For a small state, Little Rhody certainly made its mark on the national music scene. The state’s musical legacy is enshrined at the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF) and can be viewed in the grand hallway of Hope Artiste Village. Established in 2012, the mission of the RIMHOF is to “celebrate, honor, and preserve the legacy of Rhode Island musicians, educators, and industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the national and Rhode Island music scene.” This month, we introduce you to a few East Bay musicians inducted in the Hall.
Inducted in 2013, The Cowsills were a family band from Newport and, famously, the inspiration for the TV show The Partridge Family (1970-74). When husband and father Bud Cowsill was stationed in Newport serving in the Navy in the 1960s, the band – comprised of his wife Barbara and six children – began playing bars and frat parties around the state.
Before long, their familiar harmonies and catchy lyrics saw them rise to the top of the AM radio charts behind hit singles including “Hair,” “Indian Lake,” and “The Rain, The Park and Other Things,” better known as “The Flower Girl.” They toured often and made frequent TV appearances in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They still tour as a trio with remaining siblings Susan, Bob, and Bill. Their songs are frequently used in movies by the Farrelly brothers, who hail from Cumberland.
Singer-songwriter and East Providence native Joe Doyle was announced as a Hall inductee in 2020, but is still awaiting the formal ceremony due to the pandemic. Since the late ‘80s, he’s written songs for the stars, having penned top country hits for artists including Reba McEntire, Alabama, Kenny Rogers, and Jason Aldean.
Doyle recalls his initiation to popular music growing up in East Providence, where his late father was once mayor.
“It starts with Providence native George M. Cohan. My mother used to sing in the house, and she’d always sing [Cohan’s] ‘I’m a Yankee Doodle Boy,’” explains Doyle. “Then I heard the band Rizzz – my brother has been married to [their guitarist] Dave Tanury’s cousin since the mid-1970s. I went to see them at Rhode Island College when I was 12 and had just started playing drums – I thought they were rock stars.
“I was in a high school band – our first gig was at India Point Park when we opened for a band called The Detectives. WBRU (the now-defunct alt-rock station out of Brown) introduced me to so much great music, including bands like REM. I later got to meet Mike Mills, the bass player, right before REM was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve met many of those artists that I first heard on WBRU.”
Formed in Riverside in 1973, Rizzz included guitarists David Tanury and Jim Tait, along with drummer Rick Couto, saxophonist Bob Weisberger, Joe “Klem” Klimek on harmonica and sax, and bassist Kenn Reynolds. Playing every weekend around the state for years, Rizzz was a quintessential Rhode Island band known for their sound that combined roots, improvisation, jazz, and R&B.
From a different genre come Throwing Muses, a Newport-based women-led band regarded as groundbreaking in alt-rock circles. Formed at Rogers High School by stepsisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly in 1983, the band was soon signed to the prestigious UK record label 4AD. They received radio airplay, critical acclaim, and toured regularly before disbanding in 1991. Donelly went on to form Belly, the only Rhode Island band ever featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
For more information on the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, visit their website. RhodeIslandMusicHallOfFame.com
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here