"Patrice and I worked together for many years. Her personality was always so cheerful. She, her sister Brenda and I were the Belles for Mirwood Records, and we did a lot of background singing in the '60s and '70s for Motown, Barry White, etc. etc. etc. She had one of the best voices I ever had the pleasure to sing with." Sherlie Matthews
Patrice Yvonne Holloway was born into a musically-gifted family of mixed Black and Hispanic heritage. Both her father and maternal grandfather were professional musicians, and her older sister is Brenda Holloway, the celebrated Motown recording star. She was a singer, songwriter, vocal arranger, nightclub entertainer, session musician and recording artist. She entered the world on March 23, 1951 (some sources say 1948) in Los Angeles, California, shortly after her family moved there from Atascadero, California. She and her siblings, Brenda and Wade, grew up in the Watts section of the city. Both Patrice and Brenda Holloway were musical child prodigies, blessed with singing and songwriting talent and proficient on several musical instruments at an early age. By the time she was a teenager, Patrice could perform competently on drums, guitar, cello, autoharp and violin. Years of singing in the choir of her church sharpened her natural vocal skills.
While still in her early teens, she and Brenda began penning songs together.
Brenda Holloway would go on to wax several of these tunes, including 'Echo',
'I Never Knew You Looked So Good', 'Land Of 1000 Boys' and the sisters'
best-known collaboration, 'You've Made Me So Very Happy'. The latter number
was one of several compositions they co-wrote with producer Frank Wilson
and Motown president Berry Gordy Jr; when it was covered by Blood, Sweat
and Tears in 1969, it would sell over a million copies, win a BMI songwriting
award and be nominated for a Grammy. Without Wilson and Gordy, the Holloway
girls penned 'Bah-Bah-Bah', a track that appeared on Diana Ross and the
Supremes' 1968 album 'Reflections'. Over the years, Patrice would also
compose material with Arthur Freeman, Sherlie Matthews, Jesse Kirkland,
Chester and Gary Pipkin, and Leon and LaVerne Ware.
A 1970 Hanna-Barbera press bio states that Patrice Holloway began working professionally in the music business at the tender age of nine. When she was 12, in 1963, Patrice cut her first solo single for the small Taste label. Produced by Hal Davis, a musician friend from church, both sides of the disc played a self-penned dance number called 'Do The Dell-Viking'. Davis and Brenda Holloway provided background voices for this catchy record, which reportedly charted on radio station surveys in Los Angeles.
Long before graduating from Los Angeles High School in the mid-1960s, Patrice Holloway was earning money by singing background vocals at Hollywood recording sessions. One producer she worked with early on was Sam Cooke, who hired her to back some of his SAR Records artists. She also worked for Johnny Rivers and Ike Turner. In addition, she recorded as a member of girl group ensembles, usually with her sister Brenda and cousin Patty Hunt: her high harmonies can be heard on early '60s platters credited to the Watesians ('I'll Find Myself A Guy'), the Four J's ('Will You Be My Love?'), the Ikettes ('What'cha Gonna Do [When I Leave You]') and the Belles ('Don't Pretend'); the Belles' recordings reportedly feature Patrice on lead vocals.
Shortly after Brenda Holloway landed her recording contract with Motown, she and Hal Davis got Patrice signed to the Detroit-based company as well. She worked with singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson on several sides. An extremely rare Patrice Holloway tribute single to Steve Wonder - 'Stevie' b/w 'He Is The Boy Of My Dreams' - was issued on Motown's VIP subsidiary in 1964. Several unreleased Motown tracks are known to exist, including a cover of a rare Diana Ross and the Supremes master called 'Those DJ Shows', the Ed Cobb composition 'The Touch Of Venus', Smokey Robinson's 'For The Love Of Mike', a track of unknown authorship titled 'Keep On Rolling', and a duet with sister Brenda on a Mickey Stevenson/Brian Holland song called 'Come Into My Palace'.
Motown under-promoted Brenda Holloway's product, but the company did,
at least, make an effort. Very little effort seems to have been expended
on Patrice's part; evidently, they didn't know how to market her. The
aforementioned VIP disc was the only thing Motown released on her, and
by 1965, she'd been dropped from their roster. The following year, R&B
writer/producers Billy and Gene Page managed to get Patrice a singles
deal at Capitol Records. At the time, the pair were best known for the
1964 Jazz and Pop smash 'The In Crowd'.
The Page brothers specialized in a danceable Soul sound, and it proved to be a perfect fit for Patrice's girlish yet rapidly maturing voice. Her first Capitol single, 1966's 'Stolen Hours' b/w 'Lucky, My Boy' generated a lot of local interest, but failed to break the national charts. The same fate befell her second outing with the Page Brothers, 1967's 'Love And Desire' b/w 'Ecstasy'. Capitol then assigned her to work with Lou Rawls's producer David Axelrod. Two powerful sides resulted from the Axelrod sessions: 'Stay With Your Own Kind', a provocative interracial love ballad penned by Kay and Helen Lewis, and 'That's All You Got To Do', a sizzling mid-tempo Soul number from the songbook of future Motown hitmaker Willie Hutch. In the end, none of Patrice's excellent Capitol sides garnered enough airplay to chart, but they were popular enough to land her bookings at Hollywood nightclubs and on local television variety shows.
