Cowsill Transcripts

WWL Radio Show
New Orleans, Louisiana
Susan Interview
May 20, 2019
Host: Scoot

Scoot: I remember listening to this as a kid. It was a major hit in America. Itís The Cowsills and Susan Cowsill today on her 60th birthday joins us in the studio. Susan what are your thoughts now as you hear that song?

Susan. Awww Iím trying not to cry. I really am. And honestly that doesnít happen a whole lot anymore, but today is a slightly tender day. Itís wonderful. How are you? Iím more excited to just be sitting right here.

Scoot: Weíve talked about this a lot. Weíve run into each other a few different places, a few different times and quite often I get text from Susan on my personal phone commenting on show so Iím glad to have you here. I just want to talk about the Ď60s. I want to talk about what you witnessed and what you saw that generation, that wild rebellious generation from the Ď60s is now the establishment and in some ways theyíve changed. And what Ö every young generation is defined by the music that it makes popular. If you look back at the Ď60s there was just so much that was rich and colorful about the Ď60s generation in terms of in music and fashion. In terms of attitude. Iíve told you a couple times recently when Iíve run into you, and Iíll tell you this again as you sit here, and Iíll tell the audience, that when I look toward you that are a hippie. Youíre still a hippie.

Susan: I am

Scoot: I mean youíre like a flower girl that (canít understand) flop. Flowers in her hair.

Susan: Look, some things you canít fake.

Scoot: And you canít fake this.

Susan: No, and itís interesting because I think the hippie thing is more of a philosophy more than anything which also drips over into our clothing because philosophically itís about a freer way of feeling, thinking and being. And in hopes of that guiding toward goodness and light. That being, I believe, the theme of the hippie, the original theme of hippie.

Scoot: And there are people today who are young, but they are hippies

Susan: Absolutely

Scoot: Hippie transcends the Ď60s

Susan: I does now. I mean everything kind of comes and goes as we know and Iíll be honest with you. OK so itís 1968 and Iím walking around the house like I am and one of my brothers says to me at that time, ďWhat do you think you are? A hippie?Ē And Iím like, ďWhat are you even talking about?Ē I didnít even know what he meant. And then he proceeded to tell me that my time, the age I was born in, and all this stuff is why I couldnít be one at 8. And Iím like, ďWell, ummm that.Ē And I think maybe that lite a fire under me to never let go of what I felt. Thatís what it meant to me.

Scoot: So letís talk about touring with your brothers. And youíre still doing it today. Weíll talk momentarily about the Happy Together Tour which kicks off again. I talked to you guys after the show last year in Biloxi. What is it like touring with your brothers today having gone through that a long time ago?

Susan: Well itís very different today on account of A) they like me and they didnít when I was little because I was ruining their rock star Ė Rolling Stones/Beatles concept of themselves

Scoot: Because you were young

Susan: Because I as a girl and their sister in their rock band. So they hated my guts for being, making them uncool. And I thought to myself, ďWell Mom coming in. How did I rate uncool coming in when you had your Mother in your band.Ē But whatever with that. No seriously, prospectively speaking, back in the day it was kind of a phenomenon for me. I was so young. I can honestly say that my first gigs I thought that the audience was my cousins. Cuz it was like a 300 seater and we have a lot Ė Iím Irish Catholic Ė thereís just forty-five thousand in one little pocket in Rhode Island and they all knew my name and calling to me and my brothers. And I ask my Mom if they were our cousins. So, my earlier days on the road were Ė on stage and out with the guys Ė was just like being home only they took baths and they acted really super charming all the time as opposed to gross and disgusting like they actually were. Now, they are gentlemen, fastly approaching their 70s and they are about the cutest things Iíve ever seen. And Iím all that is left so they hang on to me like somebody would a life raft in the middle of the Mississippi.

Scoot: For those who donít know, your family Ė the real life family The Cowsills Ė were the inspiration for The Partridge Family.

