The Dennis Miller Show (Syndicated)
August 5, 2011
Host: Dennis Miller
Dennis: ... The Cowsills covered "Cherokee Nation" or am I hallucinating. When they come in ask them to cover it. That Paul Revere and The Raiders song. That is just my favorite song of all time. It's just so cool. That song kills me. Brings everything together. .....
Dennis: I would have to say that one of my great, unfulfilled wishes in show biz is Bill Shatner to cover Indian Lake. Cuz if there's ever been a song, 'You take a bus marked Lakewood Drive and...' Umm Loved the song "Indian Lake" when I was a kid and also dug their version of "Hair". We're joined now in our LA studio by Bob and Paul Cowsill who are featured in the new documentary Family Band: The Cowsills Story. Welcome to the show boys.
Paul: Thanks Dennis
Bob: Thank you
Dennis: Always dug your work, man, and I hope I will see this documentary. I'm a documentary fan and a Cowsills fan and I hope ... I always see you guys as such a happy story from afar and then I thought to myself, "But I know nothing about them, and life's not always happy." Tell me the tone of the movie or the documentary.
Bob: Well it's a story that has a front story and a back story. Kind of an extended Behind The Music. Yes, the public image and the facade of the Cowsills - and that's as much truth as the other side. We're a family and there were seven kids and we had a Mom and Dad that got married at 17 and 18 and had seven kids. And didn't know what to do with them. They didn't know how to raise them. And Dad was a military guy. Only knew the military. Brought the military as a MO to raise his six sons and daughter. It failed horribly, miserably. He made some decisions that were catastrophic to some of us. We have two bothers missing. They are gone. Barry - Brother Barry died in Katrina and Bill died. He kept our brother, Richard, out of the group. He let all six kids in. He ran everything and he was tenacious, brought it to the top, but, as you know, at the top you got to get smart to stay there and everything that he used to bring it to the top, he used to bring it right down to the bottom.
Dennis: Isn't it amazing when you peel back on the Jackson Five and Brian Wilson's Dad. There's always a Great Santini there, it would appear.
Bob: It would. We wish he were more like The Great Santini. That's one heck of a movie. But he was a little more brutal and he could out Jackson and out Murray Wilson. He could out do those two, easily.
Dennis: Tell me about, alright, so let's talk about the good side of it, because the documentary will show the other side, if you want. Family Band: The Cowsills Story When do you guys break? I don't know, do you guys know you're good when you're in the basement? Or where you first get public approbation. You go "Oh OK we may have something here."
Bob: Well it started with my older brother, Billy, and me, Bob, and we got these guitars and we were 7 and 8 year olds. And we took to it. And it was just something you were born with and you're given your talent and you use them and you find out about them early in life, some of us. And we started singing the songs like "The Wayward Wind," "Rock and Roll Ocean" which nobody probably even knows those songs, but back then the 50's. And Everly Brothers. We started harmonizing and they kept having children and as we grew old and the younger kids would older, old enough to join us. We knew we needed a drummer. So Barry is 7 years old. So we put our brother Barry on the drums. Now we're now a trio with two guitars and a drum. Had to sound horrible but we didn't know what a bass guitar was. By the time we're in high school, we're very good with that. Added fourth brother. Now there are four of us cuz John turned 7. We moved Barry to the bass, John to the drums. Now we have a foursome. And we're singing good harmonies and The Beatles come out and gave all of us a sense of direction. And we put the Butch-wax away and we let the hair down and we tolerated the comments. You know Dad "What's with the hair?" The threatening Beatles, you know, they are ruining everything in his family. But we start playing local clubs and uh because we were four young brothers who could clone The Beatles right there on stage, in '64, '63-'64 we got a gig on The Today Show when Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs were there.
Dennis: Ah, cool.
Bob: Just because we were four kids from Newport, Rhode Island. "Listen to these kids" They gave us like 20 minutes. It was amazing. And from there we were signed to JODA Records by John Nash and put out a record that bombed and they dropped us. Went to Mercury. And Dad was in the Navy so he saw all this and thought, "You know I'm going to retire from the Navy." I got to hand it to him. He put us around the table one day and Bill and me are the oldest, like a junior and sophomore in high school. "Are we going to go for this, guys?" We said, "Yeah, let's go for it." And there's nothing like coming out of school and going to New York City because you had to play for somebody. So, God bless him, he took it right to the top and he did a good job. But his management skills, regarding money and children were lacking. But it was a blast and it's a blast to play. We play today - the music is what bonded us.
Dennis: Yeah, at the end of the day the music will save ya, you know what I mean ..
Dennis: ... because everything around gets weird and fractious. Like at the end of the day sometimes in show business is when I find it all .. well I don't want to make it murky, I've had a nice ride .. but when it all gets a little diffracted, I like to sit down with a legal pad and write some jokes and think 'Alright, this kind of reminds me of what I was in this for in the first place.'
