Barbara Cowsill is still "in a daze."
"After all," she said, "I was a mother and housewife for 20 years."
Now she's a performer, as part of The Cowsills, the singing family from Newport, Rhode Island. The Cowsills were little known outside their hometown a year ago. Since then, they have achieved international renown.
Now they're coming up in their own special, "A Family Thing" on NBC, Saturday at 8:30 PM. The on-stage Cowsills include Bill, 20; Bob, 18; Paul, 16; Barry, 13; Johnny, 11; Susie, 9; and their mother Barbara. Dick, who is Bob's twin and serves as road manager, currently is in the Army in Vietnam.
The moving force is husband-father Bud Cowsill, a 20-year (retired) Navy man, who organized the group.
"The kids used to play and sing around town at various functions," said Barbara. "Everyone remarked about their talent. My husband was very conscious of today's music and performers. The kids used to say, 'Gee, Dad, we play as well as they do.' They were itching to perform. Our philosophy was that we had nothing to leave them, but maybe we could help them attain something while we were still living."
The plan almost ended in financial disaster after five years of trying. The father had borrowed in excess of $100,000 to get the group started professionally. On the verge of losing his home, Cowsill made one last desperate trip to New York where he found manager Leonard Stogel, who recognized the group's talent and guided it to success, as of a year ago.
"I had a lot of doubts," said Barbara of the whole experience. "But I should have known my husband - he loves a challenge. He made things move."
Barbara feels that Navy life prepared her for her present role.
"I loved Navy life," she said. "We met a lot of interesting people, because we moved around a lot, like now. I'm used to it."
Barbara appreciates what's happened to her.
"Now that I'm over being scared of getting up to sing, I'm enjoying all this," she said. "I know how fortunate I am. I've been given a new kind of life. I know many housewives and mothers who'd give their eyeteeth for any kind of change."
One thing about her new status that Barbara finds hard to get used to is a cleaning woman who comes regularly.
"I didn't count on this," she said. "I still clean the house before she comes."
Barbara is unpretentious about her professional status. Said she: "Me? I'm just out with my kids and we're singing."
But there's no question how she feels about her husband and his accomplishments.
"What this has taught me is that if you believe firmly enough in what you're doing, like Bud, and you're willing to make sacrifices to achieve it, you can do it."