Susan: 100% That show, I think Screen Gems and all those guys saw us on Sullivan and it took them a couple of years to kind of create this project that they wanted to make a TV series about the family band with the Mom and the kids in it and for us Ė The Cowsills Ė they came out to our home. They stayed with us for a couple of weeks and decided that the brothers Ė by this point two years later Ė growing into awkward and unpleasant. My oldest brother had already started hanging out with Brian Wilson and Harry Neilson so things were getting murky there. And we werenít exactly that anymore. However, and I say this .. I have a video clip of it and Iím going to bring it out on the Happy Together Tour to put up on the screen, cuz on a documentary for The Partridge Family I heard one of the writers say Sherwood Forest or whatever that guy was who did all that Brady Bunch thing Ö he said, ďThe little girl was adorable and we wanted her but the brothers were stick figures.Ē

Scoot: I guess that was kind of revenge for you because they didnít like you then.

Susan: I mention it ever night on the Happy Together Tour. Itís my one moment with those boys. Itís wonderful to be out with them. Itís a miracle that weíre out. Weíre having a last wave that we didnít expect in Cowsill-land.

Scoot: So first of all letís talk about the Happy Together Tour. Whoís going to be there this time around.

Susan: This year we have, obviously, The Turtles and they are the Happy Together leaders of the ring. And we have The Cowsills, Gary Puckett. Weíve got Ron Dante Ė he sang ďSugar, SugarĒ and ďBang Shang-a-langĒ less we forget. We have The Buckinghams

Scoot: The Buckinghams

Susan: Yes

Scoot: Wow I remember Ö I was growing up as a young teen. I loved them.

Susan: The Bucks are amazing. Dennis Tufano is the original lead singer and he wonít be joining them and heís kind of my BFF, but the Bucks are still great because they sing those wonderful songs and Carl and Nick pull it off with gusto.

Scoot: ďDonít You CareĒ by The Buckinghams

Susan: Yeah, they were Chicago. They were like little bluesy boys but they were babies. They were like 19-years-old, yeah.

Scoot: So, The Turtles

Susan: Oh and Chuck Negron. Heís one of our bus pals and you love him.

Scoot: Chuck was one of the lead singers of Three Dog Night. He went through a lot. He went through a lot with drugs and alcohol and heís lucky to be alive. In fact Iíve talked to Chuck on the air here and Iíll get him back on the air for that but heís amazing and he still sounds good and when he belting out like ďOneĒ some of those classic Three Dog Night hits.

Susan: Eliís Coming

Scoot: Eliís Coming

Susan: And hereís the miracle of Chuck. I call him The Chief. Chuck, he has a piece of one lung that is like completely functional and the rest he has not. So the glasses you see Chuck wearing on stage has oxygen. They are oxygenated glasses though tubes run around the outsides, they run down the back, and that little cord that you see coming out of his pocket, that looks like a guitar cord, thatís super long and goes to the side of the stage is his oxygen cord, covered in guitar cord material making him look like the rock star that he is.

Scoot: Wow

Susan: And nobody knows that he could not be doing that without his oxygen.

Scoot: And nobody knows till now.

Susan: No, he tells now. Last year he Ö oh I busted him long before he needed to understand that he is our Chief and he leads by example and itís OK to rock.

Scoot: Do you want to bust any other secrets that any of these people might have?

Susan: Oh I got so many. Scoot, can we get a little mini-series going. Iíd like to discuss an ongoing

Scoot: We should do an ongoing video podcast.

Susan: Iím in

Scoot: And we could just start. Each one could be a different story.

Susan: Well the thing is, I can tell you the dead people stories now because they are not here and I can elude to other stories about currently alive but ummm time ticking and then we can like . . .

Scoot: Letís talk about one tough thing you guys had to deal with. You lost your brother.

