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Barry Cowsill, 51; Pop Group Member an Apparent Katrina Victim

January 06, 2006|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Barry Cowsill, part of the famous 1960s pop singing family the Cowsills who had been missing since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, was found dead on a city wharf. He was 51.

Cowsill's body was discovered Dec. 28 on the Chartres Street Wharf but was not identified with dental records until Tuesday, according to Dr. Louis Cataldie, head of the state hurricane morgue in Carville. The cause of death has not been determined, but it is believed to have been related to Katrina.

Cowsill, a New Orleans resident, had left a message on his sister Susan's answering machine after the hurricane hit Aug. 29: "I don't know how to get out of town except wait for a bus ... I've been so

He had not been heard from since.

"They tell us he'd been dead for quite some time," brother Richard Cowsill told the Associated Press on Thursday. "We love him and we're going to miss him, but he's in a much better place, in my mother's arms." (Barbara Cowsill died in 1985 at age 56.)

Inspired by the Beatles, Barry and three of his brothers -- Bill, Bob and John -- formed the Cowsills band in 1965. With Bill on guitar, Bob on guitar and organ, Barry on bass and John on drums, they played at school dances and churches in their hometown, Newport, R.I.

While they were performing at a local hotel, someone from the "Today" show saw them. Their TV appearance, in turn, led to a recording contract.

The four brothers were later joined by their mother and younger siblings Susan and Paul.

Billed as "America's First Family of Music," the photogenic group was frequent fodder for the pages of 16 and Tiger Beat magazines, and they inspired the TV series "The Partridge Family." They reportedly turned down the opportunity to do the show themselves when producers rejected their mother in favor of actress Shirley Jones.

Known for their sweet harmonies and bouncy rhythms, the Cowsills recorded a number of hit songs from 1967 to 1970, including "We Can Fly," "Indian Lake" and their biggest hit, "The Rain, the Park and Other Things," which reached No. 2 on the pop charts in 1967 and sold more than a million copies. They also had a No. 2 hit in 1969 with their version of the title song from the rock musical "Hair."

The Cowsills made frequent guest appearances on television variety shows and sang the theme song for the TV show "Love American Style." They also served as spokespersons for the American Dairy Assn. and appeared in milk ads and commercials.

The family group broke up in the early 1970s. Since then, Barry Cowsill had reportedly battled substance abuse problems. In 1998, he released the solo album "As Is."

In addition to his siblings, he is survived by two daughters and a son.

Richard Cowsill told the AP that no memorial service was planned and that his brother would be cremated.

"He always said: 'When I leave this place, you better party.' And that's what we're planning to do," he said.

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