The story of The Pixies Three begins in 1957, in a small town,  Hanover, PA, with two pre-teens:   Kaye McCool, eleven,  and Debby Swisher, nine.  Both girls lived in the 300 block of Penn Street.  Debby’s house had a large carport or “breeze-way” where the girls hung a curtain to create a stage.  Other kids in the  block were invited to perform in plays and musical acts.  Proud parents and curious onlookers were charged two cents admission to the shows.   When the girls tried a harmony duet of  “Bye, Bye Love”, with Kaye playing ukulele,  the small crowd roared.  Their newly-found confidence prompted them to try out the duet at a local talent show.  They won first prize.  Both girls’ mothers loved the McGuire Sisters and had been in trios in their younger days, so they encouraged Debby and Kaye to find a third girl.  Midge, who was not from “the block,” but lived a few streets away, was recruited to sing “Lollipop,” a current hit in three-part harmony.  The blend was great so the duo became a trio.  Since they all sported “pixie” haircuts, which were popular at the time, they named the group “The Pixies.”

 
 

For the next five years, The Pixies performed at talent shows, service clubs, fairs and carnivals, as well as the Tony Grant's Steel Pier show in Atlantic City, where they met and developed crushes on a boy group, The Two Teens. This friendship led to two appearances on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and, eventually, their record deal. Joe Seddon, one of the group members, told the girls about Talent Night on Thursdays at the Venus Lounge, a club in Philadelphia where walk-on talent was not only welcomed, but frequently discovered, since “famous record producers” often hung out there. In fact, a pair of youthful record producers, John Madara and David White with Mercury Records, were in the audience the night the Pixies performed. They loved the group and promised to send contract information within the next few weeks. The girls thought, “Could it be this easy?”

 

Well, actually, it wasn't that easy.  They never heard from them.  When the song, "Pop, Pop, Popeye", (produced by Madara and White and sung by the Sherrys) was released, the Pixies thought they hired the Sherrys instead.  The girls worked up the song because they liked it and also because they thought they had a better version than the Sherrys.  Dottie thought they should go to Philly to sing it for the two producers.   A few days later, the Pixies walked into the Mercury offices in the Shubert Building in Philly, with no appointment, and were politely told by the receptionist that Mr. White and Mr. Madara were busy all day.  Dottie, undaunted, told the receptionist that she and the girls had driven all the way from Hanover and were not leaving until they heard them sing one song.  (Kaye remembers that she was mortified.  This was the most embarrassing moment in all of her 15 years.  Good thing she wasn’t in charge.)  After a few hours, Madara and White came out to see them and invited them into their office.  The girls sang their version.  Dave White said, "That sounds great!"  Johnny said, "You got the lyrics wrong."  But he must have liked it too, because this time the girls got a contract with Mercury Records.  John and Dave also suggested the name be changed to “The Pixies Three” since  a Baltimore group had previously made a record under the name “The Pixies”. 

 
 

In the spring of 1963, the group began the two and a half hour commute to Philly for rehearsals .  Debby’s mother would  pick up the girls at school and take them to the  Shubert Building on Broad St.,  where they worked on Madara and White-penned songs.  Leon Huff,  who later partnered with Kenny Gamble to create “The Sound of Philadelphia” and Soul Train, was their 16 year old rehearsal pianist.  Huff (who always stood and danced while he played) and the girls were frequently caught clowning and often chastised to “get back to work.”  After a few weeks of rehearsal, the group went to RecoArt, a small Philly studio, to record BIRTHDAY PARTY b/w OUR LOVE (written by Kaye).

 
 

BIRTHDAY PARTY wasn’t an instant hit.  Mercury did not generally put promotion money behind a new artist until the record  “made noise” in a major market.  Since the Pixies Three was  an unknown group, it took lots of phone calls by Dottie and visits by the girls to DJ’s in the Baltimore-Washington and Philly regions to get the record played.  Buddy Dean played it every day on his TV show, "The Buddy Dean Show," driving it to number one in the Baltimore-Washington area. But, gradually, it took off to become a  number one hit in these areas.  When Mercury saw this action, a promotion campaign was started.  Ads were placed  in trade magazines and fan publications, and the group was sent to radio stations in major markets.   BIRTHDAY PARTY  was a big hit, much bigger than a Billboard #40 placing might indicate.   It sold enough copies to make the Top Ten nationally, but didn’t because the sales were spread out over too many weeks to register.  By the time the record  had peaked in Baltimore and Orlando, for example, it was just beginning to get air play in Seattle, San Jose and Toledo.   “For their next record”,  said Morris Diamond, Mercury’s National Marketing Director,  “The Pixies Three  will be a known group whose name the DJ’s will  recognize and play. “  He was right, the DJ’s  played the record, but no one predicted the fiasco they would create

 
 

In November of 1963, DJ’s all over the country were starting to play COLD, COLD WINTER, which entered the charts in mid-December. It began moving quickly up the charts and reached #79 nationally when 442 GLENWOOD AVENUE, the flip side, entered Billboard’s Top 100. Both songs were competing with each other on the pop charts. This method of calculating the top 100 rankings was changed in the 70’s, however the Pixies’ double-sided hit sold more records than Birthday Party, yet it never officially even got into the Top 40!

