|Willie Lumpkin by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo.|
While working on the comic strips Willie Lumpkin and Life With Lizzie with Lee, DeCarlo became inspired by a caricature he drew of his wife Josie with her new bouffant hairdo. DeCarlo developed a teenage comic strip called Josie and drew up some samples to shop around. United Features was interested in the strip, but wanted more samples before they would commit. Realizing he couldn’t handle the additional workload, he shelved the idea and focused on his current projects.
|A preliminary Josie strip.|
|Pepper and Josie with Melody being ogled by Albert, Sock and Alex (plus a random student) on the cover to She's Josie #1.|
|Size comparison production sketches for Josie, Melody, Valerie, Alexandra and Sebastian.|
|The introduction of the Pussycats' costumes.|
In order to meet the qualities Silverman was looking for, the comic went under heavy redevelopment to make it a book about a teenaged girl band that Hanna-Barbera could adapt into a show. Gradually, the characters of Albert, Sock and Pepper were phased out. In #42, a muscular folk singer named Alan M. debuted and became Josie’s semi-regular boyfriend and the band’s roadie. The rivalry between Josie and Alexandra continued over him. With #45, the series was renamed Josie and the Pussycats when the girls officially decided to form their own band. Alexandra was to be their bassist, but only if she could rename the group “Alexandra’s Cool Time Cats.” However, Alexander appointed himself the band’s manager and supplied them with a new bassist: Valerie Smith, Archie’s first African-American main character. The girls also created their leopard print cat costumes in that issue (which Josie DeCarlo cited as being inspired by a cat costume she wore on a cruise) and the Pussycats were born. But, Hanna-Barbera didn’t do a perfect page-to-screen adaptation.
|From comics to film: Josie, Alexandra, Alan, Alexander, Valerie and Melody.|
|The real Pussycats: Dougher, Moor/Ladd and Holloway.|
Hanna-Barbera worked on forming a real-life version of the band to provide singing voices to the characters, record an album for radio play and the show, and to appear in live-action segments at the end of each episode (an idea which was later scrapped). The album would be released through Capitol Records through a deal secured with Karl Engemann, then vice president of Capitol, who was the younger brother of Bobby Young. Young, along with business partner Danny Janssen of La La Productions would be in charge of the music and held a talent search for girls who could both sing AND resembled the lead characters. They eventually selected Kathleen Dougherty (renamed Cathy Dougher by Capitol) as Josie, Cherie Moor (who would come to be known as Cheryl Ladd) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie. The songs would be written by Janssen, Austin Roberts, Sue Steward (aka Sue Sheridan) and Bobby Hart and had a Motown inspiration to them.
|Character models for the Pussycats.|
After presenting the band to producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, it was announced that they wanted Holloway recast as they had decided to make the Pussycats an all-white trio and altered Valerie. Janssen refused and a threatened to walk off the project, feeling the decision a bit racist on top of the fact that Holloway's voice was the best for the soul-inspired bubblegum pop songs he wrote. After a three-week standoff, Hanna-Barbera reversed their position and Valerie was changed back. This resulted in Valerie becoming the first African-American female character on a Saturday morning cartoon series, with Filmation’s The Hardy Boys’ drummer Pete Jones taking the title for the male side the year prior. After word of the standoff got out, notable soul performers around Los Angeles offered their services to La La for the album at a fraction of their regular fees; including Ronnie Tutt, Jerry Scheff, Clarence McDonald, Wilton Felder and Mike Stewart. The songs were made at a frantic pace of one a week as a minimum of one, but usually two, would be used in each episode. Although the girls only played certain instruments on screen, a full assortment of instruments were used on the songs; giving them a unique sound that fused elements of rock, R&B and Latin jazz.
|Ad for the Kellogg's exclusive Josie singles.|
The album, Josie and the Pussycats: From the Hanna-Barbera TV Show, was released by the end of 1970 by Capitol Records. Six singles were released; four of them only available in a Kellogg’s mail-order promotion and not included on the album itself. Unfortunately, the singles failed to chart and the album was poorly promoted, resulting in very low sales and the cancellation of the planned national tour for the live band. In 2001, the album, singles, alternate takes and songs exclusive to the show were collected on a limited edition remastered set called Josie and the Pussycats: Stop Look and Listen: the Capitol Recordings released by Rhino Handmade. Only 5000 copies of the remastered collection were produced. The theme song, re-recorded by Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, was also included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits from MCA Records.
To coincide with the release of the live-action movie in 2001 (more on that in the Outer Space entry), Warner Home Video released two VHS collections of four episodes each, omitting the typical Hanna-Barbera laugh track. In 2007, the complete series was released to DVD and featured a documentary on the life and career of Dan DeCarlo. It was re-released in 2017 as part of the Hanna-Barbera Diamond Collection. In 2020, Warner Archive released the complete series to Blu-ray for the first time. “The Nemo’s A No No Affair” was featured on the compilation DVD Saturday Morning Cartoons: the 1970s volume 1 in 2009, which was included in 2018’s Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s-1980s Collection.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.