When I first came to California, I worked with a group called The Lettermen.
Then, we each went our own way, in ’67, and I ended up working with a kid named Bobby Sherman. We had three Ton Ten songs, and when Hanna and Barbera got wind of the fact that I was working with Booby Sherman, that’s what prompted them to ask me to work with them.
One of my reasons I agreed to do the music for a children’s TV series was that I had been a master teacher, first in Chicago and them California. I had to take a leave of absence, and I never came back. I couldn’t even get out of my classroom. But I loved kids. I promised the principal and the other people that I would produce at least one children’s series a year to make up for my not being in the classroom anymore. That’s how that all came about.
The fellow who set up the ‘Josie’ deal at Capitol Records was named Karl Engemann. He was the vice president of Capitol’s A&R department. His brother, Bobby Engemann, has been one of the singers in The Letterman. So, Bobby and I set up a company called La La Productions, which we named after one of Bobby Sherman’s big hits – “La La La (If I Had You” – Bobby helped me in the production, but he really wasn’t a producer. He helped set up the sessions, etcetera.
La La Production did two series for Hanna-Barbera. One was ‘Scooby-Doo’, and one was ‘Josie And The
Pussycats’. For ‘Scooby-Doo’, we got guys like Austin Roberts and other people to come in and both write and sing with us, they were never going to go out and sing or do any promotion.
When we got offered the chance to do ‘Josie And The Pussycats’, Hanna-Barbera wanted to get three girls who could really sing and do their own performing. So Susie Frank, who worked for Capitol Records, helped set up all the auditions because we were busy doing other things. She knew a lot of difference singers, and I wanted the best three girls I could get.
We auditioned 68 girls at Capitol Records. I picked a girl named Cheryl Stopelmoor. You know her more as Cheryl Ladd from “Charlie’s Angels”. She was just a young girl at the time, from South Dakota. Then there was another girl named Patrice Holloway. She was a co-writer of songs like “You’ve made Me So Happy”, and I didn’t really even think about it at the time, but she happened to be black. I really liked her, and she was a great singer. Finally we got Catherine Dougher. I don’t really remember that much about her.
I was really happy about the sound we were getting. I went down to Hanna-Barbera and they said ‘Danny, listen, our storyboards are done and everything, and there are three white girls on the show. We don’t want to change the storyboards.’
They were very nice about it, but nobody had ever done a black animated cartoon series before. It wasn’t like
today, where you kick a button on the remote and all the sudden one person returns with a black image. Times were different in those days.
I said, ‘I’ll tell you what….I’ve got a lot of other things to do, and if you ever get another series, let me know, but I’m not going to tell Patrice she can’t sing on the show because she’s black’. I told them that I’d picked the three best singers.
Anyway, about three weeks later, they called me and when I got on the phone, I asked them if they had a new
series, and they said ‘Nope, we’re going to do ‘Josie And The Pussycats’. And I said ‘We’re not going to do it if you’re not going to use Patrice’ and they said ‘we’re going to use her.’ Of course, I was really happy. They had to go back and re-do all of the storyboards. They went through a lot of trouble to do that, and I was real thankful that they did that.
That first day, I went down to the studio, Independent Recorders in Studio City, which wasn’t a real big studio, and I had never worked there before. I think Karl Engemann had chosen it. I arrived there and I though, ‘My God, The Osmonds must be here or something!’ because the place was just jammed, I couldn’t even park in the parking lot.
I walked in, and I see Ron Tutt, and Wilton Felder, and Jerry Scheff, who is the greatest bass player, and Clarence MacDonald, who was Elvis’ piano player. Clarence was great! He did ‘Best Of My Love’ with Maurice White, and he did a lot of the songs with James Taylor. Elvis Presley had sent some other members of his band over to help out. Michael Stewart was there, too, but he wasn’t as good of a musician as the other guys. He’d been in the We Five.
I said ‘What the heck is this?’ Here were a bunch of other guys there that were all great session players, and I said ‘Look, this is great, but I can’t afford a budget like this’. When you did a children’s TV series like this, you don’t have a big budget to work with.
It was already going to coast Hanna-Barbera quite a lot, because I had wanted the best songwriter, and the best producers, to be around me, and I said that the only way I would do the show, considering all the hits I already had, was that I would only put the songs out as feature performances. I’m talkin’ about feature performances versus background music. It’s a lot different for paying somebody, a difference of getting paid a few dollars for a song or, at the time, getting paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars a session.
They said, ‘Danny, we heard you’re gonna use a black singer, so we’re gonna make it sound so good’. They were doing it for Patrice. There were only four or five guys who were working on the session, and all the rest of the were working for nothing. And boy, I’m telling you, these guys made me sound ten times as good as I really was.
