1965 – present (57 years)
Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States
- Barry Cowsill
- Billy Cowsill
- Bob Cowsill
- John Cowsill
- Susan Cowsill
The Cowsills were a singing group from Newport, Rhode Island specializing in what would later be defined as bubblegum pop. The band was formed in the spring of 1965 by four brothers — Barry, Bill, Bob, and John Cowsill. After their initial success, the brothers were later joined by their siblings, Susan and Paul and their mother, Barbara. Rounding out the group was remaining brother Richard, who did not sing with the group, but was assigned as road manager and advisor.
Origins And Early Successes
Originally inspired by The Beatles, the Cowsills developed their musicianship and harmonized vocals in performances at school dances and churches in their hometown. They were encouraged by their parents, Barbara and Bud Cowsill, who drove them around to shows in the family's station wagon. Bud had retired from a long career in the US Navy to manage his children's career together with his wife.
The band drew increasing attention through the 1960's as their musical proficiency improved. In late 1965, the initial four members were hired as a regular act on Bannisters Wharf in Newport where they would sing "The Beatles" songs hour after hour. They also produced their first recordings, and released them on Mercury Records. Despite their appeal, the company passed on a record contract for reasons never specified. In 1966, the band was signed by MGM records, and shortly after Barbara - who would become known to their fans affectionately as "Mini-Mom" due to her diminutive stature - joined the group to record The Rain, The Park and Other Things. Shortly thereafter the band was expanded yet again to include siblings Susan and Paul.
With the success of "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" the band quickly became a popular act in the U.S., and achieved significant airplay in England and other parts of Europe. "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" wound up reaching #2 on the Billboard charts, and sold some three million copies in its first release.
Bob Cowsill is quoted as follows on the band's early days:
"Although Bill and I performed at a very young age, and Bill, myself, Barry and John did a lot of frat parties at Brown University and clubs in Newport … the most memorable performance of what I would view as the precursor of what The Cowsills would be was at King's Park in Newport (right at the foot of Halidon Hall) at some carnival. The family angle just evolved … first Bill and me, then Bill me and Barry, then Bill, me, Barry and John, then Bill, me, Barry, John and Mom, then Bill, me, Barry, John, Mom and Paul, then later, me, Paul, John, Barry, Mom and Susan, then back to Bill, me, Barry and John (very briefly in the end) and then to me, Paul, John and Susan. Our first real break came when we were playing the MK Hotel in Newport (in the basement there) and a guy from the Today show saw us and asked if we wanted to be on the Today show. We weren't famous or anything but we were young and we were related and we were quite good. So we went on the Today show (I doubt a tape exists of that but if it did it would be priceless to see) and someone from Mercury Records saw us which ultimately led to our signing with that label and putting out "Most Of All" (a great "school's out" song that should have been our first hit in my opinion) which led to Artie Kornfeld and Steve Duboff. Mercury dropped us, but Artie and Steve had written "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" and we went in and recorded that song at A&R studios in New York and took the whole package to MGM who decided wouldn't it just be terrific if their mother performed with them and, voila, the rest, as they say, is history. "
In 1969 they had another number two hit with their version of the title song from the musical Hair.
The Cowsills are often cited as the inspirtation for TV's "The Partridge Family."
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