12 uncovered truths about the 'The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries'

Meet the Justin Biebers and Selena Gomez of 1977.

Image: The Everett Collection

Long before Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, there were Frank Hardy, Joe Hardy and Nancy Drew. The teenage detectives date back to the 1920s and '30s. Generations of American youth grew up reading their novels under the covers, as the characters evolved with the times.

In January 1977, the precocious sleuths jumped from the page to the screen, when The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries premiered on ABC. At first, episodes of Hardy Boys Mysteries would alternate with Nancy Drew Mysteries. The following year, they would join together and combine the titles. By season three, Nancy was phased out and the series simply became The Hardy Boys. The trio took on every baddie imaginable, from jewel thieves to Dracula. 

Budding Gen Xers ate it up, and swooned for heartthrob Shaun Cassidy, who starred as Joe Hardy. The singing son of Shirley Jones and half-brother to David Cassidy, Shaun became a pin-up sensation overnight, the Bieber of his time, selling millions of records. His pop idol status coincided with the show's success. By the time the Eighties rolled around, both fads were pretty much done.

Let's dig into the case of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.

1. Cassidy lost his first Hollywood audition to Ron Howard.


Young Shaun's first audition was for the lead in the John Wayne movie The Shootist. He lost out to Happy Days star and former Mayberry native Ronny Howard. No worries: The Hardy Boys was his second-ever audition.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Jamie Lee Curtis auditioned for the role of Nancy Drew.


The young daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh was still a student at the University of the Pacific when she tried out for the teen sleuth. She lost the gig, naturally, but did appear in the season-one Nancy Drew tale "Mystery of the Fallen Angels." The soon-to-be Halloween star appeared alongside another eventual horror icon — Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. The fictional sleuths met for the first time on the TV show.


When the trio teamed up in the season-two premiere, it was the first time the literary legends met. Oddly, the characters, all products of the children's book publisher the Stratemeyer Syndicate, never crossed paths in the novels. After the successful TV series, they would become partners on the page, as well.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Pamela Sue Martin left the show once they crossed over.


Martin was not thrilled to share the spotlight and magnifying glass with Tiger Beat dolls Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy. To make matters worse, Martin was credited as a guest star in the episodes — despite playing a title character. She left the show and was replaced by Janet Louise Johnson.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Another young TV star played drums for Shaun Cassidy.


While the show was in production, Cassidy's music career soared. He filled arenas with screaming tweens. Keeping the beat for hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" was drummer David Jolliffe, who played a student with a distinctive red afro in the drama Room 222.

Image: ABC

6. Cassidy earned $15,000 per week on the show, but pulled in seven figures for merchandise royalties.


Fifteen grand a week was nothing to sneeze at for a young man in 1977, but his acting salary paled in comparison to the cash he raked in from watches, lunch boxes, pajamas and posters. He earned millions in 1977 from merchandise, according to People magazine.

Image: gdawg / eBay

7. Fans sent Shaun Cassidy their report cards.


"As a result Cassidy may be the only pop star whose junior high fans send him their report cards for approval," his People cover story revealed in 1978.

Image: People Magazine

8. Book authors Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene were not real people.


Earlier we mentioned the Stratemeyer Syndicate. It was a small factory of low-paid writers who pumped out pages with no credit. "Dixon" and "Keene" were pen names. The actual ghostwriters earned a mere $125 and signed away rights to the books. 

9. Cassidy recorded one of the strangest David Bowie covers on his final album.


His first two albums made the Top 10 on Billboard, but by album five, Cassidy couldn't even crack the Top 200. His final album, the totally ignored Wasp, tried to rebrand him as an edgy new-wave singer. He covered Talking Heads and Bowie's "Rebel Rebel." It's, um, interesting. Click the link to listen.

Image: Warner Bros. Records

10. Parker Stevenson went to Princeton.


The brains behind Frank Hardy could probably solve mysteries in real life. Stevenson (born Richard Stevenson Parker) graduated from the Ivy League school in 1976 with a degree in architecture.

Image: The Everett Collection

11. The Hardy Boys lived on the same street as the Beaver.


The house on the show was located on Universal Studio's famed Colonial Street, where the Cleaver's second home from Leave It to Beaver once stood. The Hardy Boys house is known as the "Johnson Home," and was also used on Tom Hanks movie The 'Burbs.

Image: The Everett Collection

12. Pamela Sue Martin left showbiz to travel America in a Volkswagen.


Martin later joined the cast of Dynasty. However, after season three of the soap, she quit the show, and the biz. According to a People profile, she joined a polo team, reared horses and drove around the country in a Volkswagen minibus with her young son. Eventually, she set down her roots in Hailey, Idaho. “I think I needed to replenish my inner self," she said.

Image: The Everett Collection



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Dario 13 months ago
If I remember correctly, Pamela Sue also complained about the salary she was getting at the time that she did this, which led to her departure. Plus, there were rumors that early success went to her head when the series first aired on ABC.
EricFuller 52 months ago
Another uncovered truth. Steve Gustfason, who was on The Electric Company auditioned to be one of the Hardy Boys.
CheriCorwin1 59 months ago
Mulligan's Stew had Suzanne Crough (Tracy Partridge) among the kids
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