Josie & The Pussycats Was My First Gig
Just prior to that, I had been living in a commune in Kansas City, Missouri, writing songs for the fun of it. I sent a copy of some of those songs to my mother, who in turn sent them, without my knowing it, to a close friend of her who worked at Chuck Barris Productions.
Frank Jaffee, who was their music supervisor, then sent a copy of it to Capitol Records, and Karl Engemann, who was VP of A&R, offered me a recording contract. It was that simple. Somebody called me and I wasn't even expecting it. I didn't know my mother had done this.
I came out to California and met Frank Jaffee, and through Frank I met Billy Delbert, who worked for Danny Janssen, at La La Productions. So, at the same time that I was being signed as an artist to Capitol Records, I was signed to La La Productions as a songwriter.
Before 'Josie And The Pussycats', I was also one of the studio singers who did 'Scooby-Doo'. We did eight songs. I co-wrote a few of the songs and was one of the backup singers. There were about six of us.
I got a lot of experience doing the 'Scooby-Do' sessions. It was just something I started doing as soon as I came to town. So, I basically fell into the deep end. It was a fluke. I was very lucky. We were all very young. We were all twenty at the time, except Danny.
We were working on my record when I met Michael Stewart. Michael and I, and his wife Kate, became very, very good friends. Around the same time, we started working on 'Josie And The Pussycats.
Danny and I wrote a few songs for the show to get the production deal. They were just guitar-vocals. One of us would come up with a title, and then both of us wrote both music and lyrics, bouncing ideas by each other.
Then we auditioned the girls. I was there to help them make selections. The initial plan was to have a live segment at the end of 'Josie And The Pussycats', kind of like The Monkees did on their show, and to possibly have a little video thing of the girls, so they wanted the girls to look like the cartoon character.
When we went in to audition the other girls, Cathy Dougher was an obvious choice. She was a major singer. She was very good. I don't think Cathy saw herself as a lead singer. She actually sang backup on my album too. We needed somebody who could sing 'top', and Cathy was very strong.
I don't remember the audition process with Cathy, but I'm sure there was one. She had brownish-red hair, a turned up nose and freckles. She was very cute. They needed to look like the girls. That was part of the reason Cathy got the gig as 'Josie', I'm sure.
I already knew of Patrice Holloway, and we knew what Patrice's strengths were. I knew she was a songwriter, and I knew, of course, about her sister [Motown star Brenda Holloway]. Patrice was sort of already 'in'; when we started. As I understand, after the fact, there were some arguments about the racial orientation of the group, but I knew nothing about that.
The major audition, as I recall, was for Melanice's (we assume she meant Melody-Don-O) character. Most girl's were coming in with one keyboard player and sheet music, and they'd sing. Cheryl came in with a five-piece band. She was a bit......overwhelming. She was a great singer, but I'm thinking "who dose this girl think she is?" She had on a little white mini-skirt, go-go boots and had big hair.
There was another girl who I was very strong on. I told Danny if he used Cheryl, I was going to split. I though she would be too much of a prima donna, because was already such a 'star', that it might detract from the group. Definitely Cheryl look a lot like [Melody]'s character. Danny did chooser her, and once Cheryl and I got to know each other, we found that we had a great deal in common, including out birthday being four days apart. Cheryl and I became roommates shortly thereafter. We lived together for over two years.
Cheryl was an obvious star. At the time, of course, that was before 'Charlie's Angles'. It was too bad, in a way, that she is known for her work on 'Charlie's Angles' gig, because she is such a great singer too. She was recently on Broadway in 'Annie Get Your Gun'.
Incidentally, I had two songs on Cheryl's first record on Capitol that I'm still very proud of. These were songs that I wrote on my own. That's actually what led me to being signed to Charles Koppelman's The Entertainment Company. I met David Wolfert through that project, and that's how I ended up working with Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton and many others, was though writing with David Wolfert and Gary Portnoy, who became known for writing and singing the theme to 'Cheers'.
As I recall, Danny and I wrote the songs for the series first. I think the music of the time inspired us. It wasn't like we viewed the episodes first. I didn't know what the songs were going behind. We just wrote pop songs.
