NEW YORK - The Cowsills will be guests on the Ed Sullivan Show Sunday.
If you don't know what the Cowsills are, they are a singing group. And they are not just a couple of brothers who thought they'd give rock and roll a whirl. The actual singers are four brothers and their mother, but the entire family is involved in seven youngsters and two adults being Cowsills.
They are also one of the hottest new things in show business. Success began to hit them in a hot blast last summer, and in the four months they have been signed with MGM records; they have put out one album and a sing and are in the process of making a second album.
They have appeared on the Tonight show; and, most incredible of all, Ed Sullivan took one look at them, booked them to appear in October on the show and signed them to a 10-appearance contract through 1969.
So what's so special about the Cowsills? Well, for one thing they have a very nice sound. For another, they write their own songs, and the lyrics have meaning and the words are hones. And that's the key to their impact; they are honest, clean, and genuine. They come across as what they are: a large, musical American family that sings about things common to all of us.
But before they begin to sound like a folk-rock version of the Trapp family, it should quickly be noted that there is nothing sticky-sweet about the Cowsills. They are an on-the-ball, sensible, reasonably sophisticated family who customarily live in an outsize, overgrown 23-room mansion in Newport, R.I., that is straight out of Charles Addams.
They are not disgustingly sweet nor are they hiding strange vices or overweening ambition beneath a phony apple-pie exterior.
The family consists of Bud and Barbara Cowsill and their children: Bill, 19, who does most of the songwriting and arranging; Bob and Dick, 18; Paul, 15; Barry, 13; John, 11; and eight-year-old Susan, the only girl in the family.
But the spring that winds the family very obviously is Barbara Cowsill, distressingly referred to in their official biography as the Cowsills' "mini mommy."
Barbara Cowsill is a small, woman with blonde hair as short as Mia Farrow's, large brown eyes and a sense of inner strength. She is accustomed to living in a whirl of confusion and noise, as are most mothers of large families, but there is no question of her authority.
When she snaps out discipline it is obeyed without comment. She is trim and smart and young enough to look like one of her boys on the record covers, but there are lines around her eyes that reveal the strain of raising that family, occasionally without enough money and frequently by herself. For all her boyishness, she is intensely feminine.