February 07, 2015


(CBS, September 2, 1970-January 2, 1971)

Hanna-Barbera Productions

Janet Waldo & Cathy Dougher (singing) – Josie
Barbara Pariot & Patrice Holloway (singing) – Valerie
Jackie Joseph & Cheryl Ladd (as Cherie Moor, singing) – Melody
Jerry Dexter – Alan M. Mayberry
Casey Kasem – Alexander Cabot III
Sherry Alberoni – Alexandra Cabot
Don Messick – Sebastian

        After World War II, cartoonist Dan DeCarlo was soon hired by Timely Comics (the precursor to Marvel Comics) editor Stan Lee on their teen title, Jeanie. With his quality work and speed, DeCarlo was soon working on Timely’s other teen titles, as well as taking on additional freelancing work. Some of that work came from Archie Comics, but because of their low page rate DeCarlo didn’t do much for them. 

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.

             When Lumpkin ended, DeCarlo tried to sell Josie again with no success. He decided to try it out as a full comic book and presented the concept to Richard Goldwater, co-publisher of Archie Comics. In the interim, DeCarlo had begun gradually doing more work for the company and his style was adopted as Archie’s house style (meaning all of their teen-centric books emulated how he drew the characters, regardless of the actual artist assigned). Goldwater showed it to his father, Archie founder and co-publisher John Goldwater, and the concept was approved.

Pepper and Josie with Melody being ogled by Albert, Sock and Alex (plus a random student) on the cover to She's Josie #1.

             Josie debuted in Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals #22, 1962, followed by her own ongoing series, She’s Josie, in 1963; later renamed just Josie with #17. The series focused on sweet-natured redhead Josie McCoy (or Jones or James, depending on the story) and her friends: the ditzy blonde bombshell Melody Valentine and the brainy, rebellious, bespectacled Pepper. Supporting characters included Josie’s boyfriend, Albert, and Pepper’s strong and dim-witted boyfriend, Socrates (or Sock). Rounding out the cast were the wealthy and obnoxious Cabot twins, Alexander III and Alexandra. Alexander was always competing with Albert for Josie’s affections, while Alexandra would always try to trip up Josie to get Albert all to herself. Alexandra also had a black and white cat named Sebastian, who would later match Alexandra’s hair when both gained black hair with a white streak. 

Size comparison production sketches for Josie, Melody, Valerie, Alexandra and Sebastian.

             When Filmation’s The Archie Show proved a success on both television and the radio, Fred Silverman was looking for a repeat performance for CBS’ morning line-up. His original attempt wound up ditching the music angle altogether and evolving into the powerhouse Scooby-Doo franchise from Hanna-Barbera. With Filmation bogged down with work, Silverman again turned to Hanna-Barbera to see what they could do. Hanna-Barbera in turn went to Archie to see what other properties they could offer for development and Josie was selected. 

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.

             While the comic alternated between the Pussycats performing at gigs and dealing with everyday life, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon chose to follow their successful Scooby-Doo formula and placed the girls in the middle of mysteries between gigs; complete with a chase scene used to feature an original Pussycat song. Each episode would end with Alexandra (Sherry Alberoni) attempting to interfere with the band's performance or steal away Alan (Jerry Dexter), which would backfire against her. Other changes also included toning down Alexander’s personality and making him kinder and more of a coward akin to Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy, who Alexander now resembled and shared a voice actor with in Casey Kasem. No mention was made of the Cabot fortune, or any appearances by any of the characters’ families. Bassist Valerie (Barbara Pariot) used various instruments, frequently the tambourine, while Melody’s sex appeal was never addressed (and gradually reduced in the comics themselves where a running gag was that guys would have accidents because they were too busy staring at her). Melody was also given a new “danger sense” in the form of her ears wiggling whenever trouble was near.

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 TuttJerry ScheffClarence McDonaldWilton 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.

Josie and the Pussycats tour Hanna-Barbera in issue #50.

             Josie and the Pussycats debuted on CBS on September 12, 1970. The theme song was written by Hoyt Curtin, Hanna and Barbera (the latter two under the respective pseudonyms of Denby Williams and Joseph Roland) with lead vocals by Holloway. The music was based on an incidental tune played in various Hanna-Barbera productions. Larz Bourne, Tom Dagenais and Bill Lutz handled the scripting duties. To commemorate their new show, Josie #50 had the Pussycats visiting the Hollywood studios of Hanna-Barbera for a behind-the-scenes tour of the production of their series (which they also did for Archie's own show and Filmation). Along with their own comic, the Pussycats became a feature of the comic Archie's T.V. Laugh Out, which was an anthology of Archie's three TV properties including Archie and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. The show ran for a single season of sixteen episodes. For the 1972 season, the show was revamped and turned into Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

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.


VHS cover art.

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.

“The Nemo’s a No-No Affair” (9/12/70) – The band encounters a sinister modern day Captain Nemo on the way to a gig.

“A Greenthumb is Not a Goldfinger” (9/19/70) – Alexander misleads the band into thinking they’re going to Nashville, and instead they end up in an Amazon jungle with Dr. Greenthumb.

“The Secret Six Secret” (9/26/70) – The band mistakenly enters the lair of a sinister organization called the Secret Six, which plans to take over the Indian government.

“Swap Plot Flop” (10/3/70) – Valerie is a dead-ringer for an abducted Arabian princess and is used in a plan to rescue her from the hypnotist Evil Eye.

“Midas Mix-Up” (10/10/70) – Dr. Midas captures the band during his plans to destroy the world’s gold unless he is given half.

“X Marks the Spot” (10/17/70) – The band helps Professor Isaac Belfour as he develops an antidote to the invisibility formula he developed with the evil Mr. X.

“Chili Today and Hot Tamale” (10/24/70) – The band seeks to rescue Melody’s drum from the Scorpion, not knowing nuclear capsules were hidden inside.

“Never Mind a Master Mind” (10/31/70) – Melody buys shoes in Holland which contain a message for a spy sent to stop Mastermind, master of disguise.

“Plateau of the Apes Plot” (11/7/70) – An emergency landing puts the band in the middle of a Caribbean jungle inhabited by dinosaurs and apes controlled by Dr. Madro.

“Strangemoon Over Miami” (11/14/70) – The band’s hot air balloon is set loose and lands them on Dr. Strangemoon’s island as he’s set to launch missiles to devastate Earth’s atmosphere.

“All Wong in Hong Kong” (11/21/70) – Melody gets a strange ancient coin that puts her in the sights of The Serpent, who needs the coin for his plans of Asian conquest.

“Melody Memory Mix-Up” (11/28/70) – Confidential information is transferred into Melody’s memory, setting the criminal Hawk after the band.

“The Great Pussycat Chase” (12/5/70) – The band is tasked with keeping a mysterious black box safe from the clutches of The Shadow.

“Spy School Spoof” (12/12/70) – A mail mix-up puts plans for a device to deactivate the world’s technology in the Pussycat’s hands.

“The Jumpin’ Jupiter Affair” (12/19/70) – The alien Zor captures the band and forces them to work with the Peruvian natives in a diamond mine.

“Don’t Count on a Countess” (1/2/71) – The band is invited to play on a countess’ secluded island in order to be used as subjects for her rapid aging mist.

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.

1 comment:

TV fixer said...

Make the theme song start before the whole episode in every episode of this show but still show the title card after the theme song