Cowsill Transcripts

Billy Cowsill Tribute on CKUW
Twang Trust
February 22, 2006
Host: Stu Reid
Winnipeg, Canada

Note: All Billy and Jeffrey interview clips were taken from June 1993 The Interview Disc Vancouver, Canada

Song: Alone And Forsaken – Hank Williams

Song: Baby’s In Black – The Beatles

Announcer: Hank Goes To The Cavern Club (Songs from here on out are all Billy)

Song: “Hey Good Lookin’ – Billy Cowsill

Song: The Last Canadian

Stu: Hey there kids. Yelp yelp It’s me. Your old pal Stu and it’s a little after 6:00 here on a Wednesday. That means it’s time once again for the Twang Trust. The only show that brings you both kinds of music – Hank and The Cavern Club. And yeah, you probably heard the news if you’re a regular listener to the Twang Trust I’m sure you’re clued in. This past weekend Billy Cowsill passed away. We’ll be honoring him today, all night long.

. . .

Song: I’m Movin’ On

Stu: Ummm Billy Cowsill folks from the recently released Live from the Crystal Ballroom Calgary, Alberta, July 1985. A little mini album thing. The cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” And when Billy Cowsill moved to Canada about 30 some years ago, he purposedly only performed songs by dead people. And if anyone is continuing that tradition today, the bright side of this gloom is that they can now play a few Billy Cowsill tunes. Yes Billy Cowsill passed away at his home in Calgary this past weekend and even though we played, here on the Twang Trust, a big chunk of Cowsillness just a few weeks ago on his 58th birthday, today we’re going to celebrate the life and music of Billy all night long.

. . .

Stu: In the mean time here’s Bill.

Song: Curtains Close

Billy: We used to go to New York all the time and just play on street corners – literally and anywhere. We’d play anywhere. We’d go into a Travelodge restaurant and just take out the guitars and just start playing. And eat for free. That was cool. And then we played North Bergen High School in New Jersey and all these colleges up and down the eastern seaboard, and kind of caught on. One day this guy was there from The Today Show was there for the Americas’ Cup Races which were held in Newport. He says, “You want to be on The Today Show?” We said, “You bet. That’s national TV.” In fact we were the first entertainment – ever – to be on the Today Show when Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters were the hosts. And Harry Reasoner was there too. So we got 20 minutes on The Today Show.

Song: The Rain, The Park and Other Things

Billy: It was going to be, the original scenario was this musical family goes across the desert in this covered wagon. That was the whole first scenario for The Partridge Family. I don’t know what they were going to call it. Singing Your Way West, I don’t know. And we went YUCK! You know, no. First we didn’t want to get locked into a series on TV. And, you know, we just wanted to rock. But that’s how it really started. We got offered the series, we said no, they changed it and The Partridge Family was the result of the change. So it’s just a …. it’s kinda cute, you know.

Song: End Of The World

Song: The Shoop Shoop Song

Stu: Welcome back to the Twang Trust and it’s Billy Cowsill Day here on Twang Trust. Billy passed away this past weekend sadly. But that’s not going to let us stop enjoying all the wonderful tunes he gave us. We just heard some very early Billy there. A couple of tracks from his first solo record called Nervous Breakthrough. Came out, I believe, in 1970. Is there a date on here anywhere? No, probably not. But I believe it was 1970. He left the family. They continued on for awhile without him. But he’d had enough of the teen scene and broke away and went down .. He spent some good time down in Austin, Texas and Los Angeles hanging out with Warren Zevon and Joe Ely and guys like that. And then moved to Canada and I believe he started off actually in Yellowknife, oddly enough, before going to Calgary and then to Vancouver and then back to Calgary which is where he lived for the last 30 years or so. Well we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Yes, from the first Billy Cowsill album we heard, right there, “The Shoop Shoop Song” and “End Of The World.” Billy was always a bit of a cover tune fanatic.

. . .

