Cowsill Transcripts

Rock Of Ages - The Roots, Stems and Seeds of Rock and Roll
University of Chicago
February 23, 2006
Host: Uncle Jeff and Mr. Woo

Song: Cross That Line

It’s time for Rock of Ages, The Roots, Stems and Seeds of Rock and Roll

Woo: From the CD Global, that’s The Cowsills featuring Susan Cowsill on lead vocals and “Cross That Line.”

Jeff: Man, I’m going to say it now and I’ll probably say it four or five dozen more times tonight, that Susan Cowsill has got one incredible voice.

Woo: Oh unbelieveable. Jeff, as you know I managed to see her live last fall with her band upon the release of her CD Just Believe It and it was an amazing show. She came out and did a lot of her original stuff and then her Covered In Vinyl project where she performed the entire Harvest, Neil Young album. And then went back and did more of her own stuff without taking a break.

Jeff: You know, were it not for the lack of Vitamin C in my diet, you would think that the reason that I am turning green now is just envy. Fact, it’s just the slow withering of my bodily functions.

Woo: Well she has – she’s doing some shows back in New Orleans. It’s been a rough time for the Cowsills. Barry Cowsill after – living in New Orelans – after Hurricane Katrina went missing for quite some time. Finally they recovered his body in late December. And while they were conducting a memorial service in their home town of Newport, Rhode Island, they got the news that another brother, Billy Cowsill, passed away up in Calgary, Canada. Billy had been sick for quite some time.

Jeff: So really it’s a very tough year for them, the Cowsills. And then there was a long period when people simply didn’t know where Barry was.

Woo: Right and as incredibly sad as the two deaths are, Susan lost her home.

Jeff: Right, oh yes and Uncle Jeff saw the dB’s getting together last summer at an outdoor thing that was done at the Hideout Bar and venue in Chicago land and Peter Holsapple, who is Susan Cowsill’s ex-husband, was there. He’d come from New Orleans. He too without a home. So it’s really devastating in so many ways.

Woo: I think Susan said on stage that it wasn’t so much that – I don’t know if her entire house was destroyed but many of her possessions were, the structure might still be intact.

Jeff: Right but it was very apropos, the news of this week, the White House, was it yesterday that released their take on the actions/reactions of Hurricane Katrina. And really placing no blame, but just saying what they might have done. What could have been done better.

Woo: No blame. No one is to blame.

Jeff: Right, well anyway. We’ve done that show, haven’t we?

Woo: Yes Well I think we should probably mention to the people of earth who, if they don’t already know, were honored to talk to Bob Cowsill back in fall of 2003 and we have some clips from that tonight.

Jeff: Let’s get back to that.

Woo: Alright, this is Bob Cowsill on Rock of Ages.

Bob: Hey Uncle Jeff, it’s a honor. Honest, it’s amazing.

Woo: Well Bob we’ve been playing several cuts off Global tonight. It’s an amazing CD. And everything about it. There’s so many highlights, your vocals, your guitar playing, and of course Susan’s amazing voice.

Bob: Oh she, yeah, I always felt that we got the maximum that Susan Cowsill had to offer in life on that record in particular. I mean, I love all her stuff but boy she sang some things on that. “She Said To Me” and a couple different vocals of hers were like ‘primetime’ Susan Cowsill.

Woo: She’s a busy woman, yes?

Bob: She’s a prolific artist. I mean, she plays with a lot of people. She does a lot of recordings on projects other than just her own kind of stuff. She’s coming into her own as a writer also. And, she’s – look when she was in our band she was 11 years old, 12 years old. I mean, that’s a cute kid sister and everything, but the Susan now is a whole different story.

Song: Under The Gun

Woo: The columnist, Ellis Henican , from Newsday, January 8th, 2006.

Woo reads the Newsday article.

Song: In Need Of A Friend

Song: The Rain, The Park, and Other Things

Woo: You’re listening to Rock of Ages, The Roots, Stems and Seeds of Rock and Roll with Uncle Jeff and Mr. Woo.

Jeff: Read article from Providence Journal

Song: When Everybody’s Here

Woo: Do you remember what your hit was at the time?

Bob: You know what, I think this was towards late – I think we might have been doing “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” which was one of our later, non-productive releases.

Woo: Oh yes, in fact I was listening to that. I think it’s a fascinating arrangement you put on that song compared to say Linda Ronstadt’s version which is a little more straight forward. You guys go off – for a few seconds there in a strange direction and then come back. It’s very well crafted, what you did with that.

