The upcoming Somers Point Good Old Days Festival will be much more than just another gig for singer-songwriter Susan Cowsill, who just weathered the most recent hurricane to strike the Gulf Coast.
For Cowsill, the festival will serve as a much needed break.
“We’ve had no power for six days now,” says Cowsill, speaking on a spotty cellphone in Fayetteville, La., just a few days after Hurricane Isaac made landfall. “In Louisiana, with 100 degree temperatures, that’s not a pretty picture. Ice came into our world two days ago. I have six ice chests in my kitchen, and my husband, Russ, he’s out hunting for more ice right now.”
Cowsill, 53, was the youngest member of the The Cowsills, a popular 1970s family band that included her mother and brothers, and even became the inspiration for the hit television series “The Partridge Family.” The singer will headline the 35th annual Somers Point Good Old Days Festival, taking place Saturday, Sept. 8, at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in Somers Point.
And despite the rough patch immediately following the hurricane, Cowsill, a New Orleans resident, says she can’t wait to rock on stage by the bay in Somers Point.
“Are you kidding? We can’t wait to get the heck out of here,” Cowsill says, laughing. “We’re totally coming to Somers Point. We’re really looking forward to it — food, a nice hotel, a place to stay.”
The free event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and includes live music on three stages. The Danny Eyer Band with special guest Dane Anthony and blues-rock guitarist Billy Walton also will be performing alongside Cowsill.
In addition to more than 50 vendors and plenty of antique cars on display, children’s entertainment will include carnival games, a dunk tank, inflatables, pony rides, karate and cheerleading demonstrations, K-9 demonstrations and a performance by magician Chad Juros. Food will include 75-cent hot dogs and hamburgers.
All proceeds from the festival will benefit the Lawrence “Bud” Kern Scholarship Foundation, a fund established in 1979 for outstanding Somers Point high school students.
For guitarist and Asbury Park native Billy Walton, the Good Old Days Festival is one of his favorites, he says.
“You know, even when I’m not playing it and I’m off, I always go to it,” Walton says. “It’s always a great time. It’s beautiful scenery. It’s a great community event.”
The festival is special for Eyer this year, he says, because he will be joining the Juliano Brothers — a trio known locally for the wide variety of music they play.
“It’s an extra treat for me,” says Eyer, the former musical director for Danny and The Juniors. “We’ve known each other since the early ’90s and we’re like family now. We all like the same kind of music, and we love playing the hits from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. These guys … are the biggest sounding trio in the area.”
“This is one of the best (festivals) in the area,” Eyer says. “It’s outside, it’s the end of the summer, right before the fall, the weather is great. That park is so beautiful — you’re right by the water. If it’s a real sunny day, it’s a great day to be there.”
For Cowsill, the gig offers the chance to get away during an especially difficult time. Isaac made landfall seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans — a storm that claimed the life of Cowsill’s brother, Barry, and destroyed her home.
Still, Cowsill says, there is beauty in being alive — and in performing.
“How we are now is who we are,” Cowsill says. “We’re good, as far as New Orleans goes. Does it mess with our heads when something comes up on the 29th of August? Sure it does. How could it not? For me, having lost my brother, this is like, man … this is nothing. (Isaac) was a category one storm. We stayed in town. And everybody’s alive. So I have six ice chests, big deal. It is what it is.”
Cowsill, who will take the stage as part of a three-piece band that includes her husband, plans to bring some of her family’s best-known classics to Somers Point, including “Hair,” “Indian Lake” and “The Rain, The Park, And Other Things” (also known as “The Flower Girl Song”).
“When I know it’s a theme … we’re going to have some good old days songs,” she says. “The flower girl (song) will be played. I want everyone singing along, and I will stop the song if they don’t.”
Cowsill may also treat Somers Point fans to some songs from her upcoming album, which she is currently recording with her sister-in-law, Vicki Peterson of The Bangles.
“We decided that before we’re both gone … we need to record this,” Cowsill says. “We’re mixing it right now. So, that’s in the works and will be out sometime this year or the beginning of next year.
“Pray that music continues to be a viable way to make a living. Without it, we’re all lost. We just need to all keep connecting. My way of connecting is through music. If people keep listening, I’ll keep singing.”