The Cowsills, recording artists for MGM Records, are going to make it big in the entertainment business; they have to.
A little over three months ago, the Cowsill family was living in a somewhat poverty stricken state.
The Cowsill home is a three-story, 22-room mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Because of the investments in musical equipment, the house was neglected. Ivy was growing over the walls; windows were broken and screens were hanging. The living room was decorated with two chairs, a sofa and a TV set. Cooking was done on a 1917 gas range which required several matches and a prayer to light.
For three years, a major amount of the Cowsill's income had been used to put the necessary equipment for a professional-sounding band - instruments, sound systems, and amplifiers.
The singing group, the Cowsills, began over three years ago when bud Cowsill, father of the family and manager of the group, retired from 20 years of duty in the service. The two older Cowsills boys, Bill, 19 and Bob, 18, had been singing for some time and wanted their younger brothers to join them and enlarge the group. Bud decided that the group should turn professional. The boys had more than nough talent to land a contract with a record company.
The next three years were spent in training for that purpose. During that time the boys never had a single lesson of formal training. Those three years were pretty rough for the Cowsills. John, 11, saved his allowance for six weeks to get "Clyde", a miniature monkey. "I waited for him to come and then, the next day after I got him, I woke up in the morning and there he was - lying in the bottom of the cage - frozen." A little white headstone marks Clyde's grave site at the Cowsill home.
This incident took place when the Cowsills came close, very close to losing everthing. They had no money, the phones had been cut off, there was no oil for the furnace during the bitter winter. The boys chopped up their dressers to make firewood for the fireplace. The mortgage on the house they loved was about to be foreclosed. In desperation, the family came to New York City to seek financial help.
In New York, the family met a writer-producer of songs, Artie Kornfeld. Artie introduced the group to Lenny Stogel, one of the business's leading talent agents. Stogel arranged a deal with MGM and within a few weeks the Cowsills have become one of the hottest prospects in the recording industry.
The Cowsill family consists of parents, Bud and Barbara; sons, Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Dick and Paul; and daughter, Susan. Bud Cowsill coordinates all activities of the group. Dick and Paul Cowsill, road managers, handle the equipment. The main singing group consists of Barbara Cowsill, Bill, 19, Bob, 18; Barry, 13; John, 11; and sometimes Susan, 8.
The boys are average and above average students. Two of them are honor students in their schools at home. On tour a 21 year-old tutor travels with the group to assure that their education continues. Bill, who attends Rhode Island College, has a deferment from the draft for enough time to get the group started. After that, he has to go into the service for four-and-a-half years.
Monday, September 16, the Cowsills were in Charlotte for a performance at the Barringer Inn. On the tour they are covering 50 cities at one city a night. Seeing the group and hearing just a few selections from their 500-song repertoire, one was impressed by the discipline of the group. Bill controls the group during the actual performance. He is an entertainer in full yet at the same time listens to every sound to make sure that the performance is as perfect as possible. Continually during the show, Bill
gives instructions to the others to adjust their instruments or sing louder or anything that will make the group sound as good as possible.
The Cowsills are what many consider the perfect American family. The parents are in firm control but use understanding and love to maintain that control. The kids are the kind everyone would like to have. They are intelligent, not necessarily handsome but goodlooking, and they all have personalities that would melt through an ince barrier 12 feet thick.
Everyone in the Terrace Room that night enjoyed the Cowsills' show. Selections covered the field of music from "Uptight" to "The Cruel Way". The second half of the performance was for dancing and everyone did just that. There were some junior high girls dancing with each other, middle-aged disc jockeys, and even the porters, maids, and bartenders couldn’t resist joining in.
The Cowsills have gotten a good start on their goal in the Carolinas. All the radio officials at the Barringer Inn for the performance were impressed by the groups quality and versatility. Stations throughout the two states are now playing the Cowsills' first single, "The Rain, The Park, and Other Things". In Charlotte WGIV has given the record much airplay. WAYS, however, has decided to hold off on airplay of the song. Perhaps when the song becomes number one in the nation, "Big Ways" will relent.