march 2011


Lost Soul, Saved

Historical footnote no more, Patrice Holloway’s solo recordings, newly available on an import retrospective, reveal an unacknowledged giant of ‘60s and ‘70s soul music

By David McGee

This is not a story about a religious conversion. On the other hand, if you, dear reader, immerse yourself in the music described below, you may find yourself transported in a spiritual way. Lo, the religious conversion in question is yours, and it arrives on wings of song, courtesy the magnificent voice of Patrice Holloway.

Ask a reasonably knowledgeable soul music fan for his or her take on Patrice Holloway, and the most likely response will be, “You mean Brenda Holloway, right? ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’? Big Motown hit, 1964? A classic.”

Right on about Brenda’s timeless track, but no, Patrice Holloway is our subject. Patrice—Brenda’s younger sister, five years her junior.

Patrice Holloway: ‘She just had that gift,’ says her sister, Brenda Holloway. ‘It’s a wonderful thing for people to remember her, because she was a super-good person.’

Patrice Holloway is hardly the only artist to have made exceptional music that virtually no one heard, either because it was never released, improperly or inadequately promoted or simply failed to catch on in its time. But if Big Star should have been big rock ‘n’ roll stars—and they should have been—then Patrice Holloway should have been a dominant force in ‘60s and ‘70s soul music. She was that good, blessed with a natural cry in her supple voice, which could be impossibly silky and seductive; coy, playful and flirty in a teen queen way—she could affect a young Michael Jackson voice but was doing so before anyone had ever heard of Michael (in fact, Michael may have lifted his signature squeal from Patrice, as it shows up on one of her Motown singles before the J5 were on record); or forceful, assertive, full of gospel bio and street sass all at once. Though Holloway still has not been given her just due Stateside, she remains an icon in England, where she reigned unchallenged in a movement known as the Northern Soul scene. In a remembrance of Holloway published at, a writer identified only as Stuffed Animal offers the following perspective on the singer’s overseas success:

Most, if not all of her Capitol solo recordings became cult favorites 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 favorite, and is undoubtedly the waxing most responsible for winning Patrice the celebrity status she enjoys among British Soul fans.

The “Stolen Hours” single mentioned above features then-15-year-old Patrice on her first Capitol single, in 1966, singing with sly, dewey-eyed affection of her romance with another girl’s boyfriend. The chunky, percolating arrangement by Holloway’s producers-arrangers-writers Gene and Billy Page—who were responsible for most of her Capitol output and on the creativity of their work with Holloway alone rank with the decade’s finest at their craft—may well have inspired Clarence Carter’s similar but Latin-tinged arrangement of one of the first of his many homages to the joys of adultery, “Slippin’ Around” (same theme as Holloway’s single, different gender). Writer Dennis Garvey describes the song thusly: “With years of experience behind her, 15-year-old Patrice is in full command of her formidable vocal skills, gliding over the shimmering arrangement and tricky changes with uncommon grace as she interprets the mature lyric of forbidden love with an authority that overrides the carping of disapproving background singers (‘Ain’t you got not shame, girl?’)”

Patrice Holloway, ‘Stolen Hours,’ 1966. Arranged and conducted by Billy Page, produced by Billy Page and Gene Page. The source of the artist’s celebrity status among British Soul fans.

