John Cowsill had an inkling that his young life was different than other 10-year-old's when the drummer was about to take the stage at Sound Blast 66, a free New York City concert in 1966 featuring "Little" Stevie Wonder, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and other top music acts.


"We opened the concert," Cowsill said during a phone interview with the Hesperia Star last Thursday while the musician was on tour with the Beach Boys in New Orleans. "I've never been nervous. I don't think I was nervous then. I think the most nervous I was, was backstage watching David Crosby (of the Byrds and later of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame) with his page boy hair cut."


Just one year later, the Newport, RI-based Cowsills would emerge from obscurity with "The Rain The Park & Other Things," a Beatles-esque pop song that climbed to No. 2 on the U.S. song charts. The group followed "The Rain" with another Top 10 song, "Indian Lake," in 1968 and the iconic "Hair," another No. 2 hit song, in 1969. They also performed the music for "Love American Style."


"I was raised on the Beach Boys, Beatles and Stones. I'm so glad that I was there and available. Most people my age didn't get it, but I was a fly on the wall."


For most radio listeners in the 1960s, the Cowsills seemed like the all-American family. Four of the Cowsill's seven children started the band, which consisted of brothers Barry, Bill, Bob and John. Later they were joined by sister Susan, brother Paul and their mother Barbara.


The group was on TV several times in the late 1960s including appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Johnny Cash Show. By the age of nine John Cowsill and his brothers were playing at bars.


"We just weren't allowed to sit in the bar. It was just an amazing thing. My family was so talented, and they still are."


But early success also came with unanticipated pain.


In 1985, the family's matriarch, Barbara Cowsill, died of emphysema. In 1992, their father, Bud Cowsill, died of leukemia. Following Hurricane Katrina in late 2005, Barry's badly decomposed body was recovered from the Chartes Street Wharf in New Orleans. And in early 2006, Bill died in Calgary, Alberta due to complications from several ailments including emphysema.


Despite the ups and downs of being in the musical Cowsill family, John has found a steady gig with one of most popular groups in history, the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys will perform at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 10 at the California Theatre of the Performing Arts in San Bernardino.


"It's a good band. It's really a good band. This is the best version of the (Beach Boys) band I've ever heard. I'm still playing Beach Boys songs."


A multi-instrumentalist, John Cowsill also plays guitar and keyboards. But perhaps the most special part of joining the Beach Boys in concert is that Cowsill gets to sing several of the group's beloved songs.


"I flip between Carl (Wilson) and Al (Jardine) constantly. I sing 'Sail on Sailor,' 'Help Me Rhonda' and the unison lead on 'Wouldn't It Be Nice.' There's just so much material."


Married to guitarist Victoria Peterson of the Bangles, John Cowsill, now 53, is clearly happy to be doing what he's been doing all of this life - making memorable music.


"I am just so thankful. I am thrilled to be playing this stuff. I'm in heaven now. I have the best seat in the house."