The Cowsills

The Cowsills

Back in the 1960's, four brothers who wanted to be The Beatles formed a band called The Cowsills. The original Cowsills consisted of Bill on guitar, Bob on guitar and organ, Barry on bass and John on drums. Early gigs were at school dances and churches around their home in Newport, RI. Eventually, as their harmonic sound was perfected, they got a regular gig on Bannisters Wharf in Newport where they would sing Beatles songs hour after hour. Early recordings were released by the four brothers on Joda and Mercury Records. Barbara ("mini-mom") joined the group to record The Rain, The Park and Other Things and shortly thereafter 7 year old Susan and brother, Paul, were added to the group. They were signed by MGM records and the group began its climb to the top.

The Cowsills enjoyed great success during the late 60's and in to the very early 70's not only with their music but appearing as guests on many television shows and even hosting their own TV special. They were approached to do a TV series but the producers had already signed an actress to play the mother on the series so it was a no go for The Cowsills. What was the series? It was The Partridge Family. The The Cowsills disbanded in the early 1970s but most of them have never really left the music business and various members have regrouped through the years.

Bridey Murphy, aka Paul, Bill, Barry and Waddy Wachtel, was formed in the mid-70's. Bill and Barry drifted in and out of this group and one single, The Time Has Come / Be Your Mother's Son, was recorded with Paul doing all vocals and Waddy playing all instruments.

Then, in the late 1970's, some of the Cowsills regrouped and recorded an album affectionately known as Cocaine Drain. This album was produced by Chuck Plotkin and also featured Dennis Castanares as a "member" of The Cowsills at that time. During those days, The Cowsills sometimes played the LA area as The Secrets and The Critics. Rumor has it that The Critics also recorded (and never released) a few songs.

Flash forward to the 1990s when some of The Cowsills (Bob, Paul, John and Susan) again regrouped. This time they were going to hit the oldies circuit but somehow playing just oldies didn't appeal to them. They had too much fun on some new material written by Bob and his wife, Mary Jo. So, this incarnation of The Cowsills started playing small clubs and showcases in the Los Angeles area and across the country. They generated great reviews from the critics and fans alike. The Cowsills also went back into the studio and Global was a result of those sessions.

Some long-time Cowsill fans (Marsha & Martha Jordan, Jo Malone, Lynn Mathis and Becky Presley) have formed the Committee for the Nomination of The Cowsills for Induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and are striving to have The Cowsills inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

During their research, the committee has compiled some amazing facts about The Cowsills and their careers, including:

-The Cowsills hold more gold records than many of the current Hall of Famers inducted as performers.

-Billy played guitar on the song “Right On” recorded by Ike Turner.

-Susan is the youngest rock performer to have a Top Ten hit.

-John was part of the first American rock group to play in the Republic of China.

-The Cowsills had the First Live Album to feature a Studio Track when In Concert featured “Hair”.

-Hall of Famer Bob Marley used to cover Cowsill songs.

-The Guestbooks on and have posts from all 50 states, 19 foreign countries in six of the seven continents.

-The Cowsills were the first of only 5 album covers done for rock bands by famous cartoonist Jack Davis.
-Billy once recorded with a guitar borrowed from John Lennon.

-The band’s true worth is illustrated by the fact that they were initially ‘discovered’ by Johnny Nash’s all black R&B label, JODA and they were ask to headline with future Hall of Famers’ Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and The Beach Boys before they had their first hit record at Soundblast ’66 in Yankee Stadium.

Both Barry and Susan had their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina, which hit the gulf coast in August 2005, since they were residents of the New Orleans area at the time. Susan and her family lost their home and most of their belongings but they were all safe during the hurricane and its aftermath and returned to live in New Orleans in January 2006. Barry, unfortunately, did not get out of New Orleans before Katrina hit and was among the missing of Hurricane Katrina for 4 months. Then, sadly, on January 4th, 2006, The Cowsill family got the news that Barry's body had been found and identified. Barry Cowsill is no longer with us. At the memorial service for Barry, the Cowsill family was informed that Billy had passed away following his battles with hip replacement surgery, back surgery, emphysema, osteoporosis and other problems.

Today, the surviving Cowsills continue to make music - sometimes individually and sometimes together - and their harmonies are still as infectious and bright as ever. A documentary about the Cowsills, Family Band: The Cowsills Story, premiered on Showtime in March 2013.



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