Over 50 years ago, one of the greatest bands to ever come out of Rhode Island was getting ready to call it quits. Known for chart-topping singles including “The Rain, the Park & Other Things,” “Indian Lake,” and #1 hit “Hair,” The Cowsills’ buoyant family band sound was out of vogue by the early 1970s as noisier rock chords began to seep into the music mainstream.
Founded in Newport in 1965, The Cowsills enjoyed several years of stardom, and with mom Barbara singing harmony, they served as the inspiration for the popular television series The Partridge Family. By the late ‘60s, they were at the top of the AM radio charts and toured relentlessly, making dozens of TV appearances.
They’ve certainly endured well-documented ups and downs since, but The Cowsills are back, having undergone a career resurgence in recent years, and even putting out a highly praised new album in 2022. The band tours every summer as part of the Happy Together show, alongside cherished ‘60s artists like The Turtles, Little Anthony, and The Classics IV.
The current line-up includes three of four surviving siblings: Bob, Paul, and Susan (brother John Cowsill plays drums with the Beach Boys). They’re playing the recently renovated Park Theatre in Cranston on February 11, with another RI favorite sharing the bill. “This is the big bonus of the trip for us,” says founding member Bob Cowsill. “We get to have Steve Smith and the Nakeds as our back-up band for the show. It’s going to be a fun time.”
“We’re doing it for the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame,” adds Cowsill, who, along with his family, were inducted to the Hall in 2013. “We’re trying to help them; it’s a cool thing, I remember that ceremony, we all came to town, we were honored.”
There’s a nostalgic feel in their sound with fans young and old flocking to Cowsills shows. “We just did six weeks in Branson, Missouri, a Christmas show at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, Monday through Saturday, every night at 7:30. The Happy Together Tour hit 57 cities last summer. We are seeing an uptick, putting music out that people are responding to, old and new,” says Cowsill enthusiastically.
The legendary family-band harmonies are part of their success. “When you stay long enough, you sound good again,” explains Cowsill. “With the harmonizing, we’ve had decades of famous solo artists, one after another… harmony is almost new again, especially live.” And these shows aren’t just for boomers who grew up with the band. “At our meet and greets, younger fans will come up to us and say ‘I heard your song on Dumb and Dumber,’ or ‘I found you on the Internet.’ That’s fun, that immediate legacy, that history to look up.”
Cowsill remembers his Newport youth fondly. “We got to play at Dorian’s, a local club on Thames Street. In those days, we’re talking rough and tumble Newport Navy town crowds. We didn’t even have a bridge yet. We played every weekend at this club; we had a good rock band in 11th and 12th grade.”
Cowsill is excited about the band’s new album, Rhythm of the World. “We’ve been on the Happy Together tour every summer and Susan had been nagging us to go into the studio. She’s our Neil Young, our solo artist. So we started writing songs; the three of us had never written together. Making the album was a great experience – the floodgates opened. We hadn’t done that in so long, just us, no one telling us what to do, no one from the record company. And it sounds like us – it’s healthy, it’s fresh, we’re thrilled with the vocal arrangements.”
For tickets to see The Cowsills and Steve Smith and the Nakeds at Park Theatre on February 11, visit TheParkRI.com.
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