"The Partridge Family": A Look Back at TV's Most Popular Musical Family of the 1970s

Herbie J Pilato

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According to journalist Courtney Fox and WideOpenCountry.com, "The Partridge Family won over the hearts of viewers around the world during the '70s with their captivating musical numbers, heartfelt family moments, and laugh-out-loud comedy. The show had everything you could ever hope for -- the teen heartthrob, feel-good music, and a story that the whole family could enjoy together."

As Fox continued to report, "The TV series was inspired by the Cowsills, a real family band that rose to fame in the 1960s. Though there were rumors that members of the Cowsills band would star in the show, Shirley Jones was the cast as the matriarch, Shirley Partridge. After all of the kids were on board, the sitcom debuted on ABC on September 25, 1970. The show ran for four seasons, had a No. 1 debut single on the Billboard chart with 'I Think I Love You," Golden Globe nominations, Grammy nominations, 13 studio albums, and even an animated spinoff on CBS. There were numerous notable guest stars over the years as well, including Jodie Foster, Rob Reiner, Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, Ray Bolger, Mark Hamill, and Dick Clark." 

Sadly, David Cassidy, the show's main heartthrob (and Jones' stepson in real life), "suffered from alcohol addiction," noted Fox. As such, the entertained "retired from performing in 2017 when dementia was making him forget the words to his songs during performances. Later that year, he passed away at the age of 67 from liver failure. Cassidy had two children, including daughter Katie Cassidy who followed in her father's footsteps and became an actress." 

As Fox went on to explain, when Jones played Shirley Partridge, the widowed mother of five, she was wed to David Cassidy's father, Jack Cassidy, off-screen. "She bonded with her stepson while they starred on the show together," Fox chronicled. "In the years since the show wrapped, Jones released six of her own studio albums and has had numerous TV appearances on shows like Melrose Place, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, That '70s Show, Raising Hope, Cougar Town, and General Hospital. She's also continued to appear on the stage in productions like The King and I, 42nd Street, and The Music Man." 

As Fox further noted, 17-year-old Susan Dey "booked the role of Laurie Partridge with no prior acting experience. Dey developed feelings for her onscreen brother Cassidy while filming. They even pursued a relationship after the show wrapped, but Cassidy cut things off, claiming he didn't feel the same way. Dey continued appearing in films and television, including starring as Grace Van Owen on L.A. Law, a role that earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress."

"Little redhead Danny Partridge was the bass player in the family band," Fox chronicled. He was played by Danny Bonaduce. "In 2003," Fox relayed, the "Young Artist Foundation honored Bonaduce with its Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award for his performance as Danny. Bonaduce continued appearing on TV shows, including Married...with Children, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, The Drew Carey Show, and CHiPs. He later turned to radio and hosted the morning show on 102.5 KZOK Seattle.

As Fox also observed, actress Suzanne Crough portrayed Tracy Partridge, the youngest member of the family band who played the tambourine. "Crough only made a few more TV appearances," Fox noted, "...including The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and the TV film Children of Divorce in 1980. Following her acting career, Crough graduated from Los Angeles Pierce College. During a 2010 reunion with her old co-stars on The Today Show, she disclosed that she was the manager of an Office Max in Arizona. Sadly, Crough passed away in 2015."

"Jeremy Gelbwaks technically originated the role of drummer Chris Partridge in season 1," Fox continued to reveal. But he was replaced by Brian Forster in seasons 2-4. "Following his child star days," Fox explained, "Forster moved to North Carolina and became a race car driver. He has also continued to appear in community theater productions."

As to the family's affable manager, Reuben Kincaid, that role was played by character actor Dave Madden. As Fox concluded, Madden "grew close with his young co-star Danny Bonaduce. He even let him live in his home because of some issues with the Bonaduce family. He was already a successful actor before The Partridge Family and Madden kept acting after the show ended. He appeared on Bewitched, Happy Days, The Love Boat, and Barney Miller, and had a recurring role on Alice as a customer of Mel's Diner. Madden passed away in Jacksonville, Florida in 2014."

To read more about The Partridge Family, click here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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