Garvey's take on Holloway’s forgotten 1966 single is from liner notes he penned for a new Ace Records compilation of Holloway’s complete Capitol singles and Motown recordings (including 10 unissued masters from the Motown vaults). Titled Love & Desire: The Patrice Holloway Anthology, the single disc overview is available only as an import item. To listen to it straight through, even though the tracks are not in chronological order, is to be flabbergasted by Holloway’s transcendent artistry. She could deliver it all: hard soul (“My 2 Arms-You=Tears,” one of the unissued Motown sides, with its accusatory vocal, burping sax and call-and-response backup chorus); girl-group angst in her emotional, Darlene Love-type delivery of the surging Spector-influenced teen romance melodrama, “Face In the Crowd,” another unissued Motown recording; subtle, velvety crooning on Smokey Robinson’s gently swinging love song, “All That’s Good,” a Miracles B side Holloway cut in 1965; hand clapping, foot stomping, syncopated, soaring pop-soul on the doo-wop-influenced “Flippitty Flop” from 1964; tender but impassioned pop-soul on the superb 1966 Capitol single, “Ecstasy,” that combines the best elements of a Funk Brothers-style rhythmic attack with a Spector wall of sound arrangement; furiously driving, gospel-fueled, unabashed lust surging forth from a sumptuous state of the art soul arrangement in 1966’s “Love and Desire.” She could even do an uncanny imitation of her heartthrob Little Stevie Wonder, as she proved in covering his ebullient “Surf Stomp” (it appeared on Stevie’s Stevie At the Beach LP as “Beach Stomp”). If anyone had asked her to record saloon songs, Holloway could probably have pulled those off as credibly as Sinatra, even lacking the life experience the Chairman of the Board brought to his brooding, late-night laments—her sense of the moment and of the precise emotional setting of a song seemed infallible and she could deliver both with a lived-in authority. “Black Mother Goose”--a fanciful retelling of a fairy tale from an inner cit prespective--wasn’t her only foray into social commentary; even more dramatic, her intense, emotionally incendiary 1967 single, “Stay With Your Own Kind,” produced by David Axelrod with an aggressive, stomping arrangement that begins with a soft, unassuming organ figure before a horn section discreetly enters and gradually turns up the heat until the whole affair breaks into a galloping pace with intermittent subdued interludes, is a forceful rebuke to people trying to warn her off form an interracial relationship (it never took off as a single; exploring the same theme in more foreboding shadings, Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child,” released the same year, became the cultural phenomenon of the two).

Joe Cocker, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends,’ with the background chorus featuring Patrice Holloway

Holloway’s ability to conjure so many compelling textures out of her vocal instrument made her a first-call session singer, with her signal achievements being four in number. The first three: (1) as part of the soulful chorus backing Joe Cocker on his version of the Beatles’ “A Little Help From My Friends” that became the theme song for the hit ABC-TV series The Wonder Years and is probably being aired somewhere in the world as this is written; (2) in Hanna-Barbera’s 1970 animated series Josie and the Pussycats, as the singing voice of Valerie, first African-American cartoon character to be a series regular. (In addition to Holloway the musical triumvirate representing the musical side of the title characters included Cathy Douglas [or Cathy Dougher, as she was also known; her birth name was Kathleen Dougherty] and Cherie Moor [previously known as Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor but post-Josie far better known as Cheryl Ladd, who replaced Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels and parlayed her Angels fame into a brief career as a country singer, with a gold album and Top 40 single to her credit]). And (3) as one of the singers who were billed as The Supremes on the last single Diana Ross supposedly cut with her group, 1969’s “Someday We’ll Be Together.” The great Merry Clayton, who with Holloway, Clydie King and Venetta Fields comprised those “Supremes,” recalled for Dennis Gavin how she and Holloway rehearsed ahead of time for the session “and I tell you, when we got to the studio, we were hot! I love her on ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ by Diana Ross. And you can tell her voice. She has a dominant voice. I can hear Patrice so well on that.”

As it happened, the execs at Hanna-Barbera wanted Josie and the  Pussycats to be an all-white trio, even though the comic book Valerie had been black, and were determined to replace Holloway with a white singer. Producer/songwriter Danny Janssen, who would steer the Pussycats’ recording sessions, insisted Holloway remain in the group. The impasse ended when Hanna-Barbera relented. When word of Janssen’s stand against the studio reached L.A. musicians, several of the most prominent players offered their services for the album sessions at sharply reduced rates—among them Elvis Presley’s drummer Ronnie Tutt and bass player Jerry Scheff, jazz bassist/sax player Wilton Felder who rose to fame with the Crusaders in the early ‘70s (the group cut two acclaimed albums with B.B. King and producer Stewart Levine and was in the forefront of the jazz-rock fusion movement on the strength of its own adventurous albums), guitarist Mike Stewart and keyboardist Clarence MacDonald. Holloway sang lead on the show’s infectious theme song, but otherwise supported Moor/Ladd’s leads. The group’s songs were arranged in the exuberant, pop-soul style of the J5 and Honey Cone (whose lead singer Edna Wright could give Holloway a run for her money as a versatile vocalist), with Janssen’s full-bodied productions employing strings, multiple keyboards, horn sections and synthesizers, although the on-screen cartoon band was a basic rock trio of Josie (Douglas) on guitar, Valerie (Holloway) on tambourine and Melody (Moor/Ladd) on drums. The series’ producers got around the incongruity of the modest trio sounding like a small orchestra by simply not explaining it.

