We have The Cowsills, who are appearing Friday, Saturday and next Sunday at the Circle Star theater in San Carlos. They don’t pretend to be a protest group – what they are is a pleasant commercial group with a pleasant, if dull, sound – but they do pretend to be a rock group. Which is why it’s interesting that in addition to Bill, Bob, Barry , John, Paul and Susan Cowsill (all siblings, ranging in age from 19 to 9, the group has Barbara Cowsill, the singing mother.
Barbara is not a brassy, show biz mama, nor is she a pathetic middle ager reaching desperately for youth. Her general tone is of a woman caught up some remarkably clever prank of her children’s – bemused and a little bewildered.
She talks as any mother might talk after a year on the road with a rock group – basic American with a thin veneer of linguistic hipness (“I do my thing up front” she said at one point) which never interferes with the maternal reflexes.
She was asked about the generation gap she seems to be bridging. “Well, we never had a generation gap really. We never really lived like normal people. My husband (Bud Cowsill, now road manager for the group) was in the Navy for 20 years. He was away a lot, and when he was away, we all got close together.
“My life was never easy. I got married when I was 17, see, so I had everything to learn. I grew up at the end of a depression in Cranston, Rhode Island, and we were very poor. It was always the family for me, somehow.”
What’s been the major change in their life since their first hit record? “Major change? Oh, there haven’t been any major changes. We can pay the bills. There that’s a major change.” She laughs.
How long will the group go on? “Well, as long as the public likes us,” she says hurriedly, her tone putting an edge to the standard answer, the hope that maybe the prank will end soon.
And what was the most exciting moment in your career, she was asked, this woman who has in the last year appeared with Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan, sung her way across the country and at the music festival in San Remo, Italy. “My most exciting moment? I suppose … (long pause) … I suppose seeing Frank Sinatra in person. That was very exciting?”