Stu: Back to Billy, back to Billy. Where are we? Let’s see now, he just left the Cowsills, didn’t he and moved to Canada. Now one of the first things he did when he moved to Canada, I guess when he got settled in Vancouver, he hooked up with a bunch of guys in a band called Blue Northern. And they put out a couple of things. 1980 they put out a four song EP and in 1981 they put out an album. It’s pretty tough to find. I’ve yet to own a copy. So, if you find one kicking around a store and you don’t want it, buy it for me. Come on, buy it for your old pal Stu. It’s not like you ever do anything for me. Well OK last week you did. Last week – I should say thanks again – last week all you people – holy moly - $2600. Hello – I take back everything I said there a minute ago. Not Billy, but me. You do plenty for me. But anyways, this Blue Northern album I haven’t found it. The four song EP I believe is on blue vinyl so that’s probably why that’s so scarce. All those blue vinyl collectors buying them up. But anyways we’re going to hear a few things from the days of Blue Northern. This first track here is a song that was on the Blue Northern album called “Vagabond” but we’re actually going to play a more recent version of it. It came out on the album, the first album of The Co-dependents, Billy’s last musical project with a few guys from Calgary. And there actually two Co-dependent albums out now. They are both Live Recording Event. One just came out, tail end of last year. This is from Vol. 1 and this is a version of Billy’s song from the Blue Northern album called “Vagabond.”

Song: Vagabond

Song: Can’t Make No Sense

Song: Blue You

Stu: Welcome back to the Twang Trust and yeah we are celebrating the life and music of Billy Cowsill tonight here on the Twang Trust. Second time in a month, wow. We did this awhile back – Billy’s birthday was in January and we played at least half a show worth of stuff then and who knew we’d be doing it again so soon. Yes, Billy passed away this last weekend in Calgary and right now we’re in the 80’s in Billy’s career and that was Blue Northern we just heard. Last two tracks from their 1981 album. We heard “Blue You” right there and before that “Can’t Make No Sense”. We started of with a song called “Vagabond” which is on that album but we heard a newer version from The Co-dependents, Billy’s last musical project. Their first Live Recording Event , called Live Recording Event. That’s where we heard “Vagabond” from. Yes, indeed. You know Billy Cowsill when I, my first introduction to Billy Cowsill, really, was in the Blue Shadows via Jeff Hatcher a local hero. I was certainly, well you knew The Cowsills, knew the name and “Hair” and “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things”, which we heard earlier. But when I first heard about the existence of the Blue Shadows and Billy’s involvement was right around the time well right before their first album came out. I knew Jeff was out in Vancouver and didn’t know what he was up to exactly, but I ran into somebody who I used to always see out at the Hatcher Brother gigs. And this fellow was telling me “Hey did you know Jeff has a new band and he has an album coming out real soon.” Wow, I didn’t know that and he said, “Yeah, there’s this band in Vancouver called the Blue Shadows and Billy Cowsill’s in the band.” I’m thinking BILLY COWSILL?!!!! That hack – teen pop thing from the 60’s like what the heck is he doing with Jeff. What’s going on? And you know, I had no idea. I had no idea. It was awhile after that I actually got a chance to see them out in Vancouver and Alberta in ’92. It was just a little while before the first album came out. And wow WOW I was amazed is what I was. If you’ve never seen him live you really missed out. He had a presence about him that few people have. That’s about all you can say. He was an amazing presence. And besides being a great singer and all that. But we’re now going to step up. We’re going to see a bit of that presence. And he used to hang out with great folks. Of course hooking up with Jeff Hatcher was a big thing. In the mid ‘80’s, he actually had somebody else in his band that he sort of nurtured along and this fellow would go on to greater acclaim. He as actually in town last weekend. We’re going to hear a few tracks. Actually we heard a track from this at the top of the show. We’re going to hear the whole rest of the thing now, in it’s entirety. Billy Cowsill Live From The Crystal Ballroom in Calgary in July 1985. On guitar, a 20-year-old kid named Colin Mund. He would later go on to change his name to Colin James and the rest of that is history. This is the show, Billy was actually opening for k.d. lang (broken tape). Pay attention to the vocal and you can really hear Colin on this number here.

