The younger sister of Motown star Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway enjoyed her greatest commercial success in anonymity, contributing the singing voice of Valerie Brown to the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon series Josie & the Pussycats.
Northern soul aficionados nevertheless revere the little-heard but potent series of singles she recorded for Capitol during the mid-'60s. Holloway was born in 1948 in Los Angeles. A child prodigy proficient on guitar, drums, cello, and violin, with siblings Brenda and Wade she was a fixture of her church choir, and as a teen she began writing her first songs, often in collaboration with her sister.
At age 12, Patrice cut her debut single, the dance novelty "Do the Dell-Viking," for the tiny Taste label. The record was a local hit, and while it failed to break nationally, it earned both Holloway sisters entry into the thriving L.A. session scene, and in the years to follow they contributed backing vocals to dates headlined by Johnny Rivers, Ike Turner, and acts on Sam Cooke's SAR label. In collaboration with cousin Patty Hunt, the Holloways also recorded under a series of girl group banners including the Watesians ("I'm Gonna Find Myself a Guy"), the Four J's ("Will You Be My Love"), and the Belles ("Don't Pretend"), the latter featuring Patrice on lead vocals. After Brenda signed to Motown in 1964 and scored an immediate crossover smash with the classic "Every Little Bit Hurts," Patrice was invited to join the label as well -- her Stevie Wonder tribute single "Stevie" appeared on Motown's V.I.P. subsidiary by year's end, but subsequent sessions were shelved and the label terminated her contract in late 1965. (Her unreleased efforts finally surfaced decades later on a number of Motown rarities collections.)
After signing to Capitol in 1966, Holloway teamed with the writing/producing team of brothers Billy and Gene Page. With its upbeat, danceable approach, her label debut, "Stolen Hours," seemed poised for chart success but failed to attract much attention outside of southern California. After the 1967 follow-up, "Love and Desire," met a similar fate, Capitol replaced the Page brothers with legendary staff arranger David Axelrod, a collaboration that yielded the remarkable interracial romance ballad "Stay with Your Own Kind." All three singles later resurfaced as major crowd favorites within Britain's Northern soul revival circuit, but their initial commercial failure spelled the end of Holloway's tenure as a Capitol solo act.
She nevertheless remained on the label payroll as a session singer, appearing on Joe Cocker's hit 1968 cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" before moving to the Ode label to participate in producer Lou Adler's all-star contemporary gospel ensemble the Brothers and Sisters of L.A., performing alongside the likes of Merry Clayton, Edna Wright, and Clydie King on the cult classic LP Dylan's Gospel. Holloway returned to Capitol in 1970 when the label licensed the rights to the Archie Comics characters Josie & the Pussycats to record a bubblegum pop LP in tandem with an upcoming Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon series. In giving voice to tambourine player Valerie, she brought to life the first African-American lead character in American television animation history. Holloway also contributed soulful lead vocals to the program's memorable title theme; her "bandmates" included an aspiring actress named Cheryl Stoppelmoor, who under the name Cheryl Ladd later earned TV immortality replacing Farrah Fawcett on the blockbuster Charlie's Angels.
Recorded with Holloway friends and L.A. session giants like drummer Hal Blaine and bassist Wilton Felder, Josie & the Pussycats' lone Capitol LP fared poorly thanks to marketing snafus, and within just months the prefab group split. Producer Danny Janssen nevertheless convinced the label to retain Holloway as a solo act, and in 1971 he helmed the single "Evidence." Despite her promotional appearance on the television hit Soul Train, the record gained no traction at radio and retail, and its 1972 novelty follow-up, "Black Mother Goose," never progressed beyond the promo stage. Its failure brought to a close Holloway's solo career, although she remained in demand as a session vocalist and composer, especially after "You've Made Me So Very Happy," written in collaboration with sister Brenda years earlier, sold over a million copies and earned a Grammy nomination when covered in 1969 by the group Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Two Holloway compositions, "She's the Ideal Girl" and "Let's Go Back to Day One," appeared on the hit soundtrack album to the 1975 Diana Ross feature film vehicle Mahogany. She also contributed to album sessions headlined by artists as diverse as Neil Young, Billy Preston, and Delaney & Bonnie. Poor health nevertheless plagued Holloway throughout her career, and for decades she suffered from a mystery ailment that would strike as quickly and as mysteriously as it would disappear. After years out of the spotlight, Holloway died October 2, 2006, following a heart attack -- she was 58 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi