Cowsill Transcripts

WFPL - Bob Cowsill Interview
April 2013
Host: Rick Howlett

Rick: I was looking back at your timeline here. The Cowsills were a musical group – you’re approaching your golden anniversary.

Bob: Isn’t that amazing. You know how high you are on the radar becomes irrelevant eventually if you do this because you can have your years where you’re making money and everyone knows who you are, but in our business and in this business it’s not necessarily those years that are going to be following you around the 40 that you do it. So, you’re right, we’ve been at this for 40-50 years, some of us. That’s amazing to say that.

Rick: The Cowsills are often referring to as the inspiration for The Partridge Family TV series. Were you ever offered a TV series of your own?

Bob: Well we were going to do THAT series but we weren’t going to do that series. We were considered to do that series. And clearly the story line if from us and even the music – our producers and writers worked for them. And when they checked us out, we were older. And we were not actors, that is true, and it broke down on their side from that end. On our side it broke down because Dad, our Dad had a disagreement with them because Shirley Jones as going to play the mother in this TV show no matter who the kids were. So they were thinking of pairing Shirley with the REAL Cowsill children and that didn’t work out so they went Central Casting and that did work out. They had a hit show and launched a few careers even. So that was very cool. And we were - look at the time, we were - this was ’70 I think – we were touring and recording. “Hair” was a big hit for us. We were – we hadn’t fallen apart at all – so we were happy as teenage guys were OK that we didn’t do The Partridge Family. We didn’t want to do it. We wanted to record and tour. We didn’t want to be in some TV studio Monday thru Friday, 6 in the morning till 6 at night. So this was not bad news to us at all.

Rick: Well there’s a documentary out now about The Cowsills which is airing on Showtime. Correct me if I’m wrong, you co-wrote with the director Louise Palanker.

Bob: Well Louise was the driver of doing the documentary. It was 7, 8 years in the making. We even shut it down for a couple of years because those are hard, difficult meaning that if you are telling your very own story, it becomes like psych sessions you know. It becomes like psychiatry sessions and so it wears you down. And it wore us down. But then we decided to finish it. And Showtime was very wonderful in putting it on. We thought they were only going to show it once, but they are showing it for three months. A lot of airings. It goes through May 26th, even to the last date. If that is the last date. They keep adding dates. God bless ‘em. And we’re real thrilled. It’s hard to watch, even my sister – send her right back into therapy. And it does that if you have a somewhat harsh story to tell – to share with people just harsh aspects to it that are difficult to …. It’s hard for me to watch, even now, it’s just hard.

Rick: Well you and your siblings are really open about the abuse you suffered at the hand of your father. How difficult was it – or was it difficult – to have everyone talk about this. That’s a lot of Cowsills to get get on board.

Bob: There’s a lot of characters in this story and a lot of interpretations. Each of us have our own version of growing up even though we did it together. We were isolated within the whole as we grew up is how it ended up sort of being like. And it was difficult because these are things that you don’t normally share with people. You don’t normally share with each other some of the things what we shared. You just sort of ‘ Mums the word’. You just get through your life. That’s what most of us do. But when you’re going to peel back the onion and open this all up, then everybody has got to be onboard, and that’s what we decided to do. And yes it was very difficult at times. And it’s rewarding in the end because you go through this – it was a wonderful thing to go through and we’re very happy with the documentary and harsh as it was and hard to it, it was cathartic and it brought us even closer as a family, the ones that are here still and even reached beyond our family and into the people who used to follow us and liked our music. It’s opened a whole bunch of doors and we have nothing but fond things to say about the experience now and the results that are happening now.

Rick: Sadly two of your brothers passed away during this time period.

Bob: Well that sort of helped shut it down. We lost Barry in the Katrina Hurricane. And that was September of that year and they didn’t find him until December. And then once they found him we scheduled our memorial service in Rhode Island for him and the day of that service was the day we lost our brother Bill in Canada. So that was a twofer there. We had 350 people at the Viking Hotel that night that Bill had died and this memorial is now for two brothers. And that was tragic. And neither of those had to happen. Barry’s was an accident I’m sure, a tragedy. And Bill’s was … Billy had lived a hard life – as had Barry – and Bill’s caught up with him. Our older brother Bill had his life caught up with him. He just couldn’t – his body just shut down is what happen eventually. Just abuse and a whole bunch of stuff, you know. It’s hard.

Rick: One of the uplifting things about this documentary is that it does celebrate your music and it shows what serious musicians all of you were and are. Do you have a favorite Cowsill’s song?

Bob: Well you’re not going to know it. Well our favorite – my favorite songs that the people might remember is the “Hair, Hair, Hair”, the hit “Hair” because the arrangement – “Hair” was wonderful because we got to record that on our own. Bill and I just got to arrange and produce that. My other favorite song that we recorded as a family was called “Gray Sunny Day”. It’s off our We Can Fly album. “Gray Sunny Day” is just a wonderful arranged vocal hit that we did that no one really knows about.

Song: Gray Sunny Day

Rick: I was telling some people around the station that I was going to be chatting with you and I got some blank stares from some of the younger folks, but one immediately broke into “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” That’s a well put together song.

Bob: It was a great record. A great recording of a good song. You know with people it’s funny yet that you’d mention The Cowsills. Even though we’ve been in the business and stayed in the business it was under the radar most of that time, not now, but it was. And so people go “Huh?” “The who?” “The who?” and you’d start singing “I love the flower girl” “Gimme a head with hair” and happen to mention The Partridge Family and it was “Oh really, I know them.”

Song: The Rain, The Park, and Other Things

Bob: It was easy to miss us back then, as easy as it was easy to find us because we all listened to the same radio station. It connected our generations. But having said that if you didn’t listen to a pop station and you were a jazz afishionado, you missed us because they didn’t combine up like that. But the day that we happening in the late ‘60s were such a hay day in the music business and oh my gosh, considering what was going on around us, we held our own pretty well back then for a bunch of kids.

Rick: And you are going to be inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame

Bob: We are, thank you. It’s such an honor when your home state calls, you know. Now look I’m not going to say it wouldn’t be an honor if Cleveland, Ohio, called for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that would be quite an honor, but we even when Rhode Island calls and they have their own Hall of Fame and they want us in it, we’re going, “You do??? Gees thanks a lot! We appreciate it. We’d love to.” So, we’re going back April 28th to the induction ceremony along with some other local wonderful groups from Rhode Island.

Rick. Very good. The documentary about The Cowsills is called Family Band: The Cowsills Story airing on Showtime. Bob Cowsill congratulations on your Hall of Fame induction and thanks for joining us.

Bob: Thank you so much for having me and looking forward to seeing everybody out there when we start touring.

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