Bob: You know I appreciate that. I’ll give credit where credit is due. That arrangement of that song was by a friend of ours, Waddy Watchel, who’s name is – he’s a guitar player, kind of a session guitar player.

Jeff: From THE session, wasn’t it? No, section. That’s what they call those guys, right?

Bob: And he was with Russ Kunkel and

Jeff: Leland Sklar

Bob: You got it. You know the group. And you mix in James Taylor and Ronstadt. There was a little group there.

Jeff: Danny Kortchmar

Bob: You got it. Danny, yeah, and Waddy. So Waddy, he was in bands in Newport, Rhode Island. He grew up on the island with us and he had his bands while we were doing our thing, you know with the brothers and stuff. We got to know him. This was a classical music inspired arrangement of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” He even played me, Waddy played me that piece – that doom, doom, do do do doom – this whole orchestra doing that thing and I thought “Wow what an influence.” So, it goes off in that oddball classical tanget, I call it, once I heard that was the influence for it. And you know what we heard? We honestly heard this years later. The person that wrote that song, in an article, listed ours as his favorite version.

Jeff: Who wrote that?

Bob: I don’t know, it was one, I bet it was co-written, I’m sure, unless it was just one guy but whoever this was I heard in an article that that is what he said. I didn’t see it, so it’s hearsay.

Song: Silver Threads and Golden Needles

Song: Just Believe It

Woo: That’s Susan Cowsill and the title song from her 2005 CD, Just Believe It. Great CD

Jeff: Did I mention that she has one H*** of a voice?

Woo: Yes you did and I think you’re due to say that at least six more times.

Jeff; Right, Just unbelieveable.

Woo: Before that was and oldie. Bob Cowsill commenting on the Cowsill’s version of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” We heard Billy Cowsill’s solo effort from his album, Nervous Breakthrough, and “When Everybody’s Here” and we heard “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” and “In Need Of A Friend” and two from Global, “Under The Gun” and “Cross That Line” to start the show to Rock of Ages, The Roots, Stems and Seeds of Rock and Roll honoring The Cowsills.

Jeff: You ought to again, cite that writer, who’s obituary was the one that Richard actually read as the eulogy for Barry. It was in Newsday, which is a Long Island newspaper, I think, read primarily by Long Islanders and Woo is fishing through his stack of sources and …

Woo: Oh here it is, It’s Ellis Henican .

Jeff; Really a nice piece. I understand why they would choose to use that.

Woo: And we should refer the people of earth, the groovers for all things Cowsill to Basically run by Bob and there are an amazing history of The Cowsills, all kinds of things and there are lots of links to some great fans sites out there as well.

Jeff: Bob is really a charming guy, too.

Woo: Great, he’s a great guy.

Jeff: You know there’s of course there’s been a lot has been alluded to already about the connection between The Cowsills and The Partridge Family. A little information about The Partridges. The Partridge Family was broadcast on ABC from 1970-1974. A modest ratings success, the show peaked at #16 in the ratings for the 1971-72 season. While The Partridge Family never attracted huge audiences, it was a major hit with younger viewers. The series was also distinguished for spawning highly successful, if short lived, commercial tie-ins. Children’s mystery books, comic books featured The Partridges. The musical albums were heavily promoted and David Cassidy, one of the actors, became a teen idol. Remember it’s the story of a fatherless group of kids that form a band and their manager, Ruben Kincaid, played by Dave Madden, were on the road and their sort of flower painted bus. Well the whole thing was the creation of one, Bernard Slade, who was also responsible for such television programs as Love On A Rooftop, if you recall that with Judy Carne and Pete Duel. And The Flying Nun, Bridgett Loves Bernie, and what else…. Well those are pretty and he was also the – actually wrote the play Same Time Next Year. He was interviewed actually by Get Happy which is the website of Dave O’Days of Partridge Family. They say – Get Happy asks Bernard Slade, “Where did you get the inspiration for The Partridge Family?” “Well I’ll tell you what it was. I’m from Canada and I’ve written a number of hour long plays up there. I did an hour television show about a vocal group called The Big Coin Sound, which was a phrase used in The Varity Review. When I came down here, I thought the idea of doing a situation comedy using music was a good idea. At the time, I saw a group called The Cowsills on the Carson show one night. I thought it was interesting. So all three ideas kind of came together which is usually the case. It’s not usually one single idea. That was really the genesis of it all. I wrote the script for the pilot and then we started casting. I think the executive producer, Bob Claver, went to visit The Cowsills during the casting process. They thought at one point that they might cast one or two of them. Well they found out that The Cowsills didn’t really fit into any of the characters that I had written.” So that is his take on why the Cowsills weren’t on the program that was really written about them and one of the things that also struck Uncle Jeff as he looking at some of the writing about The Partridge Family is that someone – actually the folks at Museum of Broadcast Communications – which put out a very interesting publication which is the Encyclopedia of Television. It’s on the web at - check that out but they just describe the dramatic formula of the show as something between The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo. Certainly seems apt. But no question but that The Cowsills were the impetus for that.