Bob: Here, Here
Dennis: We're talk with Bob and Paul Cowsill and they are going to perform in our LA studio in our second segment. Or should we do this first, Christian?
Dennis: Whoo "Pinball Wizard" They are telling us about their new documentary Family Band: The Cowsills Story. (Paul screaming through this)
Paul: There we go.
Dennis: It wasn't all harmony. There was some Hero Rocks. Well let's do it now. I want to hear it. I dug this song and I always hate to peel these things back and find out, like when Sammy said he didn't dig "Candy Man," it blew my mind. Cuz you got to remember there are fans out here that this is precious to. What's your take on "Indian Lake" boy? I remember the harmonies being beautiful.
Paul: Well I'll tell you something, "Indian Lake" was a song that was brought to my brother Bill and my brother Bob, um, after "The Rain, The Park, and Other Things" and we thought ...
Dennis: That's a beautiful song too. That's a beautiful song.
Paul: It brings you right back and anyway, they brought this "Indian Lake" into my older brother Bill, who at the time was 17 or 18, and he thought it was the biggest piece of dung that you could have possibly given to these kids.
Dennis: Yeah, it's a type. It's a genre. But it is a sweet song.
Bob: But you didn't hear the demo, you know. The recording, we fill we rescued the song a bit. The demo was woeful.
Dennis: But Paul, you were talking about Bill and Bob, where do you come in the age thing.
Paul: I come in right in the middle and I was always the 6th man off the bench.
Dennis: The Stu Sutcliffe of The Cowsills
Paul: Stu Sutcliffe of The Cowsills - absolutely. I pick up whatever instrument anybody needs. We've had several kinds of band concoctions in the past and we needed a bass player, Bob would say, "Paul, you gotta play bass." I played bass. When he says, "You got to be a keyboard player", this time I go "Are you kidding?? There's 88 of those things, I want four strings." He goes, "No, we need a keyboardist." And I went "Alright, I'll do it."
Dennis: (Can't quite understand)
Paul: I begrudgingly did it though.
Dennis: Well everybody need a glue-man. I remember Cesar Tovar played all nine positions for the old Minnesota Twins so be honored baby that you were the glue-man
Paul: I respect the position greatly and I gave it my all.
Dennis: Well let's hear a little 'Lake' and that will take us to the break, we have another segment when we get back.
Song: Indian Lake (with various interjections)
Bob: We'll give you half of it.
Dennis: Boys the pipes are exemplary.
Paul: You know if our sister Susan was with us singing, we would sound like six people, but when you got me and Bob singing, it's me and Bob singing.
Dennis: Man, honest to God, man I got goose bumps. That song meant a lot to me and to hear you guys is such fine fiddle. And I'm sure we'll get to see the long and strange trip, as Garcia says, about the family band, Family Band: The Cowsills Story. But it did NOT take the pipes, boys.
Dennis: Stick around for a second segment, okay.
Paul: Alright, Dennis, thank you.
The Dennis Miller Show.
----- Break -----
(Lead in - recording of "The Rain, The Park, and Other Things" and then Bob and Paul join in)
Dennis: That's it fun! Boys, I got to tell you, I dig it more now. I meant, really, your voices have leaven a little as they due and it sounds so cool, man, that is exhilarating. Why don't you do the Canyon Club? Do you ever do that place?
Bob: That's a good idea. We're going to call them and tell them that you suggested it
Dennis: Oh, man, I would be there in a shot. I'd love to hear you guys at the Canyon Club. My friend Peter Noone is playing there tonight and
Bob and Paul: Yeah, we know him well.
Dennis: He'll be in the studio. He's coming over to my home studio in the like next 10 minutes. He's going to do the next hour with us. I'll tell him you said, "Hi!"
Paul: Please do.
Bob: And we're going to remember what you just said.
Dennis: Well, I'm going to say to Peter, I'm going to say "Pete, I just had the Cowsills on. They sound beautiful," and have him put in a little plug for you tonight.
Paul: That's awesome.
Dennis: There you go
Song: Mrs. Brown You Got a Lovely Daughter (short)
Dennis: Well Peter has arrived early. Let's go to Richard in New York. You have a question for The Cowsills. Richard, you're on with The Cowsills and we've got Bob and Paul here. Hi
Richard: Hi, how you doing Dennis. Great show as always.
Dennis: Thank You
Richard: I'd like to say hello to The Cowsills and thank them for all the great music over the years
Bob and Paul: Thank you Richard
Richard: You're welcome and a couple questions. I wanted to know who were your influences when you were starting out and who do you like today that's around in music and that you think is half way decent?
Dennis: Well it sounded like the Fab Four made a dent on you, obviously.
Bob: Well the Fab Four first. They gave us our direction. The earlier influences was actually folk music. We were in Hootenanny's all over the place, singing those long song, wearing white pants and either a red and white striped shirt or a blue and white striped shirt.
