Cowsill is a real name for a real family that plays and sings all kinds of music from the gentle sounds to the hardest rock around.
And for each song they perform, it seems that another Cowsill pops up playing a different instrument or singing a song in a different style.
This versatile family of entertainers from Newport, R.I., is making its bid for stardom with an assist from MGM records, on whose label they record. Their first single, “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things,” is expected to reach the top of the charts. Their first album, “The Cowsills,” has been released in conjunction with a 22-city in-person tour.
Bill, Bob, Barry and John Cowsill comprise a nucleus of the group. They play guitar, organ, drums, and sing. Their mother, Barbara, and sister, Susan, who is 8 years old, add their vocal interpretation to the act.
But not all the Cowsills are on stage. Backstage there are more. Brothers Dick and Paul, who chose not to enter the performing end of the complex, are road and stage managers. Father Bud Cowsill tries to keep the whole thing coordinated. The family has been involved in music and performing for several years.
When not performing, they are residents of a 22-room mansion on top of one of Newport hills. It is almost an eerie place. Ivy grows all over the walls of the house, windows are broken, screens are hanging, and the grass has grown to a height of three feet. The three-story high house has a Captain’s walk, which as the story goes, was added to the roof by the captain who built the house so that his wife could watch his ship come into the harbor. Mrs. Cowsill sometimes uses the walk to “get away from her Indians. This is my favorite spot in the world. I come up here to think and relax. It’s pure heaven.”
Meals for the family are cooked on a 1917 gas range stove. The library has a Ping-Pong table, and the dining room has a pool table. There are seven bathrooms and one shower.
Because, for the last three years, all the Cowsill earnings went into instruments, sound systems, and amplifiers, there isn’t much furniture, said Mrs. Cowsill.
Until recently, the family came close to losing out. There was little money, the phones had been disconnected, no oil remained for the furnace, and they almost lost their mortgage. “I remember that one time,” said Mrs. Cowsill, “Bill and Bob chopped up their dressers to make firewood, and everybody huddled together around the fireplace to keep warm.”
To see what could be done to improve the situation, the family decided to go to New York City where they met Artie Kornfeld, a producer and writer. He introduced them to Leonard Stogel, a talent manager, who led them to MGM records. The records were cut, and since then the family has been on its way. A future job possibility they’re now considering is a television series.