Susan Cowsill performs in New Orleans, Louisiana, 23 April 2014.
|Birth name||Susan Claire Cowsill|
May 20, 1959 |
Canton, Ohio, U.S.
|Genres||Rock, pop, Americana|
|Occupations||Singer, songwriter, backing vocalist|
|Labels||MGM, London, Warner Bros.|
|Associated acts||The Cowsills, Continental Drifters, The Susan Cowsill Band|
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 top ten 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 became known for her performance of the line, "and spaghetti'd" which she sang with a squeakiness in her voice that she still uses 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.
In 1978 Susan reunited with The Cowsills (without Bill and Barbara) to work on an album of new songs. The album, tentatively titled Cocaine Drain, was produced by Chuck Plotkin, but 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 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 talents. Susan occasionally appeared in a duo with bandmate Vicki Peterson, 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 Sneaux, contrasting the peace of that snowfall with the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and has been described as an "anthem" for survivors of the hurricane.
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 (2008), Tripping Over Nothing (2010), and Be Nice Be Careful (2013).
Susan and her band are also known for 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. Members of the CIV band include New Orleans guitar virtuoso Jimmy Robinson (Woodenhead, Twangorama), Pete Winkler (Motorway), Caleb Guillotte (Dead Eye Dick), Derek Huston, Paul Sanchez, and many others.
A second solo work, Lighthouse, was released in 2010 with support from the New Orleans musicians' organization Threadheads. It is a concept album in which she reflects on her losses, mainly through Hurricane Katrina and the deaths of brothers Barry and Bill. The album features harmonies from her surviving brothers (Bob, Paul and John) as well as appearances by Jackson Browne and Vicki Peterson, and was released May 18, 2010.
Susan made numerous appearances with her family on many variety shows in the 60s and early 70s including a solo appearance on the Dean Martin Show. In June 2011, she and her band guest starred in the "After Mardi Gras" episode of Treme, an original HBO drama about a New Orleans neighborhood.
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. Susan paid tribute to Barry on her latest CD with her version of his song "River Of Love". Despite her losses, she remains a New Orleans resident and still performs regularly with her band at Carrollton Station.
- Ken Hoffman, "Hoffman: Singer Susan Cowsill is famous for one word", Houston Chronicle, June 3, 2009.
- Dave Hoekstra, "Cowsill, Peterson Drift Into Tuneful Alliance", Chicago Sun-Times, November 10, 1995 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- Dave Hoekstra, "Jostled by Katrina, Cowsill tours on", Chicago Sun-Times, October 27, 2005 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- "Susan Cowsill wants cap on experience with Katrina", Associated Press in The Oklahoman, June 18, 2010.
- Nancy Dunham, "When a child star grows up", The Washington Post, October 23, 2009 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- Pamela Murray Winters, "Susan Cowsill, Rocking on Her Own Two Feet", The Washington Post, November 17, 2004 – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
- Nick Cristiano, Review of "Lighthouse", Philadelphia Inquirer as reprinted in Youngstown Vindicator, June 20, 2010
- Peter Gerstenzang, "The Hobart Brothers Featuring Lil' Sis Hobart Prep Dark Debut", Rolling Stone, February 22, 2012.
- Dave Walker, "Susan Cowsill takes 'Treme' viewers to Carrollton Station", Times-Picayune, June 12, 2011.