josieThe Douglas-Moor/Ladd-Holloway version of Josie and the Pussycats, plus the musicians who had joined their effort in solidarity, with Janssen behind the board, fashioned one album, Josie and the Pussycats : From the Hanna-Barbera TV Show released on December 15, 1970 by Capitol Records, which already had Holloway under contract as a solo artist. Six 45 RPM singles were released, four featuring non-album songs and available only as part of a Kellogg's mail-order promotion. None of the singles charted, the album was so poorly promoted it became an instant collector’s item, and a planned national tour was scuttled. Hanna-Barbera’s response to this commercial debacle was to bring in producer Jimmie Haskell (notable for the outstanding work he had done producing Ricky Nelson’s classic singles and for his artistry as a string arranger) and to hire an entirely new musical cast to perform the songs for a retooled series, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space; like the original, Earthbound series, the interstellar Josie and the Pussycats lasted but a single season (1972-73). Still under contract to Capitol post-Josie, Holloway continued working with Janssen as a solo artist; as the tracks on Love & Desire prove, together they came up with some memorable singles sides in “Evidence” (a biting, funky, southern soul-style screed skewering an unfaithful man), the aforementioned "Black Mother Goose" (a pulsating, horn-driven, Stax-style Black Pride take on nursery rhymes of, you might say, a different color—“Black Mother Goose,” Holloway asserts, “she knows where it’s at”); and the irresistible “That’s the Chance You Gotta Take,” a shameless, chiming and thoroughly delightful ripoff of the J5 sound with Holloway leading a rousing, gospel-infused chorus of gals counseling their sisters to be unafraid to love even if they get burned from time to time (“that’s a chance you gotta take/just because he abused your love/don’t think it was your mistake”).

Josie and the Pussycats opening theme, lead vocal by Patrice Holloway (Valerie, the first African-American cartoon character to be a series regular)

Josie and The Pussycats had not nine but only one life, and when it was over Patrice Holloway was no better known than she had been when the series started. Right before Josie came around, though, she had participated in what was the fourth signal moment of her career, even though it was not a solo project and, truth be told, it was so obscure as to make her Josie tenure seem like something akin to superstardom.

Skewering an unfaithful man in ‘Evidence,’ 1971

In 1969 Lou Adler was a bonafide heavy hitter in the music business. In 1964 he had co-founded Dunhill Records and was its go-to producer until 1967, when he sold the label for three million dollars to ABC Records. That same year he launched another label venture, Ode Records, and produced both the actual Monterey International Pop Festival and an accompanying documentary. By this time his production credits included hits for Sam Cooke, The Mamas & Papas (who were signed to his Dunhill label), Johnny Rivers (all of whose great ‘60s hits were Adler productions, and Adler even wrote liner notes for some of the albums), Scott McKenzie (“San Francisco [Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair]”), Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”); in 1971 he would produce, and release on Ode, Carole King’s Tapestry, which has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.

