The Pixies Three, a recording and touring act that included four young women from Hanover, Pennsylvania, was and still is my favorite girl group.
Debby - Kaye - Midge
Debby Swisher, Kaye McCool, Midge Bollinger, and Bonnie Long, four fresh faced, talented high school friends, epitomized the ideals of young America...the America of the early 60's that so many of us loved and sorely miss!
Top to Bottom:
The Pixies Three had everything going for them: girl-next-door looks; pure, clear voices; excellent material; and access to the producers and musicians at the Brill Building hit factory, including a teenaged Leon Huff who served as the Pixies' rehearsal pianist. Huff went on to partner with Kenny Gamble and form the Gamble-Huff dynasty, the record production team that patented The Sound of Philadelphia. The Pixies scored a top 40 hit with their initial release "Birthday Party" and were seemingly on their way to becoming one of the leading girl groups in the country.
Midge left the group and was replaced by Bonnie. The new Pixies lineup continued to release fine recordings, but two of their singles lost traction on the trade chart when indecision by radio stations over which side was better resulted in the split play phenomenon.
Debby - Kaye - Bonnie with Terry Stafford
By the mid 60's, The Pixies Three had met, worked and toured with some of the biggest pop stars of the era.
Debby - Kaye - Bonnie
When Debby, Kaye and Bonnie graduated from high school the group broke up.
Debby Swisher was kind enough to give me a fascinating account of her post-Pixies singing career. “When Mercury records didn’t pick up the Pixies option, contractually, to continue, we went our separate ways," Debby told me. "With the huge help of my Mom, (she should get Mom of the Century, in my book), I landed my own recording contract at Boom Records. Yep, they released one 45 record with me as a solo: 'You’re So Good To Me' b/w 'Thank You and Good Night.'"
"As a result of this solo effort," Debby continued, "I got a call from another girl group, The Angels. ('My Boyfriend’s Back,' 'Till,' 'Cry, Baby, Cry,' 'Thank You and Good Night.') They needed a lead singer (to replace Toni Mason who had replaced Peggy Santiglia) and after a few bars of singing at my audition, I was hired on the spot. It was good-bye Hanover, Pa, Hello, New York City! Being the lead singer in a full time, working, nationally acclaimed group was the pay off to all those hours of singing scales, diction lessons, etc. that I did as a kid. (Thank you Mom!) We signed a new record deal on RCA. After two and a half years recording and traveling the world I quit the Angels and soon after that was singing six nights a week, four hours a night with my own live band.”
Fast forward to 1991. At the urging of former classmates, The Pixies Three reunited that year and sang at their 25th high school reunion. They have continued to perform together ever since. In addition to live concerts, the reunited Pixies Three returned to the studio, recording updates of their old hits, vintage covers, as well as contemporary material.
The Pixies Three in the 1990's: Kaye - Debby - Bonnie
In 2000, Debby departed The Pixies Three to focus on her solo career and the long lost Midge rejoined as lead singer. “It was probably right for me to leave the group when I did," wrote Debby, "just so Midge could have a chance to sing again!”
As Pixie Kaye McCool informed me, “Midge is really enjoying it and is doing an outstanding job as lead.”
The Pixies Three current lineup, front to back:
Midge - Bonnie - Kaye
Although they are scattered far and wide around the country, The Pixies Three get together for concert dates several times a year, performing at venues up and down the East coast, New England and in the York-Hanover area.
“It is always very special to entertain close to home,” Midge told me. “It’s been a blessing to be able to be a Pixie not once but twice in my life. I’m having the time of my life. God has truly blessed me with this opportunity to perform once more after such a long hiatus. I wish I had never left the group when I did. If we only knew then what we know now."
Midge then proceeded to bless me, bless all of us with what I consider to be one of the greatest personal quotes ever to come out of the rock ‘n roll era:
“I’ve never lost the breath of rock n roll soul that I received singing as a young girl.”
Rock on, Midge, and thank you very much for giving it to us straight from the heart!
Kaye, Midge, Bonnie and Debby, the four women who made up The Pixies Three, personified all that was good and right about early 60's America. While some girl groups dressed tough and sang melodramatic downer songs about tragedy and death, The Pixies gave off a positive vibe. They maintained a clean, fresh, wholesome image and their recordings exploded with youthful energy and exuberance. You could actually hear the girls smiling as they sang, and their songs consistently revolved around the theme of having good clean fun with friends. Along with their family-friendly image and uplifting material, The Pixies' singing was simply awesome. Countless hours of vocal training were reflected in their perfect diction, melismatic artistry and glorious harmonies.
The Pixies were a local success story - Hanover schoolmates who worked hard and made their mark as one of the best girl groups in music history. It's gratifying to know that they are still in the game - still making music, still doing live performances, still delighting fans.
We can all learn valuable lessons from The Pixies Three. Think young and act young and you will stay young. Use it and you won't lose it. The Pixies also remind us, as does the hit TV series Glee, that cool is in the eyes, ears, mind and heart of the beholder. Just be yourself and do your own thing and you will find an audience. The Pixies Three were part of the solution back then and they still are now. They espouse a philosophy that is more meaningful today than ever before. The world is depressing enough, so why not sing a happy song?
Have a Shady day!
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