 
 

In January of 1964, as 442 GLENWOOD AVENUE was fading, the Pixies Three underwent a change in personnel: Midge left the group, Debby took over lead and Bonnie Long, a sophomore in Debby’s class, took over Debby’s high part. The challenges for the new line-up were daunting: Immediately, there was a new single, GEE, to cut and, within a few weeks, their first album. Both the single and album, PARTY WITH THE PIXIES THREE, would be recorded at Mira Sound in New York.

 
 

On February 9, 1964, the girls completed the final take of GEE and returned to their hotel, The Plaza, to change clothes for a night out. They were surprised to find mobs of teenage girls in the streets and the lobby of the hotel. They were giggling and screaming about a new singing group also staying at the hotel, The Beatles. Who are The Beatles? “Just watch the Ed Sullivan Show tonight”, said the desk clerk. Who could have predicted that the Beatles’ appearance that night would change music history forever?

The following week they returned to New York to record their first album, PARTY WITH THE PIXIES THREE. The album would include their hits, the newly minted GEE, and nine party-themed tunes: a George Gershwin song, two written by Leon Huff, three party song covers and three Madara and White-penned songs. Often cited as the best “party” platter ever recorded, it featured not only the talents of the Pixies, but also those of renowned session musicians Trade Martin, Artie Kaplan, Vinnie Bell and the girls’ friend and fellow cut-up, now known as Leon “Fingers” Huff.

 
     
 

Both the single, GEE and the album were released in March, 1964. GEE managed to hit the top 10 in many regional markets but, nationally, only reached #87 in Billboard and #79 in Cashbox. The album, PARTY WITH THE PIXIES THREE, didn’t chart. Why not? By now, The Beatles’ music , and the British Invasion they led, were storming the country, dominating Billboard’s Top 100 chart such that American artists could no longer get air play. Within a few short months, the girl groups and many other American music genres would be history.

 
     
     
 

And so it was with The Pixies Three, who released three additional singles, none of which charted. In the fall of 1965, Mercury did not exercise its option to renew the group’s contract. It looked like The Pixies Three was finished.  But, one week later Cameo Parkway called. “We have a song that we think could be a big hit with The Pixies Three.” They wanted the girls to record a demo at RecoArt in Philly. If the demo was good, they promised to sign the group and go into the studio again, recording the song with a full orchestra. The demo was great, the contracts were prepared and The Pixies were scheduled to record the next weekend. However, two days later, the song was released by Barbara Lewis and rocketed to the top 40 with a bullet in Billboard. The song was MAKE ME YOUR BABY. It became a huge hit for Barbara.

In October, 1965, the girls went their separate ways. It was the end of an era, but a new beginning for each group member. After graduation in 1966, Debby went to New York to become the lead singer for the Angels, replacing Peggy Santiglia. Bonnie took a position as an administrative assistant for an engineering firm and performed with a local band at area clubs. Kaye, who graduated in 1964, with Midge, had already begun her college education.

 
     
     
  Fast forward to 1991. Bonnie, who was an administrative assistant for an engineering firm and was the only Pixie still living in Hanover, was on the reunion committee for the Hanover High class of 1966. The 25th class reunion was coming up and the committee needed entertainment for the event. Bonnie was asked to round up the other group members for a “reunion at the reunion”. Debby , it was learned, was in Oklahoma where she was active in music, singing with her own band. Kaye was found in Virginia Beach, Virginia where she was a corporate executive. Kaye had not sung outside the shower since the break-up. Much to everyone's disappointment, Midge could not be found.  
     
     
 

And so the reunion show with The Pixies Three of Bonnie, Kaye and Debby took place in 1991 and continued in various Oldies venues throughout the eastern US, until an auspicious moment in 1997 when a man came up to the group backstage, five minutes before a performance for 2000 people in Ocean City, MD. “There is someone special here who wants to see you,” he said. “Well, we're getting ready to go on, how about later,” they replied, not wanting to be impolite. And at that moment, Midge walked into view, and the real, complete Pixie reunion took place. After the show and many hugs and congratulations, Midge said, “Well, ladies, if you ever need me, I'm available.”

 
     
     
 

 

So, imagine Midge's surprise when, three years later, she gets a call from Bonnie and Kaye in January of 2000, after Debby decided to leave the group. “Do you know that song, 442 GLENWOOD AVENUE?”

 

Bonnie and Kaye sing, “Come along, come on….” “YES!” said Midge.

 

Midge, Bonnie and Kaye retired the group in 2010, a 20-year run, the second time around.

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