Song: Teddy Bear

Song: Let’s Dance

Song: Only You

Song: Roll Over Beethoven

Song: The Race Is On

Song: Heart Full Of Soul

Stu: We’ve just been listening to . Billy Cowsill Live From The Crystal Ballroom in Calgary, Alberta July 1985. Yes indeed. We heard the whole thing, in it’s entirety tonight. Let’s go back to the tracks, shall we? We just heard “Heart Full Of Soul” and before that “The Race Is On,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Only You,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear.” The first track “I’m Movin’ On” at the top of the show. And did you notice old Colin James on guitar there? How about that? Huh, wow, 20-years-old at the time. Yes, indeed. Well when we return on the Twang Trust. Before this hour is through we’re going to hear some live music from the Blue Shadows. In fact the very last time Billy Cowsill and the rest of the Blue Shadows ever played in Winnipeg. Yes we have there farewell appearance coming up here on the Twang Trust in addition to … the next thing we’re going to hear is a band based out of Duluth MN called The Shackshakers and a song that they recorded with Billy and one of the very last things that he ever recorded, in fact. How about that?

Song: When Will This Heartache End

Stu: That was a band called The Shackshakers based out of Duluth Minnesota, is that right Shawn? Do we have Shawn? (problems getting the phone line connected will be skipped here.) But yeah that was from The Shackshakers debut album called With Special Gifts and it was one of those special gifts on there, as well as a fellow from The Morels, one of our favorites here on Twang Trust too. Very exciting is that. The Shackshakers have a brand new record coming out in just a couple months. And on it, believe it or not, is going to be a hetter-to unreleased Billy Cowsill song. Yes indeed. And it’s not quite done. Shawn was going to pass it to us, but it’s not quite finished, although I might blow his mind right now and play it anyways. This is the song The Shackshakers are going to be recording on their brand new record in a couple months. This is the song as rendered by Billy Cowsill and The Blue Shadows

Song: Heart of a Lion

Jeffrey:I met Larry Wanless who’s managing, he’s one of The Blue Shadows managers now and many years ago. And when I moved to Vancouver I looked him up and he sent me off to a local club to see Billy play. And I went there, saw the band, and thought, “This is really hot.” I loved the material. I knew most of those songs. And I thought like …

Billy: There’s that 40-year-old I’ve been looking for.

Jeffrey: I thought to myself, “I can do what that guitar player is doing,” you know. Like, well I guess most people in my position would, whether you can do it or not, “I can do that, hey.” So when the spot became available, I called Larry and said, “I want to audition for the band.” So he put me in touch with Bill, and I called Bill, and I just brought my guitar down to the club one night. We discussed a couple songs to play and I went up and played them. The band, I found out this was a band that doesn’t rehearse, you know. It just plays songs. And I was used to rehearsing a lot before you play and I really liked this. “What do you want to play?” “Well let’s play that.” “You know that?” “I know that.” “You want the high harmony or low part” “I’ll do this.” “In G?” “OK?” So you go onstage and you play the d&*^ thing and you go home with a new job.

Billy: So what I was really impressed with was the conscience time that I knew it had taken Jeffery to of cuz I knew how much time it took me, with the help of other friends pointing things along the way, and this and that. Teaching me and me listening and you know just started singing and it just came out. It just came out. I mean there was no discussion really – yet basically it was, “You want the high part?” “OK I’ll do the high part. You do the low part” “Fine” That’s it. That was basically the big meeting. Then I was just totally charmed by the whole situation. It was like falling off a log. It’s like, “What do we have here?”

Song: Paper And A Promise

Stu: Well welcome back to CKUW 95.9 FM in Winnipeg and that was The Blue Shadows and a song you might not be familiar with, even if you own their two albums. That song appeared only on their demo tape prior to being signed with Sony records. Yeah, and that’s the only place you’re going to hear that, if you happen to have one of those cassette only demos. “Paper And A Promise” is the song. Some prophetic words for Billy himself there. That was the first thing I ever heard from The Blue Shadows. Actually I got that demo tape prior to them coming up with a record. I had a chance to see them just before they got signed out in Vancouver. The first time, I was on a bit of a trek and got to see ‘em a couple times, actually in Vancouver and Alberta. The Vancouver show though was such a weird show. The only time I ever saw The Blue Shadows in that mode. It was very much in sort of the oldies review kind of format that Billy had done so well all throughout the 80’s. The live album that we listened to earlier, that Blue Shadows show was very much like that. A lot of oldies and the next night I saw them in Alberta, it wasn’t like that. It was a lot more original songs and whole new vibe. I’m glad I did get to see that one show, very interesting. But of course they went on and came up with some amazing original stuff. One of the neat things for Winnipegers was the number of old Jeffrey Hatcher songs that made it onto Blue Shadows records. Songs that went back in Hatcher Brothers lore. Some of them to the late 70’s, in fact. We’re going to hear a few of those things now. The neat thing is that on a lot of them, songs that were done by Jeff Hatcher when he was in The Fuse, or the Six, or the Big Beat. A lot of these things were actually done in The Blue Shadows by Billy himself on vocals. And here they are talking about just that.

