Hurricane Katrina Death Photos Biography
The chirpy, bubble-gum singing family from Newport, Rhode Island who inspired TV's "The Partridge Family" (1970) (not to mention the sibling-oriented groups "The Jackson 5" and The Osmonds") would expand over the years to include siblings Billy (born 1948); twins Bob and Dick (born 1950); Paul (born 1952); Barry (born 1954); John (born 1956) and little sister Susan (born 1959), plus their mom Barbara (born 1929).
The group originally formed in 1965 with just two brothers (Billy and Bob) who were heavily influenced by "The Everly Brothers," but Barry and John quickly joined in when their obsessions turned to "The Beatles." Booked at school dances, college parties, church socials, hotels and clubs, their first recorded single was "All I Really Want to Be Is Me." The boys were discovered by a producer for NBC's "Today" show who booked them for an appearance. They soon came to the attention of Mercury Records who produced their singles "Party Girl," "Most of All" and Simon & Garfunkel's "A Most Peculiar Man," all of which floundered. MGM Records picked them up after Mercury dropped them and released their debut album, initially started by Mercury, in November of 1967.
By early the following year the harmonic family had their first pop hit single "The Rain, the Park, & Other Things" (mom Barbara had joined in to sing on the record and stayed) which went to #2 on the pop charts and went gold. The "family" angle really kicked in after this and siblings Susan and Paul were quickly filtered into the group. Extensive touring ensued (billed as "America's First Family of Song") with plenty of network TV show appearances ("The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Tonight Show"). The wholesome Cowsills hosted their own NBC-TV special and even became spokespersons for the American Dairy Association, appearing in milk commercials and print ads. They also recorded the popular TV theme to the comedy anthology "Love, American Style" (1969). A couple more major chart hits came their way with "Indian Lake" and "We Can Fly". They even took a risk and challenged the popular theme to the counterculture rock stage musical "Hair" with their own spin and earned themselves another.
Under the strict management of patriarch and former Navy officer William "Bud" Cowsill, however, discontentment and major rifts quickly boiled over within the family structure. Bud was the one who pulled the plug signing the children up for the "Partridge" TV show when it was learned that Barbara's role would be played by someone else (Shirley Jones). Billy, with designs on being a rock-and-roller, bucked the goody-goody teen idol image and was fired from the group for his defiance. Dropped by their record label, the group permanently disbanded in 1971. Barry and Billy went off to do solo work while Susan and three of the brothers, Bob (on guitar and organ), John (on drums) and Paul occasionally reunited on tour. Various family regroupings would occur over the decades with such cover names as "The Secrets" or "The Critics."
Sadly, mother Barbara died of cancer in 1985 at age 56 and father Bud passed away in 1992 at age 67. Son Barry, the bassist and Danny Bonaduce-like prototype who battled severe depression and an acute, longstanding substance abuse problem, wound up a 2005 victim of Hurricane Katrina (along with over 1,100 others). Lead singer/guitarist Billy, also an alcohol and drug abuser, died from chronic health problems in 2006. Both brothers were only in their 50s.