Susan: Yeah, Barry Cowsill Barry Steven Cowsill. He moved to New Orleans before I did and then I followed him which pissed him off because he was a kooky little kid. He was one of the most amazing song writers youíll ever, ever hear from. He was a character. I donít know if you ever met him, some of the folks in this building have. And Barry decided to stay behind after Katrina which was a really ridiculous idea, one of many he would go with. And he ended up in the Mississippi. Somehow he made it through the storm, but he sent me several messages on Wednesday after and my phone started working that Wednesday. By Thursday he didnít call back. We looked for him for about six months and we were fortunate enough to be famous to be on Entertainment Tonight, CNN and look for him effectively but it wasnít because he wasnít out there. And December after Katrina my brother had given some DNA to ďLetís get her doneĒ cuz it was kind of tearing everybody up and we found him and I will tell you Ė itís how many years later Ė and it is truly a tragic story but one that the guy would have written for himself and prayed

Scoot: And youíre together without him. But when we come back I want to talk about your impression as a pre-teen and then as a teenager of the Ď60s and the fashion. You look like you just walked in from a commune.

Susan: Iím starting one. I was going to talk to you. I know you live in Ö. I donít like you in the Quarter anymore. Weíll talk.

Scoot: Alright hereís The Buckinghams. This is one of the bands that is going to be on the Happy Together Tour coming up. Next month. It starts next month?

Susan: Oh it starts June 7th

Scoot: And when are you going to be in Biloxi?

Susan: June 7th

Scoot: June 7th

Susan: Oh Iím sorry it starts the 28th.

Scoot: OK May 28th

Susan: Yeah but June 7th at Biloxi with these guys.

Scoot: Buckinghams. This brings me back to my childhood.

Susan: Your childhood? How old are you?

Scoot: Iím even older than you

Susan: No youíre not. You guys should see what Iím looking at. Bunch of BS

Scoot: You bet. On WWL

Song: Indian Lake

Scoot: Alright this goes back to 1968. This was another Top 10 hit by The Cowsills. And Susan Cowsill is in the studio with me and weíre talking the 1968

Susan: Imagine that.

Scoot: And music and fashion and all that. Alright I guess Iím wrong Ö Iím getting text telling me to do the math Ė you were not really a teenager in the 1960s. I mean you started to get close to being a teenager toward the end of the Ď60s, right?

Susan: Letís hold on here. I was born 30 so I have to do my own math. So teenager in the Ď60s, I mean I was in my band. I started when I was eight. Iím an adolescent. I retired the first time when I was 12, one year short of teen. Are we really going to split hairs like this Scoot?

Scoot: I donít care. Iím just responding to text.

Susan: Are we getting calls. Well weíre not going to take too many texts during this segment.

Scoot: Obviously people are looking for reasons to find fault. Letís talk briefly about what you observed as a young person as a preteen/teenager. Tell me what you remember about that because we all have a vision of what we think it was like, but what was it like for you as a kid? I mean did you see boys that you liked, that you were attracted to? Did you want to have a boyfriend?

Susan: God yes OK so the life that was happening and unfolding, we moved from Rhode Island to Brentwood, California. We were literally The Beverly Hillbillies on every level so loaded up the truck. I got a swimming pool and tennis court and two bikes. About a year before we could only drink certain amounts of the milk in the frig, so this life-style was very, very different. I was an incredible hyper-vigilant little kid so I will, no more than people will expect me to know about these years. Look I was on Ed Sullivan in 1967 with Bobbie Gentry. Ode to Billy Joe I donít know if it was my personality or just the fact that things were so hoppiní in my world from 8 on that I was very aware of what was up. And I was involved in the un-rest of the country. I remember my mother sitting on the bed crying over JFK. I remember coming home from school Ö we did a brief stint in Manhattan before we moved to Brentwood so itís í67 in Manhattan and was that Martin Lutherís year? Was heÖ.

