“We’re always performing somewhere. I’m primarily a father. I lend myself when I’m needed. I do the heavy stuff – like spankings.”
The handsome, gray-haired man with a California tan sat with his legs crossed Indian-style on the stage of the IGM fieldhouse, where his family performed a concert last night for IBM employees.
He was Bud Cowsill – father of seven Cowsill children and husband of Barbara Cowsill. The family has, during the last six years, gained an international reputation as a singing group. To those who talk to them, they appear as jovial, close-knit, kidding type of persons.
The Cowsills most recently appeared singing “Hair” on “The World of Pizazz” on television. They will soon appear on “The Generation Gap.”
The family is composed of Bud, 43, Barbara, 10, and the seven children, Bill, 21; the twins, Bob and Dick, 19; Paul, 17; Barry,14; John, 13; and Susan 9.
Seven member of the family were in the Triple Cities last night. Dick, Mr. Cowsill said, is now “performing in Danang, Vietnam.”
Was he performing with a special group over there?
“Oh, yes, he’s with the armed services – he’s in the Army . . . that’s a pretty big group,” Mr. Cowsill replied.
Bill is “performing” in California right now, he added. He’s staying at home and studying at the Hollywood Professional School, which includes a college. All of the Cowsill children have their studies assigned at the school, and their traveling is done with books. If the kids don’t keep up grades, they stay home and study, he said. Home is currently Santa Monica, Cal.
When asked how long the family had been performing, Mr. Cowsill quipped, “The bride and I have been performing for 25 years now. And out of our performance we got all the little performers.”
Mr. Cowsill is a retired navy chief, he said, as of six years ago.
“Music was always a family hobby. I guess it was premeditated from the day we took a vote and said let’s do it. Then the group became a working plan,” he said.
The family has seen Europe “our own county,” the West Indies and Hawaii.
They have appeared on the Johnny Carson Show, Kraft Music Hall, Mike Douglas show and produced their own family special in November, 1968.
They just finished two weeks in Las Vegas, where “Susan lost all her money at the crap table,” Mr. Cowsill kidded.
As the parents talked, the children signed autographs in the IBM fieldhouse. Then they listed the instruments they play.
Mother Cowsill said, “Bill plays bass guitar and drums. John is a drummer and a brat. Bob plays guitar, organ and piano and hard-to get. Paul plays organ and piano. And me – I can’t play Tea for Two. I can’t even play Tea for Three.”
Susan plays bass guitar and tambourine, she added.
The whole family sings. But only the children and Mrs. Cowsill appear on stage. Mr. Cowsill said, “I drive better than I sing, so I’m a chauffeur. I set up stage better than I sing, so I set up the state.” He acts as the Cowsill manager, essentially.
Mr. Cowsill said no one in the family is “locked into the group.” Anyone of them can stay home or leave when he wants.
He added, “We hope they will get interested in activities outside of the family.” Bill wants to teach English eventually and Bob wants to act, he said.
Probably the most frequent kidder of the family, Mr. Cowsill must take certain credit for “keeping the kids in line.”
When asked what happens if, for instance, Susan decided to drop out, he said, “You think we’d quit because this creepy kid isn’t here?”
You bet they won’t. They drove all last night to reach Maine for another performance today.