Tom’s Book Review: When We’re Singin’

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, June 16th, 2018



This summer author Johnny Ray Miller invites you to take a magical bus ride down memory lane with his terrific book on TV’s first family garage band The Partridge Family. This book is an enjoyable journey and a must read that is sure to evoke fond memories for anyone who grew up watching the show.
When We’re Singin is a story of the groundbreaking landmark TV series that launched the career of teen idol David Cassidy. The author does a remarkable job revealing behind-the-scenes stories of The Partridge Family from beginning to end and puts a serious focus on the music, which has never been done before in a detailed and quite revealing biography.
The show premiered on Friday, September 25th, 1970, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC and introduced the public to a fictional musical family starring David Cassidy as Keith, Susan Dey as Laurie, Danny Bonaduce as Danny, Jeremy Gelbwaks & Brian Forster who both played Chris and Suzanne Crough as Tracy. Rounding out the cast was the talented comedian Dave Madden who played Reuben Kincaid their manager.
The television show capitalized on the star power of Academy Award winning actress Shirley Jones who played the mother and who in real life was married to Cassidy’s father Jack.
When We’re Singin’ is Miller’s first book and he did a remarkable job penning an incredibly detailed and comprehensive story. This book is so well-researched, and you can tell from Miller’s writing that he was a fan, he really managed to capture the essence of the show and its music. His attention to detail is awe inspiring as he dug deep, unearthing the stories and inspiration of nearly all of the surviving songwriters who wrote for the show.
The real background singers finally get to tell their stories which I found intriguing. During the four year run of the show The Partridge Family never made it to the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings, however the music that came out of the show did make it on the Billboard charts. The television show spawned 10 record singles, 10 albums and created a teen idol in David Cassidy who went on to break attendance records in concert sales and amass huge fan clubs in the process.
Johnny Ray Miller, a native of Canton, Ohio, has been an aficionado of The Partridge Family television program and their recorded music from the show’s beginning. Miller is a concert and theatre producer, actor, and director. He has produced and directed live theatre for more than 25 years, and has presented live concert performances by David Cassidy, Davy Jones and many others.  Miller also has experience in the film/TV industry as well, having worked on Desperate Housewives, Rules of Engagement, King of Queens, CSI: New York, E.R., Cold Case, Without a Trace, The O.C. and others.. Reading the book you can see the great respect and care Miller had paying tribute to all the incredibly talented singers, actors, musicians, songwriters, executives and crew members who worked on both the show and the music.
The music from the TV show (loosely based on The Cowsills) also stood on its own, thanks to the talents of the greatest singers, musicians and musical arrangers. John Bahler, Tom Bahler, (formerly The Love Generation), with Jackie Ward and Ron Hicklin were the real background voices. Musical legends known as The Wrecking Crew including drummer Hal Blaine, guitarists Denis Budimir, Louie Sheldon, Tommy Tedesco, Joe Osborn and Max Bennett all played on these intricately and brilliantly arranged albums, led under the direction of music producer Wes Farrell.
The greatest songwriters of the day wrote original music for The Partridge Family albums including Bobby Hart, (producer, The Monkees)  Mike Appel & Jim Cretecos, (producers, Bruce Springsteen), Terry Cashman & Tommy West, (producers, Jim Croce) Danny Janssen, Irwin Levine, L. Russell Brown, Paul Anka, Rupert Holmes, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Mark James and the legendary Tony Romeo who penned the Partridge Family #1 smash hit from 1970, I Think I Love You.
I was curious how the producers came up with a sound that was reflective of that period of time and also be commercially successful? That question was answered as well as many, many more. In the end the Partridge Family’s music turned out to be an easy listening-adult contemporary sound that was ideal for the early 1970’s pop culture scene.
The book chronicles the show from its inception all the way through the final season and beyond. There are more than 100 interviews as the author delved into the heart of the show, which was the music, and explores the band’s unique sound.
Another interesting thing I enjoyed learning about was the Partridge Family Bus and the unique role it played in the show.
One of the things that really stood out to me was how the book features a track by track commentary on all of the songs from every recording sessions including the unreleased songs and the various versions of each song, and even uncovers some lost verses of never-before-released songs from the show.
Nearly all the surviving musicians who played on The Partridge Family records offered up stories, reflections and commentary especially for this book. Many of them have never been interviewed about The Partridge Family before.
Author Miller addresses one of the key issues that I’ve had heard over the years that the show was based on the Cowsills which was a family musical group from Rhode Island that had some hit songs in the late 1960’s like; Hair, Indian Lake and the Rain, the Park & Other Things. It turns out they were merely one of the three inspirations that influenced series creator Bernard Slade.
In Chapter 0ne titled: The Breezy Beginning  you will learn how the producers came up with what would be the distinctive Partridge Family sound which was critical to their success. That all started to come together once Wes Farrell came on board. It turns out Farrell was a prominent force in the music business -especially music oriented towards teens. Some of his successful pop hits of the 60’s were  Come A Little Bit Closer, and Hang On Sloopy.
While reading the book (and learning how the songs were written) I would go to You Tube and watch clips from the show.  That really helped to better understand how everything worked by seeing the finished product come to fruition.
After watching well over a dozen clips I came away impressed that those songs were really good and hold up well to this day.  In the end after you read When We’re Singin’ you’ll be yearning to listen to those tunes again.
This limited edition hard back book is 467 pages and includes a 64-page full color photo section with never-before-seen photos from the personal collections of the cast.
So get your copy today and like the theme song of the show used to say “Come On Get Happy.”
Tom can be contacted at


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