Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20: Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills is 52 years-old today.



Susan Claire Cowsill was born in Canton, Ohio. She was the youngest member of popular 1960s musical group The Cowsills.

Susan began her musical career with The Cowsills in 1967; she made her debut on We Can Fly, the Cowsills' second MGM Records album released in early 1968. Her debut solo vocal was a song called "Ask The Children," featured in the Cowsills third MGM album, Captain Sad And His Ship Of Fools. Her contribution to the Cowsills' backing vocals made her, upon her ninth birthday, the youngest person to be directly involved in a hit record when "Indian Lake" made the Top 10 in the early summer of 1968.

In 1969 she contributed to the vocals in what would become the Cowsills' biggest hit, Hair. She sang her line, "and spaghetti'd" with a squeakiness in her voice, which she still uses to this day when she performs the song live.

Susan was initially relegated to playing the tambourine, but by the time she left the group in 1971 (shortly after the release of their London Records album On My Side) she had learned to play other instruments; in an episode of the short-lived Barbara McNair Show she was seen playing bass guitar.






Lighthouse



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In 1978 Susan reunited with The Cowsills to work on an album of new songs. The album, tentatively titled Cocaine Drain, was not released until 2008. She again reunited with brothers Bob, Paul and John as The Cowsills in the 1990s, to work on another album of original songs. The album, Global, was released to critical praise in 1998.

Susan signed briefly with Warner Bros. Records in 1976, releasing two singles. Beginning in the early 80s she worked as a backing vocalist for varying artists including Dwight Twilley, The Smithereens, Carlene Carter, Mike Zito, and Hootie & the Blowfish. During this time her songwriting skills blossomed, and several of her songs have been covered by other artists.

By the early 1990s Susan had developed an affinity for Americana-style music, which in 1991 led to her joining the Continental Drifters, further honing her songwriting. Susan occasionally appeared in a duo with bandmate Vicki Peterson (formerly of The Bangles), calling themselves The Psycho Sisters. (Peterson subsequently married John Cowsill, currently with the touring version of the Beach Boys.) Susan permanently relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana by 1993.

In 2004, on the heels of a rare Christmas snowfall in New Orleans, Susan wrote and recorded "Crescent City Snow." The song subsequently became an anthem for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

Susan has also made guest appearances on many albums, including Hootie and the Blowfish's 2003 self titled release, Paul Sanchez's 2008 album Exit to Mystery Street, Giant Sand's 1992 release Glum, and A Fragile Tomorrow's releases Beautiful Noise and Tripping Over Nothing.

By 2005, Susan had released her first ever solo album, Just Believe It, on her own Blue Corn indie label. Susan and her band are innovators in what they call their Covered In Vinyl series. This involves the band learning all the tracks from a selected album, usually of the classic rock genre, and then performing the album in its entirety before a live audience.

The band released their first Covered In Vinyl compilation in 2007 featuring songs from their live performances, with a portion of the proceeds going to local charity.

Susan's latest releases include a second Covered In Vinyl compilation, and her second solo work, Lighthouse, a concept album in which she reflects on her losses, mainly through Hurricane Katrina and the deaths of brothers Barry and Bill. The album, released in May 2010, features harmonies from her surviving brothers - Bob, Paul and John - and appearances by Jackson Browne and Vicki Peterson.


Susan's home and belongings (including a sizeable amount of Cowsills memorabilia) were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Her brother Barry stayed behind and became one of the victims of the hurricane; his body was not found until shortly after Christmas 2005. The day before Barry's funeral, she learned her oldest brother Bill had succumbed to illness in Calgary, Canada.

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