July 9, at the OldField coast State Park, the beloved household combo toast their song-titling namesake.

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Text/Photos by Steven Rosen

“Well, the was a first. We’ve never performed that track lookingdirectly in ~ Indian Lake before.”

Bob Cowsill said that as the crowd, in summer stay andbathing suits, surged and also cheered on the open ar at Old field Beach StatePark at Indian Lake, ~ above the western next of Ohio. Quite a couple of had arrived byboat, having actually anchored at the beach. The hot sun was bearing down on them, whichsomehow seemed to enhance their mood. This to be a perfect summer day, a perfectsummer event.

The Cowsills had actually just opened up their concert with a rousingversion the “Indian Lake,” a height Ten struggle in 1968. For the locals at the Chamberof Commerce’s annual Party in ~ the Beach, it was an acknowledgement of pastglories – not simply of a time as soon as the clean-cut Cowsills were America’sfavorite family band, but likewise when Indian Lake (and the adjacent town ofRussell’s Point) to be a Midwest traveler resort, famous for the Sandy BeachAmusement Park through its dance pavilion and also 2,000-foot-long roller coaster. (Itwas demolished in 1982 after decades of decline.) the was hard to judge crowdsize, provided the spread-out nature, yet it might have been about 1,000. Ananonymous regional donor had paid to bring the Cowsills there for the event.

The Cowsills at Indian Lake were two brothers – Bob, 61, andPaul, 59 – and also 52-year-old sister Susan, who has actually her very own budding career together anAmericana-oriented singer-songwriter. However at their peak, earlier in the day, theyconsisted the those 3 plus brother Bill, Barry and John and also their mother,Barbara. They to be just kids – Boomer teens and also younger – on tour with mom and managedby your dad, a marine careerist.

It is much from details the song “Indian Lake” was called forthe lake. The was composed by Tony Romeo, a pop songsmith who also wrote “I ThinkI Love You” because that the Partridge household (more around them later) and had a thingfor compelled rhyming (“Indian Lake is ascene you should make v your small one”) and also catchy melodies. But theCowsills began their career in Canton, Ohio, around the begin of the 1960s. Andthough they were living in Newport, R.I., as soon as their hits started, Ohio canclaim them.

Summertime, USA, is filled v small-town the end fairs andparties that proudly publication 1960s or 1970s oldies acts come play access time (oftenwithout any original members) and also meet and also greet the locals. Such mirrors areoften slick, kitschy and soulless.

But the Cowsills display was different. First, due to the fact that theywere (and tho are) family, there’s meaning and emotion in the performance andthe interaction in between the 3 singers. (The back-up band, too, is family members –Paul’s 2 sons Brendan and also Ryan top top guitar and keyboards, Susan’s husband RussBroussard ~ above drums. The base player, mar Lasseigne, is introduced by Bob as“sister” so she doesn’t feel out of place.)

There’s additionally poignancy and also currency to gift on the roadnow. A new documentary, Family Band: TheCowsills Story, is just beginning to do the ring of film festivals thissummer and advancement word is the it uncovers part raw truths below thefamily-friendly image, especially about the means their now-deceased dad, William“Bud,” treated them, and also how an overwhelming adulthood turned the end to be for part ofthe siblings. However it additionally shows the shortcut existing amongst the 3 still activein the band, and in a means their restricted concerts room a method to reinforce thatrelationship. It’s the oldies-rock variation of The Tree of Life.

The display was well-rehearsed (the sound examine took 40minutes) and also musically professional, however not “produced” in the way a currentTurtles or Monkees concert could be, to mention two other AM-friendly pop vocalacts the the era. The three initial Cowsills dress casually, banter about andin general act choose it’s just a bigger-than-usual family gathering.

In the concert, Bob and Paul do quite a couple of covers offolk-rock melody – simply as the earliest brothers used to carry out in the beginning,before the Cowsills came to be a Top-40 act. Simon & Garfunkel’s “HomewardBound” and Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “If I had My Way”and “If I had a Hammer” all gained played right here – the last getting credibility whenthree sang out around “the love between my brothers and also my sisters.”

Susan does numerous songs from she fine Lighthouse album that 2011, andthe team performs product from the normally overlooked Americana-leaningsolo catalogue that their 2 deceased brothers, Bill and also Barry. To give thedeparted their due is one mission the the show.

