The Poni-Tails were a trio of singers from Brush High School in Cleveland, Ohio, originally formed in 1955. The group consisted first of Karin Topinka, Pat McCabe, and Toni Cistone; LaVerne Novak replaced Topinka in 1957 (reportedly when the latter’s parents objected to her pursuing a musical career).
While seniors in high school, Topinka, McCabe, and Cistone began singing together on something of a whim. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that “there was rarely a canteen party, a dance or a school or civic affair in the Lyndhurst-South Euclid area at which they didn’t entertain.” When it came time to select a group name, they chose a play on “the Crew Cuts,” the name of a famous male singing group.
The Poni-Tails cut a demo record at a local studio in Cleveland, and then released a single on Point Records. They received some help from prominent local disk jockeys, including Bill Randle and Tommy Edwards, in gaining exposure for their work. The single, “Your Wild Heart” backed with “Que la Bozena” (which the group wrote) was a regional hit. They were then signed to ABC-Paramount in 1957.
The Poni-Tails’ biggest hit came in 1958 with the rockaballad “Born Too Late,” about crushing on an older boy. The song made it to #2 on the Billboard charts, sold more than one million copies, and put the group in the national spotlight. They toured internationally and appeared in Alan Freed’s New York stage shows. The group was unable to repeat the success of “Born Too Late.” They took a brief pause in 1958 when McCabe had nodules removed from her vocal cords, and they broke up in 1960 when their three-year contract with ABC ended; the members all pursued other careers. Patricia Barnes died in 1989.
“Your Wild Heart” / “Que La Bozena.” Point P-8 (1957.)
“It’s Just My Luck To Be Fifteen” / “Wild Eyes And Tender Lips.” ABC-Paramount 45-9846 (1957)
“Born Too Late” / “Come On Joey Dance With Me”. ABC-Paramount 45-9934 (1958).
“Seven Minutes In Heaven” / “Close Friends”. ABC-Paramount 45-9969 (1958).
“Early To Bed” / “Father Time.” ABC-Paramount 45-9995 (1959).
“Oom Pah Polka” / “Moody.” ABC-Paramount 45-10027 (1959).
“I’ll Be Seeing You” / “I’ll Keep Tryin’.” ABC-Paramount 45-10047 (1959).
“Come Be My Love” / “Before We Say Goodnight.” ABC-Paramount 45-10,077 (1960).
“Who, When, And Why” / “Oh, My, You.” ABC-Paramount 45-10,114 (1960).
“The Poni-Tails,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12 January 1957.
Tom O’Connell, “Something to Sing About,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 24 February 1957.
Glenn C Pullen, “Footlight Closeups,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4 June 1958.
“Patricia Barnes, Began Poni-Tails Trio in ’50s,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 22 January 1989.
Deanna R. Adams, Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Cleveland Connection (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2002).
Christopher Kennedy, 1950s Radio in Color: The Lost Photographs of Deejay Tommy Edwards (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2011)