Woo: Absolutely

Jeff: And another sort of interesting thing is that if The Cowsills made flower power right for suburbia, it’s interesting that MTV VJ, Megan Kennedy says that The Partridge Family took the drug culture and it square and added kids. It was hipness for the under 10 crowd. So there you go, one step removed and it got pretty d*** stupid when you get right down to it. But Danny Bonaduce of course would parlay that into a career and

Woo: and have his own problems with substances.

Jeff: Yes absolutely. Well I need to remind you that you are listening to Rock of Ages, come to you from the bunker. Uncle Jeff and Mr. Woo Rock of Ages, the flagship of the visible republic.

Song: Indian Lake

Jeff: Oh say can you see those headbands and fringe vests. Smell that cannabis and patchouli. Hear that jangle of beads and ankle cymbals. There’s no more Viet Nam war, but the essence of what “Hair” is about has not. True freedom, questioning authority, fight against whatever in what it means to you being female or member of a racial or sexual orientation minority. The challenge is to activate those feeling into a cast that feels very strongly the values of “Hair.” Those values hit a nerve and psyche when Hair emerged almost serendipitly out of the New York off Broadway scene in the late 1960’s. Not only did it ride a cultural zitgitz, it whipped up by social and political events, it seemed to be on the verge of spinning out of control. But it brought unpresidented change to a Broadway that was beginning to fossilize into irrelevance. It’s effects would prove to be good and ill But they were certainly unforeseen when two struggling New York actors, Jim Rado and Gerome Ragni, got together with composer Galt MacDermot and Tom O'Horgan to create an experimental production that few thought would last more than a few months. The show was literally steered by the stars--surely "Hair" was the first Broadway show (and perhaps the last) to have an in-house astrologist who would not only determine the opening date of all of its productions, but also review the astrological data of the actors to see if they would fit in the tribe. The show broke ground in other ways too. Its frontal nude scene, however brief and dimly lighted, started a trend. "Hair" was also the first show to move from off-Broadway to Broadway, from nonprofit to profit, now a well-worn path. As the first tenant of Joseph Papp's Public Theatre downtown on Lafayette Street, it transferred to a Midtown discotheque and then was remounted at the Biltmore Theatre, opening--propitiously, according to the astrologer--on April 29, 1968. "Hair" delighted, offended, confused and inspired millions, running for more than 1,700 performances in New York and playing in about 20 cities worldwide, including a run at Los Angeles' Aquarius Theatre, then on Sunset Boulevard. The the show grossed $80 million ($800 million in today's dollars) globally before the last love bead was put away.

Song: Hair

Jeff: “Hair” hit was by The Cowsills A moment ago Uncle Jeff was reading a piece from The Los Angeles Times June 17, 2001 when a revival of “Hair” opened there and it was written about by a fellow by the name of Patrick Pacheco. So it’s interesting that The Cowsills had their hit with “Hair” and in a kind of reversal or weird reversal of all this, a convergence if you will, it was another program on American television that from September 1969 until January 1974 that was called Love American Style

Woo: What it on that long?

Jeff: That long. And there was a revival of it in the early 90’s or 80’s New Love American Style. You remember it was an anthology show and they’d have little playlets and black out skits with a cast that came on inbetween. All of the elements, all of the playlets were titled “Love And …” something. One of the most famous of which was “Love and Happy Days” and it was actually the sort of pilot that spawned the program Happy Days, the difference being that Tom Bosley character was acted by Harold Gould rather than Tom Bosley. Anyway the point is and here’s the irony – the theme song for Love American Style was sung by none other than The Cowsills, at least for the beginning of the program and then because it was – and then unexplainably they were replaced and there was a version by the Charles Fox Singers after the very first season, so … I mean, what’s up with that and to further the irony, for the 1971-72 seasons it was part of ABC’s Friday night primetime lineup that included The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. Irony of ironies and they – and you familiar Woo with the website Jump The Shark?