For any song, it comes to you and you write it down. We'd come up with a hook first and then we'd write the song around the hook. We did rough recordings and wrote the chord charts with lyrics, and then Jimmie Haskell or Al Capps did the arrangements for the tracks.
Danny was open to input from anyone. I pretty much did the vocal productions myself. Both of my parents were musicians, so I'd been doing vocal arrangements since I was thirteen years old. I appreciate the fact that Danny gave me the amount of trust that he did, because of how young I was, and as truly inexperienced as I was in the studio.
It was great fun, and the girls were fabulous. They were very quick. We had a wonderful time. With Danny and the series, it was little 'factory'. It was never like Danny said "You guys go off and write something". He was involved in all aspects of the production.
We would sit around and ask "well, who do we think should sing this?"; It was obvious for a song like 'Voodoo'; or things that Patrice wanted to do. If Patrice wanted to do a lead, she would speak up and say that she did. It was all very out in the open. I don't remember there being any politics or anything.
Cathy and Patrice were able to improvise harmonies a lot faster. We'd say "okay, you sing top, you sing bottom", Cheryl sing lead. BLAM! It's done. It took very little rehearsing. I just remember it being very high energy, and under really strong deadlines.
We had to have at least a song a week written and recorded and mixed. I remember it going from Wednesday to Wednesday. I remember us writing on a Wednesday, rehearsing the girls towards the end of the week and then going in, either on the weekend, or on a Monday, and recording the vocals.
Danny would be doing the tracks separate from the vocals. We'd rehearse the girls over the weekend, record the vocal tracks on Monday, mix on Tuesday, and then we'd start the process again with a new song on Wednesday. We showed them to Hanna-Barbera and they picked the ones they wanted for that episode.
Danny had a bug house up in the hills, in Tarzana, and he used to have us come and hang out. We'd jam together, and have parties. We'd also get together at mine and Cheryl's place, in Sherman Oakes. A lot of us used to hang out there. That's how I got to know Austin. I knew Austin Roberts pretty well, I knew Bobby Hart, of course, from his work with Boyce and Hart. We'd play our songs for each other. I don't think I knew Jesse Kirkland. And I never met Hoyt Curtin.
I remember Clarence MacDonald very well. He was tremendous, warm and kind. He was the guy that made everyone comfortable. Michael Stewart had fabulous energy. There were a lot of drummers. Ron Tutt wasn't always the drummer. They were all great. Another guy I remember was Hal Blaine. Amazing guy.
I also remember David Kemper was one of the second engineers on some of the sessions. He was very involved, very helpful, as were Ron Malo at Independent Recorders on so many projects, including my record. I felt like I knew Ron forever.
It was my idea to do 'll Be There'; ' Close To You' we though would be really good for Cheryl's voice. Cheryl sang lead on the other cover too, Bread's 'It Don't Matter To Me'. The day that we did 'Close To You', Cheryl had laryngitis and couldn't hit the low notes. When you hear 'Why do birds..', the 'Why do' part is sung by me, and then the 'birds' is Cheryl coming in. They had us on one mic. I sang harmony on a lot of those cuts, too. Throughout the TV series and on the album, I was singing with the girls.
Since this was my first gig, I was totally naive about how competitive that space might be, how lucky I was to have that studio gig, or any of that, because it was the first thing I ever did. Later on, after 'Josie', I co-wrote forty-two feature performances for the TV show 'Fame', and there was a lot more competition involved on that project.
As far as the cartoons themselves, I've seen them all, of course. It was fun seeing where the songs went in the shows. I was just going "Wow! This is Fun!", "This is great". I though it was really cute.
My favorite song was 'Voodoo', and years later, my kids would come to me after they'd seen an episode and say "Did you write this one, Mommy?", "Did you write that one?", and when my daughter was very little, she turned to me one day and asked of I'd written 'Voodoo'; because she said it was her favorite song. That was really great.
I think we did, altogether, sixteen episodes. It was a terrific experience. I loved every minute of it. But I was a little disappointed that they never did that 'live' thing at the end of each episode, obviously. That would have been really cool, because the girls were a great-looking group.
These songs are played constantly, worldwide, on a regular basis. It's quite amazing. You can have number one records that come and go, but this stuff keeps coming.
-Sue Sheridan
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