Since Ricky Nelson made his singing debut and became a teenage idol on “The Ozzie and Harriet Show,” television producers have devised ways to capitalize on music vis-a-vis the family situation comedy, with some success.
Their latest innovation, “The Partridge Family,” premiered Friday on ABC, and may have the pizzaz to succeed where others have failed.
One reason is its youthful costar, David Cassidy — a bright, brimming actor-musician — who will carry the ball in the music department just as Ricky Nelson — now but a rerun memory — did in less sophisticated, bygone years.
The other reason is the show’s unorthodox theme: a family of youngsters ages 5-17 makes the big-time in rock ‘n’ roll, and, led by their mother — in real life David’s stepmother — Shirley Jones, tour club dates as the Partridge family aboard a psychedelic bus.
Like the popular Monkees’ TV show of a few years back — which borrowed heavily on the success of the Beatles’ Marx Brothers parody in the film “A Hard Day’s Night” — the Partridges will release several youth-oriented songs during the season. Bell Records, a division of Columbia Pictures, has launched an expensive campaign to promote this music.
Stars in the cast
Already, their first release, “I Think I Love You,” has made headway on the market charts. And an album of Partridge music will be released shortly after the half-hour program’s debut.
No one can deny Miss Jones’ indefatigable talent. The Rodgers and Hammerstein sweetheart of the movie versions of “Oklahoma! ” and “Carousel” has been awarded and rewarded for her many accomplishments in the theatrical arts — including an Oscar for her role as Lulu Baines in “Elmer Gantry.”
Her stepson, David — son of Broadway star Jack Cassidy — is not totally without references either. He commanded a co-starring role in the ‘Alan Sherman Broadway musical “The Fig Leaves Are Falling,” and has been seen on TV in “Ironside,” “The Survivors,” “Marcus Welby,” “Adam 12,” “FBI” and “Bonanza.”
“Partridge” producer Screen Gems feels he is destined to be the next teenage idol in the rock world. At 20, the 5-foot-8, 130-pound star has been a prime target for teen and pre-teen magazine publishers in recent months.
Cassidy said the show is “a stepping stone” to help him in his music career, not in acting which he said is “just an experience.” A guitarist since he was 11 and a drummer of sorts, he said he has become “disillusioned” by Hollywood glamour.
“The image is not a good image,” he said in an interview. “Everyone wants to be a heavy, but there are no heavies.”
But he said he liked the new show because it is different, fresh and offers him the opportunity to play guitar and sing. “Whatever creative freedom I have I’d like to take advantage of,” he said.
“A lot of family shows you see on television are very stale and not really funny,” Cassidy said. “Our scripts are not like that.”
Cassidy said the show is not trying to convey a message. “It’s music and comedy first; it’s fun and good times,” he explained. “People who want to see bad times-murders and violence, people dying and beating each other up — can see enough of that on the street.”
Neither does his music try to convey a message: “I’m not out to get it altogether for everyone else, just for me,” he said. “If people want to listen to what I’m saying, that’s okay; I’m not trying to preach anything or right anyone else’s wrongs. I’ll leave that to other people.”
The music, produced by Wed Farrell, is what Cassidy called “sophisticated blues rock” that “at times gets right down to it, right there, and at other times, it’s Mamas & Pa- pas-type stuff with lots of harmony and flow.”
The Partridge Family & David Cassidy’s music
Influenced by blues and stars like Chicago, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and B. B. King. (albeit there admittedly is “little blues” in his music), Cassidy said the music of the “drug culture” is mostly nonsense, without messages.
“Bob Dylan was the one who had a lot to say. And the Beatles? What did they mean? That’s so ridiculous,” Cassidy said. “Who cares, man?”
“The Beatles are fantastic,” he said. “Their contribution to contemporary music is incredible; there’s no getting away from it.
They did some really far-out things in a recording studio — utilizing what they had. “But you don’t have to look into it. All you have to do is listen — there’s nothing to find — just listen to it,” he said.
But the drug messages of other artists? “I must say, music has never stimulated me by hearing anybody telling me about mushroom clouds,” Cassidy said.
He’s outspoken on other issues as well. Like all concerned youth, he is touched by the war in Indochina.
“It’s not the politics to me, it’s the people,” he said. “It’s necessary (to end the war) because it’s more than a crime; it’s incredible to think that people can’t learn to live with one another because everybody just doesn’t think the same — and people just can’t cope with that.”
With 11 episodes of “The Partridge Family” filmed, one on location at Las Vegas, Cassidy said he feels the show will make it.
“The competition is stiff,” he said referring to “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Name of the Game” in the same time slot. “But the show is good enough that it can prevail over anything,” he said. “It really is.”