New York (NANA) – At the top of pop are the Cowsills – four singing brothers, their mother and sister. The group’s recordings will earn them a million dollars in 1968, television wants them for a series, Hollywood is flirting.
How did they get so quickly where they are? Bud Cowsill, the head of the family, talked about it with candor at Alfredo’s.
“For years the kids had sung for charity and church things,” he said. “After I got out of the Navy four years ago, we decided to go for broke. We bought a 27-room house in Newport, R.I., and I borrowed something more than $100,000 which we spent on living and promotion. Everything was done for a reason.
“Initially, I took three of the boys on the road – they were our shock troops. Many months we didn’t make any money, but we kept moving. The “Today” show was our first big break. We were playing at a hotel in Newport and a gentlemen approached me and flatly said he’d like to see us on the “Today” show. I didn’t put much faith in it, but two days later it was set up.”
On Monday, Feb 26, the “Today” show will devote a one-hour segment to the Cowsills (NBC 7-9 a.m. EST). Only the performing members of the family will be seen – the mother, Barbara; Bill, age 20, who is the music director and a songwriter; Bobby, 18, who composes with Bill; Barry, 13; Johnny, 11, who is the drummer, and 8-year-old Susan.
There are, in all, seven children. The other two boys, Dick and Paul, are stage manager and tour manager for the group.
“I feel fortunate I have seven children and I can be working with them,” Cowsill said. “Barbara went into the group about five months ago – she has a marvelous voice – and she’s getting more fan mail than some of the boys. People ask me, ‘Aren’t you exploiting your children?’ My answer is ‘Why not? They exploited me for 19 years.’
“I like to think they enjoy their work and they lead me to think they do. They don’t enjoying brushing their teeth or going to school or changing their socks, but we encourage them to do those things. All of them love to travel, they’re nomads, at heart.”
Cowsill, who was born in Providence, R.I., joined the Navy at 17 and concluded his 20-year hitch as a chief boilerman. He almost lost the Newport home before money began pouring in from their first record with MGM, ”The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” which sold a million copies. Their album “The Cowsills,” is approaching the $1 million mark in sales. A single, “We Can Fly,” written by Bill and Bobby, is on its way up.
“None of the kids reads music, they’ve never had professional training,” Cowsill said. “We’ve taken two apartments in the same building in New York, so they can attend the Professional children’s School. Most of our activity is concentrated in the summer, but we will go to the San Remo Music Festival in Italy in February and we’ll play some dates in London.
“I don’t worry too much about their formal education, they’ll just flow into it. By the time Susan is 12 years old, she’ll be a millionaire. We have 500 or 600 songs that we can do and we’re not dependent on any particular style. We don’t coach them much, we just turn 5them loose on stage. We don’t want spit and polish.”