For the others, it was a chance to entertain 16,000 troops at Ft. Gordon and a nation-wide TV audience later in the year.
But for the Cowsills it was the chance to entertain one soldier.
Dick Cowsill, a member of the red-hot rock-‘n-roll Cowsill Family, is in training at Fr. Gordon. And little did his parents know when they signed to do a TV show called “Operation Entertainment” that they would wind up at Ft. Gordon on a cloudy day in May with their son in the audience.
“It’s a great thrill,” Barbara Cowsill, the mother, was saying as she stood beside a makeshift stage on a Gordon parade field and watch Tim Conway of “McHale’s Navy” and “Ringo” fame crack ‘em up with a few jokes.
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. This was just a dress rehearsal, a run through, before the show would be taped three hours later for a September airing
“The Army has just been wonderful,” the singing mother of seven added. “They’ve let us see a lot of Dick since we’ve been down here. You know, this is the first time we’ve been separated from him.”
They were here to sing two songs from their hit album “We Can Fly” but there were a few surprises. For one thing, the youngest member of the group, Susie, celebrated her ninth birthday, and of course the traditional party was inevitable.
The Army game Dick a little time off, and the banquet hall at the Holiday Inn here really worked.
Before the party there was another decision, this one business, but one that the Cowsills enjoyed thoroughly. Under an advertising contract with the American Dairy Association, the Cowsills visited the H. M. Boyce Dairy Farm near Augusta in Burke County.
The children, ranging in age from nine to 20, milked cows, posed for photographers and made themselves right at home.
“We chose the Boyce Dairy because it’s one of the best in the state,” said W. A. Law of Jenkins County, an ADA manager. “We’ve got a wholesome product and a wholesome family to help us sell it,” said John F. Brookman one of the ADA’s top publicity men.
The Cowsills arrived in Augusta Sunday. They were joined by other “Operation Entertainment” celebrities such as Tim Conway, TV’s “Ringo” and earlier of “McHale’s Navy” fame; singer Florence Henderson; Fred Astaire’s latest dancing partner, Barrie Chase; comedian Rodney Dangerfield and Los Cabrera, an acrobatic act.
Later this week the Fort will host such stars as Stefanie Powers of the “Girl from UNCLE”; Honey Limited, a quartet of female vocalists; comedian John Byner and the Little Step Brothers, a dance group.
That group, again with Conway as host, will tape Thursday for a September showing also.
Now Conway was winding up his montolog. First he brought out Miss Henderson and then Dangerfield.
Then it was the Cowsills turn, and a proud pappa stood on the sidelines and watched. An ex-Navy man with 20 years to his credit, Bud Cowsill is the driving force behind the Cowsills.
“They’re the greatest,” he said as the Cowsills launched forth on a loud but somehow haunting melody.
“We’re what we call ‘folk rock’,” said Cowsill. One of the children calls it conglomerate rock. That’s probably a better description. It appeals to all ages.”
Two of the boys, Bob, one of the 19-year-old twins, and the oldest son, 20-year-old Bill, write much of the Cowsills material.
“They can’t read music; so they just do it and we get someone to come in and put it down on paper,” said Cowsill
They’ve even adapted one of their songs, “A Good Day Guaranteed” to the dairy industry” . . . It’s a milk day … in a good way …” the family sings.
Bud beamed with pride “They’re the greatest,” he said. “You’re going to hear a lot more about us.”