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The Cowsills’ musical interest started while their father Bud Cowsill was stationed in Canton, Ohio, in the late 1950s as a US Navy recruiter. Billy and Bob taught themselves how to play the guitar. The boys developed their musical talent and harmonized vocals, and they performed at school church dances in Stark County, Ohio. The boys’ first television appearance was on the Gene Carroll Show on WEWS in Cleveland.
After Bud retired from Navy he and his wife managed their children’s career.
In late 1965, the Cowsills were hired as a regular act on Bannisters Wharf in Newport, where they sang Beatles songs hour after hour. A handful of singles were released on JODA Records and Philips Records in 1965 and 1966, to only modest success. The band was signed by MGM records in 1967, and Barbara, who would become known to their fans affectionately as “Mini-Mom” due to her diminutive stature, joined the group just in time to record the band’s first album, including the hit single “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” . It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Bill sang lead vocal on this hit. Shortly thereafter the band was expanded yet again, to include siblings Susan and Paul.
With the success of “The Rain…”, the band quickly became a popular act in the U.S., and achieved significant airplay in England and other parts of Europe. “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Bob Cowsill is quoted as follows on the band’s early days:
“Although Bill and I performed at a very young age, and Bill, I, Barry and John did a lot of frat parties at Brown University and clubs in Newport … the most memorable performance of what I would view as the precursor of what The Cowsills would be was at Kings Park in Newport (right at the foot of Halidon Hall) at some carnival. The family angle just evolved … first Bill and me, then Bill me and Barry, then Bill, me, Barry and John, then Bill, me, Barry, John and Mom, then Bill, me, Barry, John, Mom and Paul, then later, me, Paul, John, Barry, Mom and Susan, then back to Bill, me, Barry and John (very briefly in the end) and then to me, Paul, John and Susan. Our first real break came when we were playing the MK Hotel in Newport (in the basement there) and a guy from the “Today Show” saw us and asked if we wanted to be on the “Today” show. We weren’t famous or anything but we were young and we were related and we were quite good. So we went on “The Today Show” (I doubt a tape exists of that but if it did it would be priceless to see) and someone from Mercury Records saw us, which ultimately led to our signing with that label and putting out “Most Of All” (a great “school’s out” song that should have been our first hit in my opinion), which led to Artie Kornfeld and Steve Duboff. Mercury dropped us, but Artie and Steve had written “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” and we went in and recorded that song at A&R studios in New York and took the whole package to MGM, who decided wouldn’t it just be terrific if their mother performed with them and, voila, the rest, as they say, is history.”
In 1968, the band scored another million-selling hit with the song “Indian Lake” which reached No. 10 on the charts. In 1969, the band had another number two hit and million seller with their version of the title song from the musical Hair.
From 1968 through 1972, the band played an average of 200 performance dates per year, and were among the most popular acts on the American concert circuit.[
John Mellencamp, also known as John Cougar Mellencamp (born October 7, 1951) is an American rock singer-songwriter, musician, painter and occasional actor known for his catchy, populist brand of heartland rock which emphasizes traditional instrumentation. He has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and has amassed 22 Top 40 hits in the United States. In addition, he holds the record for the most tracks by a solo artist to hit number-one on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with seven, and has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, winning one. His latest album, No Better Than This, was released on August 17, 2010 to widespread critical acclaim.
Mellencamp is also one of the founding members of Farm Aid, an organization that began in 1985 with a concert in Champaign, Illinois to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. The Farm Aid concerts have remained an annual event over the past 27 years, and as of 2013 the organization has raised over $40 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture.
Mellencamp was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008 by Billy Joel. His biggest musical influences are Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, James Brown and The Rolling Stones. Said longtime Rolling Stone contributor Anthony DeCurtis: “Mellencamp has created an important body of work that has earned him both critical regard and an enormous audience. His songs document the joys and struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way, and he has consistently brought the fresh air of common experience to the typically glamour-addled world of popular music.”[
n 1972, singer/harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the Bay Area jazz-funk band Clover. Clover recorded several albums in the 1970s, and in the middle of the decade transplanted themselves to England to become part of the UK pub rock scene for a time. Without Lewis (but with Hopper), they eventually became the original backing band for Elvis Costello‘s first album My Aim Is True. Lewis also worked with Irish band Thin Lizzy, contributing harmonica to the song “Baby Drives Me Crazy,” recorded onstage for the Live and Dangerous album. Lizzy bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott introduces Lewis by name during the song. The band returned to the Bay Area by the end of the 1970s.
