Thu, 05/10/2007 – 06:31
Submitted by HONORABLE REE
PATRICE HOLLOWAY 1951- 2006
Josie and the Pussycats l to r Cathy Dougher, Cheryl Ladd and Patrice Holloway
Patrice Yvonne Holloway (March 23, 1951-October 1, 2006) was remembered by some as just the sister of Motown solo recording artist Brenda Holloway, but Patrice’s personal titles and accolades include: singer, composer, writer, vocal arranger, instrumentalist as well as child prodigy. To the Black youth who grew up in the 1970’s she was much more, whether we knew it or not.Patrice was of Black and Hispanic heritage and was born in Los Angeles, Ca. She, her older sister and brother Wade, were raised in Watts. Patrice grew up with musicians in her family and by her teens could play the drums, guitar, cello, autoharp and violin. The instrument that took her to fame though, was her church seasoned voice.Patrice and Brenda sang and wrote music together since childhood and were a part of many groups both gospel and secular over their careers. They both sang solo and background on numerous certified hit records. When you hired one of the Holloway sisters, as a session singer you got some of the best talent available. You also received musical geniuses that could read and re-read a song and go back and fill in any and all gaps in the vocal arrangement. The Holloway sisters brought the stuff that wasn’t written. The extra touches that could only be felt while in the moment.
That’s what one feels from Patrice’s vocals whether lead or background on the Capitol Records 1970 Josie and The Pussycats album. Patrice’s ‘Valerie Brown’ brought soul to Saturday mornings and made history as the first Black female animated cartoon character when Josie and The Pussycats premiered September 12, 1970 on CBS’s Saturday line-up. Being a kid in the `70s meant certain annual excitement on that second weekend of September. Now I could go into a spiel about “oh I had an older sister and we only had one black and white television blah blah blah…” but the truth of the matter is: I loved watching Josie and the Pussycats. Did I love it because of the pretty girls? Did I love it because it was one of the many Scooby Doo-esque mystery shows that were all the rage? No. I loved the show because of the chase scenes where the Pussycats got to sing.At that time I didn’t know much about a Black or a White world so I wasn’t exactly raising my fist in the air over Valerie Brown’s inclusion in the show as an Afro-American character. I guess my being of the immediate post-Civil Rights generation meant I should expect positive Black characters on television, after all, we could now sit anywhere on the bus we wanted.
Well that was the `70s and this is the new millennium and we’re still expecting quality representation in the media.I did however notice that it was Valerie that was the smartest on the show. For that matter Valerie was smarter than a lot of people on television. I put all that first African-American animated character stuff together later as I grew up.
To set aside controversy she can safely be called the first African-American FEMALE whereas The Harlem Globtrotters, Fat Albert and Black Manta are all very close in the race. Between 1965 and 1970 several Black characters made their debut but given that list of choices I’m riding with the hot, smart chick that could build a villain-catcher out of a handful of bobby pins, a kitchen sink and some chewing gum.
The entire essence of the Valerie character was positive but the music was most powerful. Even as a child I recognized good music having grown up on a healthy diet of Gospel and Motown. I had not yet made the connection between the Pussycats and Motown, but I knew there was something there. It was unmistakable. Be it those memorable instrumental intros or the controlled phrasing and gutsy delivery of the lead singer, something was familiar here and in a good way. A very good way.
Patrice sang with a depth, sincerity, and purity from the soul that connected far beyond bubblegum puppy love. As in the gospel, Patrice made a joyful noise. There were songs where she was angry or foolish or resolved and Patrice brought the appropriate emotion and adlib in each case. She was as a wild tigress instead of a Pussycat on You’ve Come Along Way Baby. And no one else could have demanded so, as Patrice did in Stop! Take A Look Around You. Her tremendous range was felt even when she did sing “bubblegum” songs such as her first single released at age 12, Do The Dell Viking which she wrote herself. That was one difference between Patrice, Brenda and most of the other women at Motown. The Holloway sisters could sing and write even though they received very little attention while signed with Motown. Together they went on to write the Blood Sweat and Tears hit You Have Made Me So Very Happy. The sisters can also be heard in the background for the theme to the Wonder Years: With A Little Help From My Friends sung by Joe Cocker.
It’s astonishing to think the Pussycats nearly lost not only Patrice, but also the cool ass friends in the band that she brought along. When Patrice came to class she brought treats for everyone. By many accounts she was cheerful, hardworking, and possessing of excellent timing, both musical and comedic. Her numerous friends in the industry learned that she had won the role of Valerie and out of support for her venture volunteered their talent to the project at a lesser than normal rate of pay. Once assembled, the band was serious. The music though meant to be bubblegum, was well written and could pass for true R&B. The writers on the album included: Austin Roberts, Sue Steward (now known as Sue Sheridan) and Bobby Hart. In the songs you could hear each instrument’s contribution through some form of solo throughout each piece. I personally remember that haunting flute on Stop! Take A Look Around You. That was real music. Of the session players that came to the project happy to work with Patrice, Wilton Felder played flute, Clarence McDonald played keyboard and the ace drummer was Hal Blaine. This was the knid of theme music that stuck with you. I felt the same way about many themes in the `70’s including Donny Hathaway’s And Then There’s Maude and Janet DuBois on Movin On Up. All having such strong music for light hearted comedies. It was as though good soul music was used to sell these shows.
Perhaps that was one of the problems Hanna- Barbera had with Patrice’s selection as Valerie. Maybe they wanted a bubblegum pity pat group and Patrice brought too much Aretha Franklin. Patrice, Future Charlie’s Angel, Cheryl Ladd (Melody) and Kathy Dougher (Josie) beat out a total of 500 other girls (American Idol style) to earn their spots in the trio and were a perfect blend. The plan was to jump onboard that traveling band, Monkees/ Partridge Family action-musical gravy train that was feeding so many at that time but in the vein of Scooby Doo.
Patrice was almost cut from the project because Hanna-Barbera decided they weren’t ready to see Blacks on television. Our beloved William Hanna and Joseph Barbera wanted an all white group for the animated television series and thus all white voices and an all white sound. They even changed the character Valerie into a white girl and sought to fire Patrice after she’d been hired. This decision would have been especially racist considering the character Valerie was Black in the original Archie comics.
Nevertheless protests from many in the industry spear headed by the soundtrack’s producers, Danny Janssen and Bobby Young caused Hanna- Barbera to go with the flow. Janssen and Young refused to work with anyone other than Patrice, thus she was allowed to keep the spot and record for Valerie’s singing voice. This would make Valerie, Black on television as well as in the comic books. Sue Sheridan, one of the co-writers, supervised the vocal arrangements. Patrice was well known for assisting with the vocal arrangements and given the songs where she is allowed to riff and scat the intro and or outro of a song one could get the impression that she had more than a bit of creative control.
The show was a success but peaked fast letting go a spin-off after it’s conclusion. The new show Josie and The Pussycats In Outer Space lasted only a season. Both incarnations of the show became cult classics and are still enjoyed by people all over the world. The episodes come back in the syndication rotation from time to time in America and are available on DVD.
Patrice achieved moderate success in her career but never really received the attention and backing from the record labels to make her name a household word as it could have been.
Patrice passed away in Los Angeles on October 1, 2006 after a heart attack and lengthy illness. Her memorial was well attended by family, friends, and fans. Condolences should be sent to Brenda Holloway in care of Santel Entertainment Group, Inc, 16041 G. Johnston Road, Suite #113, Charlotte, NC 28277
To learn more about Patrice Holloway please visit the websites listed below.Sources: www.spectropop.com/PatriceHolloway