Scoot: Ď68

Susan: OK so we were getting ready to leave but we were still in New York and the day he died there was a riot on our way home from school. And I got . . . my brother had to pick me up because a bottle broke by my foot and cut my foot. Now I had a memory of running from school and getting my foot cut but I didnít know what it was for many years. I couldnít remember it. And Paul had reminded me. We were running from the Martin Luther King riot. The vibe at that time, you know the unrest, the upheaval, the young people getting angry and wanting to do something about it in the name of peace. And in the name of love are today . . .

Scoot: And Iíve always theorized the baby-boomer generation, the seeds were actually planted when Kennedy was assassinated. Because Kennedy was assassinated three months before the Beatles arrived in America. And back then parents didnít talk to their kids about what they were seeing on the news because they thought we werenít paying attention. We were paying attention.

Susan: Without a doubt we were paying attention. I wanted to know and I remember my mother ďDonít, no. Itís not for you.Ē It is for me. My whole world. Look at all of you. What do you think weíre doing, you know.

Scoot: As in that set the tone for this generation suddenly, unconsciously lost faith in the establishment, seeing the president of the United States murdered. Itís like OK weíre different and now weíre going to show it and The Beatles came along at the right time.

Susan: Absolutely. The whole and thatís just the universe speaking for, helping itself along I feel. And itís happening again yíall. The kids are getting angry. They are losing their friends at school. Theyíre . . .itís happening again.

Scoot: Alright. We have to be reminded of some of the things that are happening now with the news but weíll be back with more Susan Cowsill. Weíll be back on WWL. (Break and song We Can Fly and Hair) This is the title track from the rock musical Hair. This was a major hit for the Cowsills in what? 1967?

Susan: No we are now . . .

Scoot: í69? í68?

Susan: Is that right? No wait We Can Fly Ö. í69 it might be í68 We did a lot in the big crunch.

Scoot: But this was a major. You had the commercial hit on this song from the rock opera. I remember hearing this on my little transistor radio.

Susan: We did. Correct. And that was happening a lot with the local, local bands ha, the hot bands like the 5th Dimension. They did ď Let the Sun Shine InĒ. ďJeanĒ

Scoot: Letís crank this up just for a second.

Susan: Letís rock it out. (Hair played)

Scoot: And Hair was controversial. Long hair in fact it was on this day in 1971, I mentioned this earlier in the show, that Peter Cetera of Chicago was beaten up by several men after a baseball game because they didnít like his long hair.

Susan: Youíre kidding

Scoot: So it was, it was a big deal. So I understand that Carl Reiner, the writer/director heard a soundtrack of Hair and sent the soundtrack to you guys and wanted The Cowsills to do this song and you did.

Susan: You are amazing that you know that. Thatís genius. Yes, Carl came to Ö there was a TV show Ė 2 hour TV special cuz thatís how they rolled it out back in those day Ė I think it was NBC. Carl was doing a show called Wonderful World of Pizzazz about pop culture, fashion, etc. etc. etc. And he thought it would be pretty funny if The Cowsills came on his show singing this song modeling wigs from Japan and hippie clothes. So the funny part, the hippie part is at home we were, but then we would put on our Cowsill clothes and kind of clean it up a little bit and become more wholesome. So he thought it would be a dichotomy. Ha Ha, which it was but the ha ha ha was this. So we recorded that just for that TV show. My brothers produced it. They played all the instrumÖ. Thatís my brother Barry at 12 or something like that playing that bass line all and just an amazing recording. MGM would not allow my brothers to put it out. We came to them, took a meeting, can we please make this our next single? Oh absolutely not. This is not Cowsill. Itís nice youíre doing that, promotes our records, thatís cool, but no.