Jeffrey: ‘I’ll Think On It’ uh …

Billy:I just happen to drop by your session.

Jeffrey: I think that’s what it was. ‘I’ll Think On It’ I wrote a number of years ago my brothers and I used to do it in Toronto. It was pretty folky sounding song then. But around the time, a few months after I joined the band I started trying to sneak my own songs into the group because it’s always a lot more fun to play your own songs. And Bill wanted me to have some more songs to sing, take a lead on. So I’d bring in some of my favorite oldies in, but I’d bring in some of my own too. So I did that one a couple of times. I recorded it at a local studio and Bill heard it probably in a new way at that time. And then we got the idea for him to sing it instead of me.

Billy: It was a nice gift. It is really neat for a singer to get a good piece of material, especially if it isn’t a cover and it’s somebody elses. But it sounds really familiar. It feels real good. It feels kinda like this should be a cover tune. That’s what I loved about it. It was dark, shadowy. It’s lonesome. I mean the line, “just when I feel like something matters then I know that I’m not far enough gone” Ahh that’s my life.

Song: Think On It

Jeffrey: When Billy added the harmony to ‘Deliver Me’ and suggested slowing it down and changing the key. He did a number of arrangement adjustments to it. And it really changed it. I mean it was definitely a rock song before. It’s one of the rockers songs The Blue Shadows do but it’s pretty well in the country vein though. But Billy changed it quite a lot.

Song: Deliver Me

Jeffrey: Hank Goes To The Cavern Club was sort of our nickname for our sound after we’d done a couple numbers. And we realized we were going to write a lot more together. We started getting a blueprint together, as we called it, for the material because we realized we were writing towards an album. We weren’t writing just for fun. We were writing like for a certain thing. We wanted to have a certain continuity. So we’d start something and if it got pretty poppy, we’d say, “I think that needs a little more Hank in that.” And if it ??? country, “I think it needs a little more Cavern Club, you know.” So after awhile Hank Goes To The Cavern Club was the name of the album that we hadn’t finished writing yet and we had no record deal either. But that’s where that comes from.

Billy: I mean it’s the same thing basically, in a different time, with different tech, but with the same emoting, the same honest. The same …. it’s truth. You just can’t negate truth. When somebody lays it down, and means it, that’s just the bottom line.

Stu: But this week, all Billy – all the time. Billy Cowsill, if you hadn’t heard, Billy Cowsill passed away this last weekend in Calgary and we’re listening to nothing but Billy, in all his various forms tonight. We just heard some Blue Shadows stuff there, some Jeffrey Hatcher composition of yore that were given some new life by Billy and The Blue Shadows. You heard “Deliver Me” and “I’ll Think On It.” And there’s a truck load more that I could have played. Man this show should have been four hours for sure. I can’t even cram in what I need to cram in on this show. I don’t know how this show is going to end. It may trail off. I may not come back and say ‘goodbye.’ So I’ll say goodbye now. But we are going to hear, right now, a very special live recording. March 28, 1994 was the date. The Blue Shadows played the Palomino club. That was the last time The Blue Shadows would play Winnipeg. And wow, there’s this annoying guy who comes in and does some annoying thing during the encore thing. Try to ignore him. It’s hard to do, but he’s not there for too long. And this stuff is just awesome. This is my favorite version of this song. This is a little track to The Blue Shadows second album but this live version just kicks. It’s smokin’. It’s smokin’. Here they are, Jeffrey Hatcher and of course Billy Cowsill live in Winnipeg.

Song: Don’t Expect A Reply

Song: I Believe

Song: You Really Got A Hold On Me

Song: Johnny’s Guitar

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