Most, if not all of her Capitol solo recordings became cult favourites
among American Soul aficionados, but they would find their most receptive
audience in Europe. By the early 1970s, Patrice Holloway singles counted
among the biggest hits played by Northern Soul club deejays in the United
Kingdom. The Northern Soul scene was a working class dance club circuit
located in and around Manchester, England; people flocked to clubs like
Blackpool Mecca and the Wigan Casino in order to hear vintage Soul records
from the States. 'Stolen Hours' in particular was a huge favourite, and
is undoubtedly the waxing most responsible for winning Patrice the celebrity
status she enjoys among British Soul fans.
However, Northern Soul's popularity was just starting to build in 1968-9; even if Patrice had known about the scene, it was too soon for her to think about entertaining fans abroad. With nothing happening for her at Capitol, she took session gigs and wound up singing backup on Joe Cocker's 1968 single, a cover of the Beatles' 'With A Little Help From My Friends'. The following year, producer Lou Adler contracted to work with her at his custom label, Ode Records. He placed her in an all-star gospel ensemble called Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles. This group included many of Hollywood's finest Black session singers, among them Billy Storm, Merry Clayton, Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King, Edna Wright, Jesse Kirkland and members of R&B acts the Alley Cats and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Adler tracked the group on an album's worth of sides from the Bob Dylan songbook, but despite winning critical acclaim (some of it from Dylan himself), two 1969 singles released from the sessions ('Mighty Quinn' and 'The Times, They Are A-Changin'') withered on the vine. So did the Brothers and Sisters album, 'Dylan's Gospel', although it eventually came to be regarded as a collector's item.
A twist of fate found Patrice returning to Capitol Records to work on a much more high-profile project. Josie and the Pussycats was a popular comic book whose characters Hanna-Barbera Studios licensed in late 1969. The intention was to create a cartoon series with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack similar to the successful Monkees and Archie TV series. Studio heads William Hanna and Joseph Barbera decided that, like The Monkees, the new show would be promoted by a group of singers going out on tour and singing the soundtrack music live. Patrice auditioned for the group at the famous Capitol Tower on Hollywood and Vine, and although she had to compete against 60 other hopefuls, she quickly became a finalist.
The soundtrack producers, Danny Janssen and Bobby Young, adored her singing
and felt it blended perfectly with that of the other two finalists, Kathleen
Dougherty and Cheryl Stoppelmoor (later to become famous as actress Cheryl
Ladd). However, Hanna-Barbera balked at the idea of making its all-White
cartoon trio interracial. Janssen held firm, demanding that Patrice be
included; ultimately, one of the cartoon Pussycats (Valerie Smith) was
modified to resemble her in appearance. There were no African-American
cartoon leads at the time, so this development made history in the field
of animation. Hanna-Barbera Studios had its own record label, but since
Janssen and Young's production company had inked an album deal with Capitol
Records, the studio opted to release the trio's music on that imprint.
For better or worse, this ensured that the balance of Patrice Holloway's
recorded work would be done for Capitol.
Patrice led Josie and the Pussycats on both sides of the two singles Capitol released on the group in 1970: 'Every Beat Of My Heart' b/w 'It's All Right With Me' and 'You've Come A Long Way, Baby' b/w 'Stop, Look And Listen'. Patrice also sang lead on the TV series' unforgettably funky theme song, 'Josie', and ironically, this would be the number she'd become most famous for. The 'Josie and the Pussycats' soundtrack album featured her vocals on the aforementioned songs as well as on 'Clappin' Your Hands (The Handclapping Song)' and 'Roadrunner'. A quartet of promotional singles was issued on the Capitol Creative Products label, including Patrice's performances of 'Voodoo', alternate takes of 'Every Beat Of My Heart' and 'Josie', a featured background part on 'If That Isn't Love' and a William Hanna-Joseph Barbera penned Gospel number called 'It's Gotta Be Him'. The latter song was a mediocre trifle, but she redeemed it with an absolutely incandescent reading. At least one Patrice Holloway track was never released commercially: 'Clock On The Wall', a splendid performance that unfortunately can only be heard on the voice track of the TV series.