Clover’s main competition in the Bay Area jazz-funk scene was a band called Soundhole, whose members included drummer Bill Gibson, saxophonist/guitarist Johnny Colla, and bassist Mario Cipollina (younger brother of John Cipollina). Like Clover, Soundhole had spent time backing a famous singer, Van Morrison. After getting a singles contract from Phonogram Records in 1978, Huey Lewis united his former bandmate and three of his former rivals to form a new group, Huey Lewis & The American Express. In 1979 they recorded and released a single, “Exo-Disco” (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus), that was largely ignored. The B-side of this record, “Kick Back”, was a song that had previously been performed live by Lewis and his former band, Clover. In 1979, the band wooed guitarist Chris Hayes and moved to Chrysalis Records. After the credit card organization American Express complained, in January 1980 they changed their name to Huey Lewis and the News.
Later in 1980, the band issued their first studio album, a self-titled LP, Huey Lewis and the News. It went largely unnoticed. In 1982, the band released their second studio album, the self-produced Picture This. The album turned gold, fueled by the breakout success of the hit single “Do You Believe in Love“, written by former Clover producer Mutt Lange. Largely because of the single, the album remained on the Billboard 200 album chart for 35 weeks and peaked at No. 13. The follow-up singles from Picture This, “Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do” and “Workin’ for a Livin’“, followed with limited success, though the video for “Workin’ for a Livin’” received considerable airplay on MTV and HBO‘s Video Jukebox.
Due to record label delays on the release of their third studio album, Sports, Huey Lewis and the News was back to square one in late 1983, touring small clubs in a bus to promote the record (eventually known as the “Workin’ for a Livin’” tour). The new album initially hit No. 6 in the U.S. when first released. However, Sports slowly became a number-one hit in 1984 and multi-platinum success in 1985, thanks to the band’s frequent touring and a series of videos that received heavy MTV airplay. Four singles from the album reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100: “Heart and Soul” reached No. 8, while “I Want a New Drug,” “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” and “If This Is It” all reached No. 6. The album has sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Their song “The Power of Love” was a number-one U.S. hit and featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future, for which they also recorded the song, “Back in Time“. Lewis has a cameo appearance in the film as a faculty member who rejects Marty McFly’s band’s audition for the school’s “Battle of the Bands” contest. As an inside joke, the piece the band plays is an instrumental heavy metal version of “The Power of Love” (Lewis’s response: “Sorry, fellas … I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud”). “The Power of Love” was nominated for an Academy Award.
Following the success of “The Power of Love” and Back to the Future, Huey Lewis and the News released their fourth studio album, Fore! in 1986. Fore! followed the success of Sports and reached number-one on the Billboard 200. The album spawned the number-one singles, “Stuck with You” and “Jacob’s Ladder” as well as the mainstream rock hit “Hip to Be Square“. In all, the album had five top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified triple platinum.
The band continued to tour throughout 1987, and released Small World in 1988. After two hit, multi-platinum albums, Small World was considered a commercial disappointment, peaking at No. 11 and only going platinum. The album, which was more jazz and less rock than their previous albums, had one top ten single, “Perfect World”, which reached No. 3 on the pop chart. The album was voted by Rolling Stone Magazine as the worst album of 1988.
At the end of the Small World tour in 1989, the band took a break from recording and heavy touring and parted ways with Chrysalis Records. In 1991, they released Hard at Play on the EMI label, which went back to the R&B/rock sound of their earlier albums, and released the hit singles, “Couple Days Off” (No. 11) and “It Hit Me Like a Hammer” (No. 21). The album was certified Gold (eventually hitting the one million sales mark) and the band headlined another world tour in support of the release, which would be their last album of new material for a decade.
The band once again changed labels, this time signing with Elektra Records, releasing a cover album in 1994 called Four Chords & Several Years Ago featuring doo-wop and rock songs from the 1950s and 1960s. This was the last album released with bassist Mario Cipollina, who left the band after the Four Chords & Several Years Ago world tour ended. The album charted on the Billboard 200 and had two hits on adult contemporary radio. In early 1997, the band released their first greatest hits album, Time Flies, which focused primarily on the releases from Picture This, Sports, and Fore!, and included four new tracks.