The three siblings on phase at Indian Lake to be prettymatter-of-fact around addressing Barry’s shocking death. “We shed Barry duringHurricane Katrina,” Bob said the crowd. “(He) did no evacuate as soon as he shouldhave.” (Barry’s body to be not found for some four months after the 2005 floodingof new Orleans. And Bill, who lived in Canada and also had wellness problems, passed away thesame day as Barry’s memorial service.) Susan take it the lead on a rousing, emotionalversion of Barry’s cathartic, Petty-like “River of Love,” a track filled withdark irony now. (She additionally lived in brand-new Orleanswhen Katrina hit, yet had left in time, and recorded “River that Love”for Lighthouse.)

I’m not sure if the fans, who mainly were there for part popnostalgia, were prepared for the way the tune – or the ago story – darkenedtheir sunshine pop, however they go seem to respect it. And “River that Love” rockedthem.

The Cowsills did honor their optimal 40 past – periodically withsweet good humor, various other times v sly wit. And the hits organize up well. Inparticular, the expansive melodic sirloin of “The Rain, The Park & OtherThings” – a chart topper native 1967 – fits in well v the era the “GoodVibrations,” “Happy Together” and also “Up, Up and also Away” – pop-rock positive outlook at mostbeautiful. It sound fantastic, echoing transparent the park, together did “We CanFly” – a 1968 struggle in a comparable vein.

When one guy in the group hollered the end for “the milk song,”they complied – saying they hadn’t done it live before. Bob and Paul sang out“milk is the background that will last.” The Cowsills likewise invited human being on stage,and so numerous came up (while rather danced about in a sandy area in front) youwondered if the stage would collapse.

Bob and also Paul provided the song an option to tell stories abouttheir job – explaining both how they felt in ~ the time and also how they feeling nowabout having been a household pop group with an image safe as milk in ~ a time ofteenage revolution. For instance, Paul prefaced their template to the TV series“Love American Style” – a regimen on the square side of pop culture in the late1960s/early 1970s – this way: “When us were kids, us didn’t treatment that us didthe layout for a TV show. Now that we’re older, we think it’s really cool.That’s among the ways you readjust through the years.”

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That power led to an additional TV-related one, a somewhatin-jest variation of Partridge Family’s goofy “I Think ns Love You,” an awkwardlyconstructed ditty somehow too friendly come fight. However while “Indian Lake’s”Romeo composed it, that isn’t yes, really a Cowsills song. Or is it? It transforms out theproducers that “The Partridge Family,” a comedy about a family that dram musictogether, originally wanted the Cowsills for your early-1970s show, yet thefamily turned it down. So actors were put together for it. Million-sellingsuccess followed.

“Since the Partridge household didn’t tour, couldn’t do orsing ‘I Think i Love You,’ we’ve asserted it ours hit,” Bob said the crowd.

The oddest story – and also one that cries out for much more details –concerned “Hair,” the Cowsills’ last and also biggest hit, from the “American tribalrock” music of the very same name. The Cowsills conserved it for (almost) critical atIndian Lake, enduring many shouts because that “Hair” in the meantime and makingjokes around the lack of that on the 2 brothers’ top now.

By the moment the Cowsills’ videotaped version come out in early1969, it appeared they to be jumping top top a bandwagon – Hair to be a sensation. Still, it was shocking to hear the clean-cutCowsills document an ode to lengthy hair, one that even mentioned the thankful Deadand come from a Broadway musical with nudity.

But as they defined it indigenous the stage at Indian Lake, CarlReiner – the television/film producer/director – had been given an development copyof the soundtrack album and, reasoning the Cowsills were perfect for covering“Hair” (maybe due to the fact that they had solid harmonies), urged them right into the studio torecord it. They walk so, but their record firm – the notoriously tin-earedMGM – hated it. For this reason it satellite unreleased.

Finally, the Cowsills provided a copy come a Chicago optimal 40station of the day, WLS-AM, which play it and got huge, immediate reaction. Therest, as they say, is history.

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The Cowsills perfect the present by reprising “Indian Lake.”

At the concert, it was announced the donor had agreed tobring them earlier next year for the same event. If that’s the case, Indian Lakewill certainly be a step you need to make. And if friend can’t carry your littleone, bring your favorite college professor. There’s a the majority of American social historyon that stage.

(Topphoto: Susan and Paul, through microphones, v invited group on stage; secondphoto likewise has Bob in ~ right.)