Most of her Pussycat numbers were penned by Danny Janssen in collaboration with Sue Sheridan (known as Sue Steward at the time), Bobby Hart, Jesse Kirkland or Austin Roberts. Sue Sheridan supervised the trio's vocal arrangements, but from the sound of them, it's likely that Patrice had more than a little influence. She definitely influenced the choice of session musicians. Several LA studio cats who'd worked with Patrice over the years participated in the recording sessions; they included keyboardist Clarence McDonald, flautist Wilton Felder and ace drummer Hal Blaine. Danny Janssen has confirmed that these men played at reduced session rates in order to support Patrice in her new endeavour. Clearly, this is an indication of how much she was loved and respected by Hollywood's musician community.
The music of Josie and the Pussycats was, and still is, heard all over the world, thanks to the success of the TV series and its subsequent syndication. Unfortunately, their music was never played anywhere but on television. A combination of improper marketing and programmer bias against cartoon groups amounted to a radio boycott. With no hit records forthcoming, the proposed national tour never came together. The trio broke up after just a few months. However, Danny Janssen was still smitten with Patrice's voice, and he pulled strings to get her a new solo contract with Capitol. With Clarence McDonald as his co-producer, he continued working with her through 1971.
The first recording to emerge under this new arrangement was a George
Jackson/Ray Moore song called 'Evidence'. On its January 1st, 1972 telecast,
Patrice was featured on Soul Train performing this tough blues rocker,
along with its flipside, Eddie Singleton's effervescent 'That's The Chance
You Gotta Take'. Despite this unquestionably serious effort at promotion,
her "Capitol curse" manifested itself again, and the record
failed to click with the public. Its follow-up single, 'Black Mother Goose',
probably never advanced past the promo copy stage, yet numerous DJ-only
copies exist of this wonderful children's song by Sid Jacobson and Lou
Stallman that holds forth with a whimsical Black history theme. Patrice
sang it with as much gusto as she'd put into any of her adult-oriented
sides. To date, this rare 1972 single is the last solo record known to
bear her name.
At this point, she seems to have given up on the idea of having a solo career. Patrice concentrated on session work, and went on to sing background for several of the biggest stars of the 1970s, including Joe Cocker, Thelma Houston, Ike and Tina Turner, Delaney and Bonnie, Billy Preston, Bobby Womack, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Neil Young. (Cocker's remake of 'With A Little Help From My Friends', featuring Patrice's vocal support, would later be chosen as the theme song to the 1980s TV series The Wonder Years.) Electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause collaborated with her on their groundbreaking 1971 album 'Gandharva'. She worked with the Canadian rock ensemble Skylark, harmonizing on their 1972 debut album and (possibly) their Top Ten hit 'Wildflower' from the following year. As a composer, Patrice earned substantial royalties from two songs included on the Top Twenty soundtrack album for Diana Ross's 1975 film Mahogany: 'She's The Ideal Girl' and 'Let's Go Back To Day One'. Her first hit composition, 'You've Made Me So Very Happy', was remade by Mel Tormé, Gloria Estéfan, Lou Rawls, Bobbie Gentry and dozens of other artists, and in 2001, it was heard in the Australian comedy flick The Dish.
In addition to her musical skills, Patrice Holloway possessed a wonderful sense of comic timing; had she chosen to do so, she might have become a very successful comedienne. This supremely talented woman suffered from ill health for much of her professional life. When interviewed in 2003 for an article on Josie and the Pussycats, producer Danny Janssen spoke of how she struggled during the sessions with a mysterious disease that "came and went." Sadly, by 2005, she was bedridden most of the time. Whatever her affliction was, Patrice Holloway never let it affect the sterling quality of her performances, which now are part of her legacy.
Contacted for comment, her longtime friend and colleague Clarence McDonald
had this to say in remembrance: "Patrice was a very talented and
loving person. Quietly, she went about her work and exhibited her talents.
She was the first Black female American to be in a cartoon series as a
character and performer! She will be dearly missed by all that knew her."
Patrice Holloway passed away in the city of her birth following a heart
attack on October 1, 2006. Funeral Services were held at the Inglewood
Chapel on Monday, October 16, 2006. The capacity crowd of mourners included
actors Connie Stevens and Paul Petersen, R&B singers Edna Wright and
Sandra "Blinky" Williams, Gospel stars Andrae Crouch and Tata
Vega (both of whom performed), producer-turned-minister Frank Wilson (who
delivered the graveside eulogy), Motown songwriter Janie Bradford, and
Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. Patrice is survived by one son, her sister
Brenda, and numerous extended family members, friends and fans all over
the world. Condolences should be sent to Brenda Holloway in care of Santel
Entertainment Group, Inc, 16041 G. Johnston Road, Suite #113, Charlotte,
(Special thanks to Mick Patrick, Kingsley Abbott, Danny
Janssen, Sue Sheridan,
©2006 Stuffed Animal
PRESENTED BY THE SPECTROPOP TEAM