STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
The latest version of the “Happy Together” 1960s hits caravan tour boasts a resume of 56 Billboard chart hits, and is accented with modern-day multimedia accompaniment.
This year’s bill features The Turtles, for whose signature hit the tour is named; The Association, who were on the first Happy Together Tour in 1984; Mark Lindsay, who sang with Paul Revere & The Raiders and even had a gold-selling top 10 solo hit in 1970 with “Arizona;” The Grass Roots (“Let’s Live For Today,” “Midnight Confessions,” “Temptation Eyes,” “Sooner or Later”); The Buckinghams (“Kind of a Drag,” “Don’t You Care,” “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song,” “Mercy, Mercy,” Mercy”); and The Cowsills, the Rhode Island family singing group that landed four songs in the top 30 from 1967-1969.
“We’ve been wanting (to be on) this tour for a long time,” said Paul Cowsill, who started out as a 16-year-old roadie for his musical brothers, then joining the band (who had also added the family matriarch, Barbara) as a performer after the song “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” became a gold-selling smash. “Mom was on the Johnny Carson show, and Johnny says to her: ‘I hear there’s an addition to the family.’
Mom said: ‘Our son, Paul, he’s got the (music) bug and he’s in (the group).”
According to Cowsill, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of The Turtles had a tough time convincing venue buyers for Happy Together that The Cowsills could be much of a draw. That was until the Showtime documentary “Family Band: The Cowsills Story” brought them back from being “under the radar.”
“Now we’re going to all these places that didn’t want us, and proving ourselves,” Cowsill said. “Look at the YouTubes (videos of The Cowsills). How can you not want this band?”
Over the years, Cowsill’s parents and several of his brothers — including former “Sixteen” Magazine pin-up idols Bill and Barry — have passed away. Although brother John joined The Beach Boys to be their drummer, the current Cowsills still have Paul, 63, his brother, Bob, 64, and sister, Susan, 56, as well as a few of their adult children, making The Cowsills a multi-generational group. Whether or not the next generation will continue the group is uncertain.
Cowsill sounds like he’s having the time of his life being “back on the bus.” “The shows are just incredible. All the bands are really up to snuff. We do our thing and we get to listen to all those other songs. The Grass Roots — those songs take me back to (growing up in) Rhode Island. Mark Lindsay is a hoot!,” Cowsill said, adding that he and Susan think Lindsay does yoga because of the on-stage flexibility and athleticism they’ve observed from him.
Although The Cowsills are planning to convene in Lafayette, La. next year to record some new music, Cowsill promised their Happy Together set would be nothing but hits, including their version of the title song of the musical “Hair” and the theme song from the TV show “Love, American Style.”
The vocal arrangement for “Hair” came from a playful TV appearance on a Carl Reiner-produced show called “The Wonderful World of Pizzazz.” The show was sponsored by the fashion tastemakers Harper’s Bazaar, and Reiner said: “Wouldn’t it be fun if you put on wigs and do your song ‘Hair’?” Because the all-American pop music family’s squeaky clean image was the opposite of the anti-establishment messages of the Broadway show the song came from, “MGM (Records) told us not to do it,” Cowsill said. “Hair” reached No. 2 and sold more than 500,000 copies and Cowsill said the only reason the label caved was because the family had an acetate copy of their recording of “Hair” that they shared with radio stations, creating their own buzz for the record.
In the ’70s The Cowsills became the inspiration for the hit TV show “The Partridge Family” — in fact, Cowsill considers Shirley Jones and Danny Bonaduce good friends. However, he said, the original plan was for his family members to be the stars of the show, until it became clear that the network was “never going to want my mom” over Jones. In the name of family unity, patriarch and manager Bud Cowsill gave the network an ultimatum to cast them all or not at all. “‘The Partridge Family’ was on the air so for long it kept us on the news,” Cowsill remarked, remembering David Cassidy becoming angry at being frequently asked about the band his show was based on.
“The Cowsills are humbled and couldn’t be more grateful to be on the Happy Together Tour,” Cowsill said.
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m. June 24.
Where: The Keswick Theatre, 291 N. Keswick Ave. and Easton Road, Glenside.
Info.: Call (215) 572-7650 or visit www.keswicktheatre.com.