John Cowsill was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1956--and began playing drums about seven years later. He performed with his (not much) older brothers, singing and playing four sets a night in clubs all around the East Coast, attracting the attention that would soon bring The Cowsills a recording contract. The family band, which came to include both John’s mother and little sister Susan, enjoyed several big hit records in the late 1960’s and came to represent a kind of milk-drinking wholesomeness (they did a promotional campaign with The American Dairy Association--one of the first of its kind) in a drug-drenched, hippie world.
The squeaky-clean image chafed, and soon the Cowsill siblings were going their separate ways.
During the 1970’s and early 80’s, John re-grouped with his family members in various combinations, performing as Bridey Murphy, The Critics, The Secrets…and then recording again as the Cowsills. Songs from this era have surfaced recently on The Cocaine Drain Album, and another record, Global, dating from the early 90’s,was released in 2007.
In 1981 John did some session work, landing on the Tommy Tutone hit, “867-5309 (Jenny)” and recording and touring with Dwight Twilley. Later, he played drums and sang with Jan and Dean, beginning an association with surf music which would continue for years.
John is a natural drummer (“definitely my comfort zone”), but also plays guitar and piano, all of which he’s been asked to do during his tenure (2000—present) with the Beach Boys. He was a part of the historic band’s 50th Reunion Tour in 2012, and has performed all over the world, bringing the rhythm of the Beach Boys’ records to life and singing leads on hits like “Help Me Rhonda,” “Darlin’,” and “Wild Honey.”
When John and Bill Mumy decided to start the Action Skulls, John didn’t know how much fun he’d have in the studio, locking in with bass player Rick Rosas, laughing and playing with Bill, working on songs with his wife Vicki Peterson.
In the end, it still feels like family.