Woo: Yes

Jeff: Well Jump The Shark – some of the people writing into Jump The Shark say that Love Americal Style JUMPED when Adam West played himself on an episode and funny fat girl comedian, Pat Carroll, fell in love with him. Someone else says the show ‘jumped the shark’ when the writers ran low on ideas and started putting tired old stand-up stick into the characters mouths. For example one episode the writers had a character mention Paris just so they whether the inhabitants were parasites. Ha ! Yeah exactly. So what we ought to do is listen to that song and interestingly it was written by Charles Fox and Arnold Margolin and hence the Charles Fox Singers.

Woo: OK

Song: Love American Style

Woo: Well people of earth, this has been Rock of Ages, The Roots, Stems and Seeds of Rock and Roll. I’m Mr. Woo

Jeff: And Uncle Jeff saying all good things must come to an end, whether it’s the lives of The Cowsills or this program.

Woo: I think we have a fine song to go out with.

Jeff: yeah we’re going to leave you with something from The Continental Drifters, Susan Cowsill’s current band with her ex-husband

Woo: Or her ex-band

Jeff: They’re still – it’s an loose amalgrithum that comes together

Woo: She’s in several bands

Jeff: But anyway, her ex-husband Pete Holsapple, her sister-in-law Vicki Peterson, her brother – is that John who married Vicki?

Woo: I believe it’s John.

Jeff: Anyway there are a loose group of musicians from New Orelans. This is a Vicki Peterson/Susan Cowsill composition off of the 1999 CD called Vermilion. The Continental Drifters, Uncle Jeff and Mr. Woo saying goodnight groovers.

Woo: Goodnight people of earth.

Song: The Way Of The World

Jeff: Well you know we here at Rock of Ages think of ourselves as anything but of a sort of classic rock program or an oldies show or anything like that. And we salute you for refusing to become that and sort of an act and the story we’ve read where you as a group had gone and were going to ink a contract with Dick Clark to appear – to go on the road with The Grass Roots and The Turtles.

Bob: That’s right.

Jeff: Can you tell the groovers – our listeners that story?

Bob: Hey listen, money is a lure and I’ll be the first in line to admit it. The bands are out there touring and you can say they’re all out there touring, are making good money and have turned touring into a career. The way a AAA minor league baseball player may never make it to the major league but is in six figure in AAA. We don’t know about it, but he’s having a good career. You know, we had an opportunity to make some money one summer, but it was going to be that. Get on a bus with The Grass Roots and The Turtles – Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars – make good money, go out and sing three, three and a half, four songs a night and then they’ll do their four songs and then the other group will do their four songs, get on a bus and go do it the next night. That sounded so crazy to us ultimately. But I tell ya, we almost did it so it didn’t sound that crazy.

Jeff: Well it was actually an accident of fortune, wasn’t it? You couldn’t get a pen to work.

Bob: Well you know, yes that is true. You have done your homework my man. We were there. Dick Clark was there and all I can remember is sitting there looking at him going, “Oh my god, he wears makeup in the office.” Focusing on that and there was a photographer from Billboard there ready to – you know how they document that kind of stuff – and the pen didn’t work and honest to god someone said we need to get a pen. And for some reason it broke up and we went over to this Mexican restaurant and changed our mind.

Woo: So are you now on Dick Clark’s enemies list?

Bob: You know what, I don’t think we’re on an enemies list but he was really good all along our career. I mean we could do American Bandstand and he would review our records and stuff. He was pretty sup portative back then.

Song: What About Love

Song: The Rain Song

Jeff: OK Cowsill fans that’s going to be it. We went into injury time for you because we wanted to play a couple more things and get that other clip of Bob on. Summery, precious, light, whimsical, carefree, sweet, amiable, good natured, playful, happy, we love The Cowsills at Rock of Ages and we appreciate those Cowsills fans among you for tuning in

Woo: Thanks to Becky for posting tonight’s show on her website.

Jeff: Yeah and yeah we’re here every Thursday night from 8-10 and we are always talking to interesting folks like Bob. At least trying to bring interesting slant on music here from the bunker.

Woo: But really we must go

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