One of the most unusual pop tunes to appear in years is “Hair” as recorded by one of the most unique groups on the pop scene – the rocking and rolling Cowsills.
The Cowsills, consisting of four teen-age boys, the best 10-year-old girl singer in the business, and managed by their father (with Mom singing, too) conceivable could be shocked at sight of the American Rock-Tribal musical play from which their biggest selling and best recording came.
Known primarily for their teeny-bopper sound, songs such as “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” and “Indian lake” the singing family widened its musical scope and inspired the respect even of non-admirers for their enthusiastic version of the title tune from “Hair.”
Backstage recently at the Circle Star Theater, where the Cowsills regaled this writer with a highly professional stage show, Bob Cowsill – at 19 the oldest boy in the family performing with the group – happily discussed the group’s sound and appeal, his personal life, and other items.
“We recorded ‘Hair’ by accident,” he said. “This year we did a fashion special and were supposed to model wigs. They told us they thought we should sing ‘Hair’ on the show. We liked the tune and recorded it after we bought the cast album. The song took us four days to record. It was the first time we had played our own instruments on a record.
“At first we were primarily a teeny-bopper group, and to a degree we still are. But ‘Hair” and “Revelations’ will make the college kids accept us. This is important to us, so we’re doing more college dates next year.”
Now that Bill, the oldest boy and co-producer with Bob on the records, has left the group to get married, Bob appears to be lonely on stage while the 13- and 14-year-old girls scream for Barry and John. While content not to receive many fan letters, Bob misses being unable to attend college regularly.
“In January,” he continued, “we’re going to do concerts only on weekends so I can attend UCLA. We now are getting ready to do a 90-day tour for the entire summer. I’m getting to the position where I have time to write songs. We spend considerable time putting a single together, because there you have more liberty and time making an album.”
Listening to the Beatles, Rascals, and Jimi Hendrix are some of the pasttimes Bob enjoys in his spare time. He quickly adds: “I like to take girls out. It’s a healthy thing to do. Most guys take ‘going out’ every weekend for granted. It’s not routine to me. I don’t know any girls in most of the towns that we visit, and since many of our fans are 13- and 14-year –olds I’m left without a date.”
On state Bob is “there just to make sure the kids don’t get out of hand” yet he is the group’s producer-arranger and writer of most of the songs they record.
“I observe techniques of other writers and borrow their ideas. If you take the techniques of all the writers you like and combine them you’ll come up with some style that is your own.
“We frequently get our ideas for songs from experiences we’ve had. Our next album will have a song written about Paul, our 17-year-old organist being out on the town all night, and problems he encountered returning to the hotel.
“All of us have been playing instruments since we were seven. We’ve been doing this for the past six years, and it’s new to the public. We can, if we really want some wild material, draw from our experiences playing fraternity parties at Brown University in the east.”
The girls (Susan plus Mrs. Cowsill) joined the group only two years ago. The second half of the Cowsill’s show involves the four boys. “When Mom is onstage you don’t really want to rock-out, but the second half allows us to let loose, get a little guttier. Anyway, Mom needs a rest. This isn’t really her thing.”
Referring to an industry where groups are in the limelight for about two years, and then split up, Bob stated.
“We haven’t put a termination on our performing. We’ll do live concerts until we get tired of them. When we go on-state we’re a group having fun, not a family of traveling performers. We are still aware we’re a family but it’s a part of our professional life. We someday may cease to operate as a group, but we’re not going to leave each other.”
Bob paused, then laughed: “A family is a family.”