Sunday, September 12, 2010

Valerie Brown of Josie & the Pussycats Makes Saturday Morning Cartoon History

On September 12, 1970, Josie & the Pussycats made its transition from comic book to CBS Saturday morning cartoon.  One of the characters making the transition (Valerie) is significant because she became the first female African-American cast member on a regular Saturday-morning cartoon.

Valerie almost didn't make her historic appearance on Josie & the Pussycats.  In preparation for the cartoon, Hanna-Barbera Productions decided to assemble a real-life Josie & the Pussycats group, who would provide the singing voices of the girls in the cartoons and also record an album (other actresses provided the speaking voices for the characters on the series). The company who would be in charge of the recordings (La La Productions)  held a talent search to find three females who would match Josie & the Pussycats in the comic book in both looks  and singing ability.  The trio chosen to be "Josie & the Pussycats" were: Cathy Douglas (Josie), Patrice Holloway (Valerie) and Cherie Moor (Melody).  Side note: after Josie & the Pussycats disbanded, Moor got married, took her husband's surname and gained fame as Cheryl Ladd.

When one member of La La Productions (Danny Janssen) presented the newly formed trio to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, he learned that they wanted to recast Patrice Holloway because they had decided to portray Josie & the Pussycats as all-white (even though Valerie was an African-American in the comic book).  Janssen refused to recast Holloway and threatened to walk away from the project.  After a nearly month-long stalemate between Janssen and Hanna-Barbera, Hanna-Barbera conceded and allowed Janssen to keep Holloway, and changed Valerie back to being African-American.  Ironically, Holloway became the most prominent voice of the trio.  In addition to singing lead on many of the tracks on their self-titled album, Holloway also provided lead vocals to the cartoon's iconic theme song.

Although it often gets overlooked, I think it's important to recognize the significance of the appearance of Valerie on the cartoon version of Josie & the Pussycats.  Her inclusion on the series opened the doors to black female cartoon characters on TV and helped lead to others such as Dee Dee (Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels), Susie Carmichael (Rugrats and All Grown Up), and Vixen (Justice League Unlimited).  

Below is the first single (Every Beat of My Heart) from the only album Patrice Holloway, Cherie Moor, and Cathy Douglas recorded as Josie & the Pussycats. Although the player below doesn't contain any performance footage, there  are stills from the cartoon series and of Holloway, Moor, and Douglas  recording in the studio.


pjazzypar said...

Hi Malcolm,

I never thought of it as groundbreaking at the time, but I watched religiously. Another side not is that Patrice Holloway comes from a family with a singing tradition as her sister was Motown solo artist Brenda Holloway. Brenda, along with Barry Gordy penned the Blood Sweat & Tears song "You've Made Me So Happy".

Malcolm said...

Pjazzy: I didn't realize that Valerie was the first black female regular cartoon character until a few years back. I wish I had Boomerang so I could see a lot of the old cartoon shows like Josie & the Pussycats.

By the way, you probably know this, Brenda did the orig. version of "You've Made Me So Happy".

Anonymous said...

Josie was created by Dan DeCarlo based on his wife Josie.

Check out his website, there is a video on how they first met.

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