Lost Heroes Of Kids’ Music: Michael Lloyd

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The early 1970s saw a dramatic change in Saturday morning cartoons - following the meteoric success of "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies, every new program featured musical interludes "played" by the title characters, in hopes of once more catching lightning in a bottle and releasing a hit record with completely imaginary performers who never threatened to sue over royalties or got drunk in public. The anonymous studio talent behind some of these songs includes some of Hollywood's most dependable hitmakers, including Don Kirshner and Andy Kim. In 1969, Hanna-Barbera debuted "Cattanooga Cats" on ABC. The program was heavily modeled after the successful "Banana Splits" show, but instead of actors in full-body animal suits, the Cats were an animated band of country-rock felines. The songs were primarily written by singer Michael Lloyd. As a teenager, Lloyd was the frontman for one of Southern California's most unusual combos, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Funded by oil heir Bob Markey, who essentially bought his way into the band, the group released five records that veer crazily from soaring Byrds harmonies to clunky Zappa-esque freakouts. Over time, Markey would demand more creative control (even titling the group's last record "Markey: A Group") and the other members would go their separate ways. Lloyd ended up at Hanna-Barbera at the tender age of 17, and paired with Peggy Clinger of the Clinger Sisters proceeded to knock out toothsome bubblegum hits with some audacious counterculture messages mixed in - consider the paean to nudity "My Birthday Suit!" Coupled with Iwao Takamoto's op-art influenced animation, Cattanooga Cats was perhaps too good to survive, and the show was taken off the air after only two seasons. Michael Lloyd eventually became vice-president of A&R at MGM at the age of 20, and went on to produce the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

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