dylan-gospelBut in 1969 Adler had the idea to assemble the cream of the crop of the Los Angeles background singers, male and female, all together as an ad-hoc Mass Choir for a gospel album comprised of Bob Dylan songs. He called them The Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles, titled their collective work Dylan’s Gospel and released it on Ode. Adler produced, he hired Gene Page to arrange and conduct the sessions and brought in Billy Page to provide “vocal assistance.” The tight, spare band included Elvis’s bass player Jerry Scheff, drummer Gene Pello, Gene Page on piano, Evelyn Freeman on organ and Joe H. Vaerga on percussion. The Brothers number eight total, none of them prominent outside the background singers world, save possibly for Jesse Kirkland, but they certainly showed up, especially on a stately, reverent treatment of “Chimes of Freedom.” The Sisters, on the other hand, numbered 20 strong, and several had become household names in the “Woodstock Generation”: Merry Clayton, who that very same year would give Mick Jagger all he could handle in her vocal challenges to him on “Gimme Shelter"; Clydie King; Carolyn Willis and Edna Wright of Honey Cone; Ruby S. Johnson; Shirley Allen; Gwen Johnson; and not least of all, Patrice Holloway.

From Dylan’s Gospel: ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’,’ Merry Clayton lead vocal, with The Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles. Produced by Lou Adler, arranged and conducted by Gene Page.

From the liner copy of Dylan’s Gospel:
This album happened not only because of the smiles, laughs and hand-clapping of everyone during the playbacks, not only because of the party atmosphere that prevailed (the food sent in, the drinks sent in. etc...) not only because the people did not leave after the session but stayed to hear and discuss the things already recorded. Not only because Armin Steiner, the Engineer, spent a week thinking about the studio setup, placement of singers and microphones, etc...not only because there were more people singing than had been contracted (cousins, mothers, boy-friends, etc...). These were just some of the reasons, the others were...

Gene Page arranged. His brother helped, his sister contracted the fine musicians. Gene's mother and father came to hear; Carole King came to hear; Peggy Lipton came to hear and be near; John Phillips came to hear (and no one hears like John Phillips hears); Spirit came to hear; Tom Wilkes who did the cover with Barry Feinstein was there to listen and watch. So, they were all there, engineers, arrangers, conductors, watchers, listeners and singers and it happened. But what made it all happen? The songs of Bob Dylan. But he has made a lot of things happen, hasn't he!

from Dylan’s Gospel, ‘All Along the Watchtower’; produced by Lou Adler, arranged and conducted by Gene Page.

The resulting album, ill-reviewed if at all, is a staggering, awesome proposition; the sort of music so infused with spiritual conviction, with an unswerving commitment to the messages in Dylan’s songs and to elevating them to a plateau where they have the weight of Scripture, that, after having recovered from being brought to your knees by these performances, you will rethink the whole Dylan catalogue, no matter how well you think you knew it when you first cued up and then were steamrolled by the sheer force of (possibly) Merry Clayton’s urgent declamations and dire warnings trumpeted in “The Times They Are A-Changin’”--when she proclaims, like a voice from the burning bush, “it will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls,” you want to send up a prayer requesting a final peaceful hour to say goodbye to your loved ones. “Lay Lady Lay” may seem like an odd choice for a putatively gospel album, but the breathy, demure vocal--almost certainly either Patrice Holloway or her vocal dead-ringer Edna Wright of Honey Cone--and the laid-back, shuffling arrangement seems to posit sex as a religious experience. “The Mighty Quinn” a gospel tune? It is if you hear it as it seems to be meant to be heard here--as an allegory about Christ’s return, with a shouting, bluesy, suggestive vocal by someone who sounds like the young Mavis Staples, not only in the timbre of her voice but in her distinctive phrasing. An emotional, deliberate “My Back Pages”; a measured, sparsely arranged “I Shall Be Released”; a celebratory “Mr. Tambourine Man,” high spirited with a slinky, reedy vocal reminiscent of Esther Phillips; a dark, foreboding “All Along the Watchtower,” rife with unremitting, anxious desperation--and an opening piano riff that for a fleeting moment sounds like the opening riff in Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” which would appear two years later on Tapestry, but Carole was in the house for these sessions too; an upbeat, house wrecking version of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” with a delightful, husky-voiced female lead vocal emitting pure sexual heat; and to close the 10-song album, a majestic, consecrated rendition of “Just Like a Woman” with the combined voices raised heavenward in celebration (you can hear whoops and handclaps on the track). Outside of the Byrds and The Band, these are the greatest interpretations of Dylan songs on record, hands down.

