Partridge Family, The

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Partridge Family, The

Partridge Family, The , TV version of a family rock band. Membership: Shirley Jones, voc. (b. Smith-ton, Pa., March 31,1934); David Cassidy, voc. (b. N.Y.C., April 12, 1950). Like The Monkees before it, The Partridge Family turned pop music into a TV situation comedy. Also like The Monkees, none of the people on the screen actually played an instrument—and only two of them really sang. Also like The Monkees, the Family’s ersatz pop was immediately successful and reaped enormous benefit to the Screen Gems TV studio.

Loosely based on a real family band, The Cowsills, the show cast Shirley Jones as Shirley Partridge, a widowed mother of five who lets her kids convince her that the family should be a band. Jones came from a musical theater background, and acted in the filmed version of Oklahoma! and The Music Man, among others. She starred with her own stepson, David Cassidy—the only other singing Partridge—as Keith. The rest of the actors included Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough and Jeremy Gelbwaks, who was replaced by Brian Foster after the first season. The program debuted in the fall of 1970. Like The Monkees, every episode featured two full songs, written by Brill Building stalwarts like Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin, and Mike Appel (several years before he’d manage Bruce Springsteen). The material was a slight cut above the standard bubblegum issue, but definitely geared to the prepubes-cent girls the Keith Partridge character was created to attract. The first episode featured the group cutting a demo of “I Think I Love You.” The song zoomed to the top of the charts and stayed there for three weeks, going gold. It propelled The Partridge Family Album to #4 and gold.

During the show’s first season, the “group” had two more hits: “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” also went gold and rose to #6; “I’ll Meet You Halfway” went to #9. The album Up to Date also went gold and hit #3. Even before the fall season began in 1971, the song “I Woke up in Love This Morning” started getting airplay, but it only reached #13. “It’s One of Those Nights (Yes Love)” fared poorer still, reaching #20. However, the album The Partridge Family Sound Magazine went to #9 and gold, and the show’s ratings continued to be high.

Cassidy’s character, Keith, proved so popular he released a solo recording. His first single, “Cherish,” topped the adult- contemporary chart, hit #9 pop, and went gold. But what really brought in the big bucks was the enormous amount of licensing and merchandising opportunities the show presented. By the second season, there were Partridge Family products of every description, generating half a billion dollars. While negotiating with Screen Gems for a piece of this action, Cassidy spent his time acting on the show by weekday and touring for his solo career weekends. Eventually, he and Screen Gems came to terms that made him one of his time’s best-paid performers.

The hits kept coming through the early 1970s for both the “group” and Cassidy, though not with the strength of their early hits. Cassidy scored with “Could It Be Forever” (#37) and “How Can I Be Sure” (#25) before the end of the show’s second season in the spring of 1972. At the same time, The Partridge Family Shopping Bag went gold and rose to #18. During the 1972–73 season, Cassidy only managed one hit, “Rock Me Baby,” which stalled at #38. The Partridges scored two hits that season, “Breaking up Is Hard to Do” in the fall of 1972 and “Looking through the Eyes of Love” in the winter of 1973. Their Greatest Hits album went gold, topping out at #21.

After the fourth season, Cassidy—already at odds with his character—left the show. The producers decided that without him, there was no show, and pulled the plug. Cassidy tried a dramatic role, but the Keith Partridge image ran too deep. He withdrew even further after his father died in a fire in 1975. Six years later, he came out of seclusion to tour in a revival of the George M. Cohan show Little Johnny Jones in 1981. He followed this with a role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1983. In 1990, Cassidy released Didn’t You Used to Be, a solo album of more mature material that met with lukewarm success, taking the minor hit “Lying to Myself” to #27 in the pop charts. In 1993, he returned to the stage with his half-brother (and fellow former teen idol) Shaun Cassidy and Petula Clark in the show Blood Brothers. He signed a long-term contract to appear in a show in Las Vegas called EFX in the late 1990s, releasing a record on his own label called Old Trick, New Dog in 1998.

Susan Dey fared better in drama, making several feature films and TV movies before landing a role in the series L.A. Law during the 1980s. Danny Bonaduce endured his own post-stardom substance-abuse problems, but came out of them with his sharp wit intact. He spent much of the 1990s as a radio personality, and even had his own syndicated TV talk show. To date, The Partridge Family has sold some 25 million records worldwide.


The Partridge Family Album (1970); The Partridge Family Sound Magazine (1971); Up to Date (1971); The Partridge Family Shopping Bag (1972); The Partridge Family Notebook (1972); Crossword Puzzle (1973); Bulletin Board (1973); The World of The Partridge Family (1974); The Partridge Family (1971); A Partridge Family Christmas Card (1992).

—Hank Bordowitz