Scoot: Because it was controversial

Susan: It was. We had to Ö well when we finally got it out we had to cut out a verse talking about Mary loving Jesus. It was not OK to have Mary love Jesus and his hair maybe not so much. But the bottom line was they said no to that song coming out. My brothers were so angry that when we were on tour that we went to Chicago WLS and my brothers went like this with a little disc and played .. can we play a game and ask your viewers who they think that is. Donít say itís us before we come on. They ran it that morning. Nobody knew who it was but it was a hit. And the old phrase, the switchboard lite up cuz there was one back then guys and they really did light up. And they had the had the things in them and the whole schlemiel. It lite up and MGM had to put that record out because it got release virally by my brothers on WLS because they were

Scoot: Great story

Susan: Oh you donít know. The guys were like ĎHoly S***í And now here we are and we can be those guys last hit.

Scoot: OK now are you still getting royalites from these songs?

Susan: We are starting to get royalties from these songs.

Scoot: What do you mean starting?

Susan: What I saying there is that we did not. We were part of the Ď60s package that you sign up for and youíre really young and you sign anything they give you because the industry was very very young back then. Tommy James It happen to a lot of us. We were all kids and they were signing away our lives. And listen on the contracts for my brothers it literally says that if .. these boys are of age to sign these things and then down below where they signed their names they have their names printed and their dates of birth where they are clearly not old enough to sign this thing. However we never got any money. Tom . . . It was in Dumb and Dumber, The Rain, the Park and Other Things, IKEA used our song for commercials All through the years nothing. We finally got a lawyer who would go pro bono with us and pick it up on the flip flop. Took him two and a half years to excavate that other people were getting our money that shouldnít have. They no longer get it and we do now.

Scoot: Oh good. It wasnít retroactive but at least youíre getting it now.

Susan: No, it was not retroactive.

Scoot: Well good. Iím glad your . . .

Susan: Itís wonderful. Itís a miracle. Itís all a miracle. As a 12-year-old I had a road boyfriend in Atlantic City. We played the Steel Pier for two weeks so we were actually in one place. And there was this one cute boy named Keith and he kept buying me stuff from all the carnival places and he was beautiful, curly blond hair.

Scoot: How old was he.

Susan: 12

Scoot: Oh OK I mean like a tour manager whose 45

Susan: No, that was my first boyfriend when I was 14. And Iím not kidding. So and I had my own household at 14. So we can talk about that on a different show.

Scoot: OK

Susan: And maybe Iíll get you my documentary so you can see about home life at my house. Things were not normal so there were no normal boyfriends and but the one time I tried to have a real normal boyfriend and have a date and be like a normal kid, we were actually home. I met a guy camping. Guy I think I was 10 and he was super cute and he was going to take me to a dance for our school but I had to have him come to the house and pick me up. My brother Paul Ö nobody showed up ever again so whatever with that. Itís all good.

Scoot: Weíre talking to Susan Cowsill. Today is her birthday and sheís spending the afternoon with us.

Susan: I was happy to be here.

Scoot: Weíve been talking about doing this for a long time. Sheís going to be a part of the Happy Together Tour. Once again The Cowsills will be a part of that with The Turtles and The Buckinghams and Gary Puckett and Chuck Negron from Three Dog Night and Itís going to be at the IP Casino in Biloxi on June 7th. I went last year and it was a blast. And Iíll be there again this year. So, letís go back to 1964, just two months before the Beatles first appeared on America television, the Beatles held the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Nobody has ever done that. Nobody is ever expected to do that again. Top five songs. In fact these songs were ďPlease, Please MeĒ was #5, ďI Want To Hold Your HandĒ was #4, ďShe Loves YouĒ was #3, ďTwist and ShoutĒ was #2 and ďCanít Buy Me LoveĒ was the #1 song in the country. They had five, but they had seven other songs on the Top 100. They had 12 songs on the Top 100 in April 1964. Two months after they arrived in America.

Susan: Thatís amazing. How beautiful is that? Thatís the whole world just going ďYESĒ

Scoot: And hereís the other band that I remember that was right behind The Beatles, right on the tails of The Beatles coming to this country was the Dave Clark Five. And this was one of their big hits and Dave Clark was the lead singer and the drummer and thatís unusual. We got Fred Lablea now but this was unusual. This is one of those songs that was part of that early, early British invasion in í64.

