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Cool 78 of the Month

October 2006

The Blue Shadows
Coming On Strong
Bumstead Productions BSP 0931 (Canada)

Unlike our radio friends Jack and Bob and Sam who make up the hypocritical 'we play anything' formats that have infected FM radio here in the first decade of the 21st century, in the 1960s AM radio truly did play anything. At any given moment you could hear the smooth sound of Andy Wiliams followed by the country sound of Roger Miller, followed by the bubblegum of the 1910 Fruit Gum Company, ending up at the hard sound of the Chamber Brothers' hit Time Has Come Today. From pop to rock, AM radio had it all. One family from the state of Rhode Island in the United States would ride this mix to the top of the charts and be the inspiration for one of the most popular TV shows of the 1970s. That family was the Cowsills, who gave birth to TV's Partridge Family, and gave birth to the country rock sound of the Blue Shadows in the 1990s.

Brothers Bill and Bob Cowsill would often join together singing harmony to Everly Brother's songs. Seeing the talent therein, their father Bud bought guitars for them, and they in turn recruited their brothers Barry and John to round out a foursome. Soon they began playing around their hometown of Newport, and the word got out about their talent. By 1967 they recorded a single for Johnny Nash's Joda records. And while it didn't sell. it was enough to bring them to the attention of Mercury records where they continued to record with no hits. Producer Artie Kornfeld, however, saw something in the group and knew that they just needed a bit of tinkering to get the sound just right. That tinkering resulted in the addition of the boy's mum, Barbara, and the single 'The Rain The Park and Other Things' on MGM records. That single sealed it, and it zoomed up the charts in 1967. Bolstered by the record's success, the group added sister Susan and brother brother Paul to form their final lineup.

From 1967 to 1970 the Cowsills charted with records like Indian Lake, and the song Hair from the musical of the same name. Their wholesome family image not only sounded good, but looked good. The folks over at Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems TV unit took note and thought that the day to day life of a singing family would make great TV. Great TV as long as Shirley Jones played their mother. This didn't sit well with the family who insisted that their real mum, Barbara, would also have to be their TV mum. The result was that Shirley Jones and son, David Cassidy, along with flock of non-family, became The Partridge Family, who went on and got happy from 1970 to 1974.

The Cowsills went on to diminishing returns and as the Partridges flew, they sank from the charts, and disbanded in 1971. It would take 20 years for Bob, Paul, John and Susan to reform the Cowsills. Meanwhile, Bill Cowsill started down a path toward country and western forming the Billy Cowsill Band. By 1993, just as the Cowsills before it, The Billy Cowsill band grew from a duo to a foursome. Now known as The Blue Shadows, the signed up with Bumstead Productions, a company known for its association with country artist k d lang. As with k d lang, The Blue Shadows brought a new fresh sound to country music. While both were critically acclaimed, country radio had no clue. k d moved on to a more pop sound, and after two albums, On The Floor Of Heaven and Lucky To Me, The Blue Shadows disbanded.

That brings us to to the Cool 78 of the month. Yep, its a 78 from 1993, a beautiful 10-inch disk, in stereo no less, that pays tribute to the hillbilly and country waltz sounds from the days when 78 was the only speed. Coming on Strong is great uptempo number that features Bill on lead vocals and sounds great at 78. Try calling Jack, Bob, or Sam, to request it and you'll see that anything is far from being the whole family of musical styles.

B Side
The Blue Shadows
Hell Stays Open All Night Long