Major flashback

6 December, 2011
Rat Fink

OK, this is going to take some of us a long way back. And seeing as how I’ve been up since 2 a.m., I’m in the writing mood to tell you about it.

The Cowsills
Yesterday, while listening to the 60s station on Sirius radio on the way home from school, I heard an old classic by The Cowsills, called “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things.” I was immediately lost in memories. The lyrics knocked me out, even as an elementary school student. The song tells of a young man who encounters a beautiful girl at a park during a rainstorm. When the rain stops and the sun breaks through, she disappears, leaving him with only a single flower from her hair. I loved the romance of it — still do. Here’s a clip from it.

Wow. First of all, the song is beautifully sung: in tune, with gorgeous harmonies and impressive style — especially since these were teenagers and their mom. I remember seeing them on some variety show when I was about nine years old, and wishing like heck I could be Susan (the youngest, who is my age). It looked like such amazing fun, fronting a band of older boys, and holding a tambourine. Here is an absolutely delightful video from the Johnny Cash Show in 1969. (“Monday, Monday” was lazily lip-synched, but fabulous nonetheless.) I wanted desperately to stand up there and dance and sing like Susan.

Their family story is both wonderful and tragic. They were the inspiration for what later became the Partridge family of TV fame. The Cowsills were approached first by producers to star in a sitcom about a musical family, but they wanted Shirley Jones to play the part of the mom instead of Barbara, the children’s real mother. Bud Cowsill, patriarch and also the group’s manager, balked, and refused to let the kids do it.

L-R: Bob, Barry, Paul, Richard, Susan and John Cowsill in 2004
They went on to have several memorable hits after “The Rain, the Park…” Two of my favorites are “Indian Lake” (arguably about the lake of the same name in Logan County, Ohio — they were from Canton) and “Hair,” their risky 1969 break from bubblegum, which went straight to #1. And did you know they also sang the theme to the popular — and then quite racy — 70s sitcom, Love, American Style? (I watched it every chance I got, when my parents weren’t around.)

But time marched on, and they ended up going their separate ways. A couple of them have died, as have the parents Bud and Barbara. Most notable was the death of Barry Cowsill, who drowned during Hurricane Katrina. The last words his family heard from him before he went missing were recorded on his sister’s answering machine as the storm bore down on New Orleans:

“I don’t know how to get out of town, except to wait for a bus,” he said. Then, “I’ve been so…lonely. I hope I get in touch with you.”

So very sad. Barry’s badly decomposed body washed up on a wharf four months later.

Apparently, Susan has kept performing through the years, and is quite active in the New Orleans Americana music scene.

Do any of you remember The Cowsills? Bet ya do. :-)

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6 December, 2011 8:19 am

I am a total Cowsill freak! I have their CD’s and I have watched all their you tube videos-over and over. I was in love with John Cowsill and hoped to marry him someday. Wow! I thought I was alone in my admiration. They could harmonize better than any other family group (in my opinion). Hey, do you remember the DeMarcos-I think that was their name… ReplyRat Fink Reply:December 6th, 2011 at 4:30 pmHa! I can’t believe we’ve never gotten around to this subject in the 5,000,000 conversations we’ve had over the last 12 years. I agree, their harmony was… Read more »

6 December, 2011 3:07 pm

I am sorry to tell you, that I don’t remember the Cowsills, mostly because at the time you were around, my mom was born and my dad was 3, so I was not even being thought of…. :( :)


Rat Fink Reply:

OK, Hannah. You’re exempt then! (And so are your parents!)


Meg's Mom
Meg's Mom
6 December, 2011 8:49 pm

Amazing….I loved the Cowsills! I was just a kid but loved their music! Why is it I can’t remember what I ate for lunch today but I can listen to that song and start singing along even though I haven’t heard it for 20 years? That’s just one of the many wonders of music. Thanks for making me feel like I’m 11 years old again! ReplyRat Fink Reply:December 7th, 2011 at 5:43 amI know, right? And I laughed out loud when I got in the car yesterday morning, turned on the 60s station, and “Hair” was playing! Knew all the… Read more »

10 December, 2011 5:17 pm

“Resurgence of Cowsills fandom”! LOL! Well, truth be told, many of us are still around and following the careers of the family members in today’s world. They’ve been hard to forget over the decades since their heyday because of those wonderful talents, the fun hit songs, the many television appearances and perhaps a need to relive our youth. The “fan club” has moved into cyber-space, using Facebook, MySpace, etc. Some of us even gather together to listen to Bob Cowsill play pubs in the Los Angeles area, or make sure to see John Cowsill play drums with the current touring… Read more »

23 July, 2017 10:35 pm

They all needed their teeth fixed. If you watch the original video from their Ed Sullivan days they had big gapped teeth or rabbit teeth. It was hard to tell on Susan. In their later photos they no doubt had the prosthetics to make their teeth appear nicer but that was a show business façade.
It was awful that Barry supposedly drowned during hurricane Katrina however it is possible that someone drowned him because the French Quarter area did not flood which is where he was supposedly found. He was identified through dental records 4 months after the hurricane.