Friday, March 16, 2012

Josie and Pussycats: Behind the Music

I'm repeating this post in tribute to the late Josie DeCarlo, the inspiration for JOSIE.
Proving my lifelong desire to be a hard-hitting journalist, I now present my look at some cutting-edge news makers.
JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS was always one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoons, as well as the hippest of the Archie Comics line.
Initially published as SHE'S JOSIE (#1-16) and later just JOSIE (#17-44), the comic book was launched in 1963 as a rather generic high school humor series aimed at young girls.
The strip was created by Dan DeCarlo, artist of Atlas/Marvel's MILLIE THE MODEL and Archie's BETTY & VERONICA.
DeCarlo was also known for his very saucy Golden Age pin up girl art.

Now that's a topic for another post entirely. Josie Jones/James/McCoy, whom DeCarlo named after his wife, made her debut in ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS #23, before SHE'S JOSIE #1 hit the newsstands.
Josie's closet friends included sexy dumb blond Melody Jones/Valentine, snobbish Alexander Cabot III and Alex's bitchy twin sister Alexandra (and her equally evil and somewhat magical black cat Sebastian). The kids seemed to spend a lot of time hanging out at ski lodges or on the slopes.
These three characters would remain with the series through the years, though other supporting characters like Pepper, Albert and Sock would fade away.
The book reflected some of the far-out pop culture art and fashion movements of the day. Hunky blond Alan M. Mayberry made his first appearance in JOSIE #42, attracting the attention of both Josie and Alexandra.
The comic became JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS with issue #45 (Dec. 1969) when Josie and Melody teamed with their new friend Val Smith/Brown to form an all-group rock group called The Pussycats - at a time when an all-girl rock group was not very common.

In fact, other than Suzi Quatro's 60s band The Pleasure Seekers and The Carrie Nations from BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, there weren't many representations of this concept in pop culture.
The real-life Runaways would later fill the gap five years after The Pussycats.
Josie was the lead vocalist and guitarist and Melody the drummer. Self-centered Alexandra was their original choice to be bassist, but only if they decided call themselves "Alexandra's Cool Time Cats".
The gals resisted Alexandra's changes and Val took over as the bassist, and she often played other instruments as the tambourine.
Following in the footsteps of Filmation's music-based THE ARCHIE SHOW, which became a Saturday-morning sensation in 1969, Hanna-Barbera quickly adapted JOSIE into a weekly animated series.
Josie's speaking voice was performed by Janet Waldo (also the voice of Judy Jetson); Melody's voice was supplied by cute DORIS DAY SHOW actress Jackie Joseph; and Valerie's speaking voice is performed by Barbara Pariot. The character of Val is notable for being the first African-American female character on a animated TV series, making her the kivvid equivalent of JULIA. Marvelously mean Alexandra's voice in the cartoons is provided by former Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni.
In the TV show, Alexander became the band's manager, with Alan cast as their roadie and Alexandra becoming the resident pain in the ass.
Unlike the slapstick comedy used in the ARCHIE franchise, JOSIE episodes were more inline with Hanna-Barbera mysteries and adventures like SCOOBY-DOO and JONNY QUEST, with a heavy emphasis on wonderful and wacky musical montage chase scenes. In fact, Alexander became a Shaggy clone and Alan took on the qualities of Fred from SCOOBY.
Episodes would follow the Pussycats on their world tour, as they visited exotic locations and, usually because of scheming Alexandra, got mixed up in some kind of crazy caper. The show's producers opted to not include Alexandra's Sabrina-like dabblings in witchcraft in the series.
The villain was invariably a diabolical madman who wanted to take over the world, and he would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling all-girl rock group!
Every episode usually ends with Alexandra getting her comeuppance.
Stories in the comic book soon reflected this darker direction that the characters faced on the TV show.
Meanwhile, a real-life bubblegum pop singing group was put together to record songs for the series.
An accompanying Capital LP featured Kathleen Dougherty (Cathy Dougher) as Josie, Cheryl Stoppelmoor (later Cheryl Ladd) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie was released, along with a collection of 45 RPM singles.
Patrice also performed the show’s awesome theme song, which was written by Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The song was covered by Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donnelly in 1995.
The series set in motion a tidal wave of merchandise depicting Josie, Melody and Val.
Books, puzzles, toys, costumes and just about any cheap and/ridiculous item that they could slap a logo on became fair game for Pussymania!
16 episodes of aired on CBS during the 1970-71 television season, and were rerun during the 1971-72 season.
In 1972, the show was revamped and returned as JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS IN OUTER SPACE, with 16 new episodes of which aired on CBS during the 1972-73 season that were rerun the following season.
In these new episodes, the band was accidentally launched into space while attending a photoshoot at a NASA-type facility, thanks to that clumsy oaf Alexandra.
Thankfully Val was smart enough to figure out how to drive a penis-shaped rocket.
They spent much of the series trying to get back home to Earth, while performing impromptu concerts for misunderstood aliens.
During this run, ear-wiggling Melody adopted an annoying alien creature named Bleep that only says "bleep" over and over again.
The Pussycats also guest starred on an episode of THE NEW SCOOBY-DOO MOVIES, where dopplegangers Alexander and Shaggy and Alan and Fred got to share screen time.
More consumer products rolled out of factories as reruns of the JOSIE turned up on NBC, USA Network, Cartoon Network and are still seen today on Cartoon Network's spinoff channel Boomerang.
In 2001, JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS was unsuccessfully adapted into a live action motion picture by Universal Pictures and MGM. The less said about this film, the better.
Sadly, the regular bimonthly JOSIE comic book was discontinued in the early 1980s, with the characters occasionally appearing in "specials" and other Archie universe titles on and off over the years.
A short-lived New Wave makeover in the 80s and a Manga-style riff on the concept proved to be unpopular with fans of the classic Pussycats.
 Yes, that's how I like my Pussycats. Long tails and ears for hats.
 Guitars and sharps and flats.
...Come on and watch the good guys win. Josie and the Pussycats. Josie and the Pussycats. Insert familiar Sebastian's cat-laugh here.


dick fan said...

damn, 70s cartoons were so much fun. thanks for the memories

Anonymous said...

Why, oh why, is Rosario Dawson in that crappy movie?

Anonymous said...

Check out Dan DeCarlos (the creator of Josie and the pussycats) website
there is a new video of Dan and his wife Josie (the inspiration) on how they met.

Caroline Bender said...

So good at what you do!! Thanks for that.