Dennis: Kingston Trio
Bob: There you go. There you go. Then of course when The Beatles and the whole 60's Mamas and Papas But I got to tell ya, it goes way back to Mitch Miller Sing Along With Mitch. It goes back to the Osmonds on Andy Williams. We're going like "Look at those kids" you know.
Paul: And The Perry Como Show The McGuire ooooooooowww
Bob: The McGuire Sisters, The Lennon Sisters
Dennis: Yeah Perry was velvety man. He and Torme - The Velvet Fox. Listen, tell me about "Hair". That seems like - you guys are in the "feel-good" business and the sort of this anti-establishment thing comes out and at the beginning were people surprised that The Cowsills were the ones that were knocking it out of the park. And you did a great rendition of that song.
Bob: Thank you
Paul: Thank you. You know Carl Reiner - that was his TV show. It was done by The Wonderful World of Pizzazz - Harper's Bizarre Magazine actually put this show together. They wanted to talk about the times and the clothing and the hair of the time.
Dennis: Things like that
Paul: Right The TV special called The Wonderful World of Pizzazz and Carl Reiner was the host. And he came and he "Hey Cowsills I need you to do this 'Hair' song. We're going to put some wigs from China on ya or something like that and it'll be a hoot.' Well gosh, so we went in there. You know we all got a verse of it because it was a television song so they needed to shoot these shots and stuff and uh
Bob: Yeah the request was to take in into the studio. He sent this Broadway musical thing and it hadn't happen yet. But he says, "Take it into the studio and cut a rendition you can lip-synch to on the TV show and we'll have fun." Well, we got into the studio. No one from MGM was in the booth. Just kids in there alone. And we started recording this thing and it started sounding real good to us. So, tell 'em what happen then, Paul.
Paul: Well we sent it to MGM, and like you say, we were the goody, goody Cowsills with Mom in the band and MGM
Dennis: And here you are, you killed it.
Bob: But they don't know it. They sent it back. They said, "This isn't going out and this isn't you."
Paul: It can not happen and WLS in Chicago, actually kicked it off for us. They had some contest 'Who Is This' and then that was the end of that.
Dennis: Well imagine that, the young kids The Cowsills getting the proper degree of righteous indignation into the lilt of the voice and just knocking it out of the park. I tell you guys if you get to the Canyon Club, I will be there in a shoot. You sounded great today. Bob and Paul Cowsill and the documentary is Family Band: The Cowsills Story And I want to see this and see the whole story but for purposes of this encounter today, I can't tell you what a delight it is to meet and here the upbeat ambulant part of it. I'm not a woos. I can watch the rest of it and get it but
Bob: You'll be OK
Dennis: ... for this, for this now 15 minutes, what a joy. What a thrill for me.
Paul: It's a joy for us, Dennis, we love you! For me, I feel like I'm on Oprah right now.
Dennis: Ahhhhhh there you go.
Paul: and I'm serious.
Dennis: Well they are giving me an honorary Oscar this year. Thank you Bobby and Paul.
Paul: Thank you Dennis.
Dennis: OK we'll talk to you down the road. 866-590-RANT We'll talk to you after the break. The is The Dennis Miller Show
----- Break -----
Dennis: Welcome to the Dennis Miller Show. I am the afore mentioned. Going us for the entire hour is my neighbor, one of my dearest friends, there as dear as two friends can be when we both pathologically incapable of joining. Dr. Noone and I. (singing)"He's a real normal man.." That was me. Peter Noone, his website peternoone.com because we got a lot of dates to cover during this hour, but if you want the whole overview, go to peternoone.com. The delightful Herman, Peter - Peter Noone. How are you my friend?
Peter: I'm good. I was enjoying listening to The Cowsills.
Dennis: Yeah, in a past/present/future hour - I have to delineate that because they carve the show up like a kidnapped note in certain ways. They are on in a future hour in some markets, the past and present in certain markets, anyway. They were on and they were in full throat baby. They sang as good as you do.
Peter: You know it's nice to hear people who still kind of have that enthusiasm for their own stuff as well.
Dennis: They sound like they've had some ups and downs. Man the cat said they've lost two of the Cowsills. Christian, what's the report on that. I didn't want to bring it up with them because they only had 15 minutes.
Christian: Yeah, the oldest brother, Bill, he had a drug problem and so he died from that. And then the other one, I believe was Barry, I don't want to mis-speak it might be another, but I think it was Barry. He lived in New Orleans and he didn't leave during Hurricane Katrina.
Dennis: He said that and I thought I must have mis-heard that.
Christian: Yeah, and they were looking for him for awhile. They did a lot of - they were on a lot of shows just saying 'yeah, if you've seen him...' And then they, unfortunately they did eventually find his body after the flood.
Dennis: Wow! Gee It's an odd odysseey. Well they've got a documentary out, but we're with Dr. Noone and Peter you're at one of my favorite venues tonight. Where are you at?