in Newport. Barry's favorite instrument is the cello, but he can play bass guitar, bass fiddle, drums and lead or rhythm guitars. He is also learning to play a horn.

Barry is the center of attention on the stage. He is perpetual motion, dancing with his guitar or pouring songs into a handmike. But there is energy left over for sports; skin diving, swimming, basketball, football and baseball.

John, the drummer, also plays bass guitar and horn, but is essentially a drummer. In fact, his favorite sport is breaking drumsticks. John breaks so many drumsticks the Cowsill never have to buy firewood.

Occasionally Mrs. Cowsill makes the scene. Her appearances are rare and too infrequent. Besides assuring the audience the boys have a mother, she adds a beautiful and feminine quality to the performances. This is an asset.

The only other female member of the troupe is seven-year-old Suzie. Suzie dances. Suzie has just begun. Watch out for Suzie.

Yes, there are more Cowsills: Paul, 15, and Dick, 17. Dick is Bob's fraternal twin. Paul and Dick prefer baseball and football to music. They help considerably with setting up the act when it is on the road. Sports keep them in shape for setting up speakers, instruments and other musical paraphernalia.

Jovial Bill Cowsill Sr., recently retired after 20 years in the Navy, handles some of the logistics which are engineer by equally jovial Dick (Biggy) Korn, manager of the Cowsills.

Occasionally during their act the boys refer to an "Uncle David" whose idenity is not always disclosed. Some think he is a mythical character. This is not so. He does exist and he plays an instrument popular at the turn of the century call a "ukelin."

The family is a great scene with all the order and discipline expected of a Navy family as well as the spontaneity and freedom of an artistic and talented group of performers.

Their 17-room home overlooks Newport Harbor is one big stage. Bill Sr. has plans to ____ and decorate it to his tastes, but is too busy right now.

The Cowsills are always busy and have been so since Bill and Bob appeared on television in Cleveland as tots. Since then the Cowsills have appeared on several television shows including the Today Show.

They have make three recordings: "All I Really Want To Be Is Me," for Joda Productions; "Most of All" and "Party Girl" for Phillips Records.

This summer they appeared at Yankee Stadium in Soundblast 66 with the Beach Boys, Four Seasons and Stevie Wonder. They have made the college circuit appearing at some of the best schools.

They performed at Brown, Rutgers, Princeton, University of Rhode Island, Salve Regina College, Vernon Court Junior College, Providence College, Patterson College, Bloomsberg College, Jersey State and other institutions of higher education.

The Cowsills are established, have been places and are going places. Where are they going? "Around the world." Ask any Cowsill.

Email Me Home