from Dylan’s Gospel, ‘Just Like a Woman,’ produced by Lou Adler, arranged and conducted by Gene Page

Long out of print--it likely was not even in print very long--Dylan’s Gospel is available (as of this writing) from five Amazon dealers: two in Germany who are asking upwards of $60 for the CD, three in the U.S. who are asking between $150 and $250 for it. An eBay search for it came up empty. However, you can download the entire album for free at and view the album packaging and liner copy at Dylan Cover Albums.

from Dylan’s Gospel, ‘Lay Lady Lay,’ produced by Lou Adler, arranged and conducted by Gene Page, Edna Wright or Patrice Holloway, lead vocal

Patrice pressed on: she appeared on Soul Train on New Year’s Eve 1972, singing “That’s The Chance You Gotta Take”; joined Vermettya Royster and Clydie King in backing up Aretha on “Rock Steady” on The Flip Wilson Show;

“My mom and Aretha were real tight friends,” Patrice’s son Nikko told Dennis Garvey. “She was also tight with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali, and Stevie Wonder was one of her best friends. I can remember birthday parties with all of these people there. And she was really good friends with Marvin Gaye. He used to come over and take me to the arcade when I was a kid.”

Patrice Holloway, ‘Black Mother Goose,’ 1972, produced by David Janssen, Bob Engemann and Clarence McDonald

It was during the session for “Black Mother Goose,” issued as a promo single with the recycled “That’s the Chance You Gotta Take” as its B side, when David Janssen noticed Holloway out of sorts, suffering from an undiagnosed ailment “that came and went,” according to Janssen. Never released commercially but only as a DJ promo, now a highly valued collector’s item, “Black Mother Goose” b/w “That’s the Chance You Gotta Take” was Patrice Holloway’s last solo single.

She wasn’t finished working, though. As Spectropop’s Stuffed Animal notes: 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. … 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, Blood, Swear & Tears’s “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.

Patrice Holloway, ‘Love and Desire,’ 1966 Capitol single, written, arranged and conducted by Billy Page, produced by Gene Page

Also, she continued backing other artists and was regularly booked for Las Vegas gigs. But the mystery ailment that had cropped up in those 1972 sessions worsened, and by the mid-‘70s Patrice not only could no longer perform, she also could not handle the business aspects of her career, as she always had. Mental illness, which had afflicted her father, was taking away everything she had worked for.

“When Patrice became ill, everything was gone because she’d handled all of her business,” Brenda Holloway told Dennis Garvey. “When you have a disorder like she had… She was schizophrenic. I think she just did too much. You can overtax your brain, I think. Patrice was a loner and she was kind of private, but she was always independent. I just was never interested in anything, but Patrice was interested in knowing about the world. Getting the property, going to Vegas, she did it all. She was a born star. But she retired early, at about 23.”

The first solo single: ‘The Del Viking (Part 1),’ 1963, written by Brenda and Patrice Holloway, sung by (Little 12-Year-Old) Patrice Holloway

Struck by a fatal heart attack on October 1, 2006, Patrice was 55 years old at her death. “Patrice was very smart,” sister Brenda said in remembering the younger sibling she had been singing with since they were little girls harmonizing in church in the Watts neighborhood where they were raised in Los Angeles. In 1963 she and her sister co-wrote Patrice’s first single, a dance craze number called “Do the Del Viking,” on which she was billed as Little 12-Year-Old Patrice Holloway. “I really admired her. She had so much energy. She was a studio musician. Patrice couldn’t read [music] but if she heard it one time it was like she was reading it. She was phenomenal. She had an ear you could not believe. She just had that gift. It’s a wonderful thing for people to remember her, because she was a super-good person.”

Love & Desire: The Patrice Holloway Anthology is available at

Capitol has released a digital-only collection of some of the label’s choice soul singles from the ‘60s, including some Patrice Holloway cuts. See related story in this issue.

Patrice Holloway, ‘That’s All You Gotta Do,’ 1967, written by Willie Hutch, produced by David Axelrod

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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