We also did some of Patrice’s solo things at Capitol Records, but she couldn’t follow up on those records. She
could’ve been a pretty big star. We all loved Patrice. I mean, really, she was a great gal. Working with those girls and the whole experience of everybody comin’ in and helping us because Patrice was there made it on of the most memorable times of my life.
In fact, in 1995, Concordia University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, gave me an honorary doctorate in all areas, not only music, and one of the things that they told me they were honoring me for was not only for the work I’ve done in the “interactive” side of the business, but was that I stood my ground to get Patrice in there on those ‘Josie’ sessions.
My memory of those sessions is that we were in the studio everyday. I’m not sure, but Billy Preston may have
come in and played one of those sessions too. He was a good friend of Patrice’. I seem to recall that the musicians were all black guys, but Elvis’ organ and piano player [Clarence MacDonald] was not black, and I recall that there was a black guy playing the organ one time, so it might have been Billy.
I had a couple of meetings with Hanna-Barbera’s people during the first season. They just showed us what they doing, and I think in some cases, they may have even re-written some things around a good song we had written.
The only other guy we met from Hanna-Barbera was Hoyt Curtin, that show’s music director. His writing was much difference than our writing. Curtin wrote the ‘Josie’’ theme with Hanna and Barbera, who used pen names.
I recall that Jimmy Haskell did most, if not all, of our arrangements. I know All Capps did ‘Scooby-Doo’ with us, but he may have also done some of the ‘Josie’ series with us too, but I can’t remember.
I had a nice house up in Tarzana and the songwriter used to gather and write songs. I sold that house to Mike
Settle, who played with Kenny Rogers in The First Edition, and bought Herb Alpert’s house at the beach. I also
had a penthouse down in Hollywood. We wrote everywhere, to be quite honest. We were writing for this series,
then we ere going over and writing for some other album. Then, we’d be back in the studio the next day.
If you think about it, those songs were done thirty-one years ago, and they’re still playing them today. They’re good songs. It just goes to show you a good song lasts a long time. And we had good writers.
Susie Steward was one of those writers who came in and helped. I still think Susie was one of the better writers was had. She became good friends with Cheryl Ladd. They lived together and spent a lot of time together. They didn’t even know each other when we started the series.
One song we wrote together was called “Roadrunner”. We later got an offer from the Plymouth people, who heard it and wanted to use it in the ads for the Roadrunner car, but we said ‘No, let’s give it to the series instead’. Interesting mistake.
I have no recollections about Jesse Kirkland, but Bobby Hart and I ended up being songwriting partner until 1977. I liked ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’, which we wrote together. I liked Bobby so much and we worked so well together that I told him, Austin Roberts. He’s too good of a voice to be singing ‘Scooby-Doo’. So we cut a song called “Something’s Wrong With Me” and it was his first gold record and the first thing we cut together.
Austin Roberts later went on to write forty Top Ten country records of his own, including “I.O.U” by Lee
Greenwood, and “You Lie” by Reba McEntire. I hate it when you teach some little guy to write and he goes out and outdoes you! (Just kidding).
I wasn’t involved at all in Capitol Records’ marketing and promotion of the ‘Josie And The Pussycats’ album. We would have gone out and made sure that the girls did some promotion, but Capitol had no incentive to do anything with it.
All of the sudden, somebody comes along like the ‘Josie’ kids, who had talent and were able to do something, but they catered to a whole different audience, to kids, and they needed promotion. I had seen it happen, and I’d proven that fact with Bobby Sherman before then. When Elvis was selling 300,000 copies of his records, Bobby was selling close to 2 million.
Capitol never had to go out and promote anything because they’d gotten so used to The Beatles just bringing
their new record to them that they forgot how to promote anyone. We’d have been better off if Hanna-Barbera had gone with somebody other than Capitol Records. Their guys had gone real suntanned on ‘em, ya know?
The ‘Josie’ girls just happened to get the brunt of some of that. I mean, the girls were great singers, and pretty too, and they could have done really well. They could have gone out as a group, or Capitol could have broken them up individually and done it that way. Capitol didn’t know how…they’d forgotten how to use the talent.
Hanna-Barbera wanted to do another series, ‘Josie And The Pussycats in Outer Space’, but La La Productions
weren’t involved in that. That had nothing to do with us. Jimmie Haskell went to work with them. Hanna-Barbera didn’t want to use the songs on that series as feature songs.
Later, Hanna-Barbera asked me to do some more TV series, so Bobby Hart and I teamed up for ‘The Partridge
Family’ and ‘The Partridge Family 2001’. And we did ‘Sigmund And The Sea Monster’. We wrote a number of hits together, and, of course, Bobby wrote a lot on his own. Another one of our partners was Wes Farrell. We were all in the Wes Farrell Organization for a while.
God was really good to us, and we really had a lot of talent at those ‘Josie; sessions. I think that’s why that album came out nice. And, above all, we had a lot of fun.