Susan: And he was super cute.

Scoot: Iím Scoot and my conversation with Susan Cowsill continues when we come back on WWL. (Break) This is Susan Cowsill in her solo career. Itís a song she did after Katrina. Itís called ďCould This Be Home.Ē Tell me about the song.

Susan: I wrote this song while Russ and I, Russ is my drummer/husband/bestie. We were evacuated from our Kai Sadona for six months from home here in town and we were staying family and friends throughout Indiana, Nashville, Austin, Oregon and LA. We had pockets (tape appears to have broken here)

Scoot: (tape appears to have broken here) and home doesnít necessarily always going to be a stable place and you have to find home where you are.

Susan: Agreed and starting off as a Navy brat and then becoming a touring brat and just being a brat in general. Itís true. Itís true and I left home when I was 12 and weíll talk about that at another time. I left home and went to live with my brother but I didnít get escorted or taken there by a parent. I left so home was me. I am home. I carry home here and have set them up everywhere I go. And very successfully I might add. And itís all OK with me.

Scoot: So The Cowsills seemed like this very, very goody, goody band. Were drugs ever on the scene?

Susan: Not necessarily active on the Cowsill scene, but at the end yeah, my brother Billy got thrown out for smoking marijuana or from my Dad finding out in 1969 which left my brother Bob as the leader about three hours before we left for that summer tour and Iím not even kidding. And the Cowsills being goody, goody and wonderful and sunshine and Americaís family has itís dichotomic reality because as you will find out as we get to know each other, my father was a raging alcoholic and incredibly abusive cat. So home wasnít safe. Stage was perfect for a safety zone and hence kind of leaving around 12. So it was very crazy out there for reasons for reasons that would not be . . . However, we smelled it everywhere we went and it was so much fun because we knew we were kind of cool if we were that close to the smell. We went to the film where to see the star of Jefferson Airplane and some of the people in the audience recognized us and started throwing bubblegum at us.

Scoot: Wow I wish I had a chorus in here to sing Happy Birthday but here is a birthday cake for you

Susan: Are you serious. Aww honey

Scoot: Weíll cut that us.

Susan: Itís got my name on it.

Scoot: I got to take a break here. Weíre going to come right back here and wrap up with Susan Cowsill. I could go on and on. Weíre going to do this again sometime.

Susan: I hope so.

Scoot: And Chuck Negron

Susan: The Chief

Scoot: One of the singers of Three Dog Night did this song. Heís going to be on the Happy Together Tour IP Casino, Biloxi, June 7th and tell you what, he sounds like this. And this guy did half of the cocaine in Peru. And heís still alive. Iím Scoot with Susan Cowsill and weíll be back on WWL. (Break) Iím getting text Susan that should make you feel really great. Iím getting text for people who say this is bring back memories. Bringing back Ö. Bringing me back to the seventh grade and Iíve got a text here that says ďIím falling in love with her all over again.Ē I mean look, at some point in my life, I had a crush on you.

Susan: Ohhhh $5 please Weíll talk about that later. Have a little fun.

Scoot: Iím about to run out of time. Itís been such a delight having you here.

Susan: Thank you so much

Scoot: Weíll do a video after the show which weíll post on our Facebook page. WWL Radio Also put it on the SRTA Scoot Facebook page. But thank you for coming down. I also got a text do you .. wants to know if you remember playing The Lumber Yard in Mobile

Susan: Sure

Scoot: I remember I lived in Mobile for two years and I am lucky to be alive because I used to do The Lumber Yard and I think they ran out of Vodka when I was there. I still drove home across the Cosway. Across the bay. That is not good.

Susan: No, that was not. Thatís for the days.

Scoot: You have been a delight. Thanks for the memories

Susan: I totally enjoyed it. I want to come back

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