Who Remembers ‘Club Ponytail’ in Harbor Springs, Michigan?
There were teen clubs all throughout Michigan during the 1960s...too many to mention. TOO many. Best thing to do is mention them, one at a time.
This time around, it's Club Ponytail on Pleasantview Road in Harbor Springs.
The Ponytail's beginnings go all the way back to 1929 when it was created as Club Manitou. It was an upscale dining experience, with some of the best chefs in the country brought in for their specialties. What was never advertised, or even known to the general public, was what went on underneath the dining area – a Prohibition-era speakeasy, where illegal booze flowed to patrons who had special connections to get in. The speakeasy was named “Slim's” after Slim Gerhart, an alleged member of the notorious Purple Gang.
Slim's was prepared for any police raids, which included escape tunnels that would take anyone far enough away in case of any police or G-men interference.
The club lasted through Prohibition and kept going until Michigan's Liquor Commission took away its liquor license in 1954. The club was purchased by the Douglas family, who decided to turn the building into a teen club, influenced by the ever-growing Rock 'n Roll phenomenon. Little did they know that in less than two years, Rock 'n Roll would explode even further - to astronomic levels - when The Beatles debuted in the U.S. In 1964.
The Ponytail wasn't just 'any old' teen hangout where some lame deejay played records.....or a local VFW hall where local bands would play out-of-tune hits of the day. Nope – the Ponytail rounded up some of the hottest Rock 'n Roll bands & performers of the 60s to come entertain kids from all over Michigan. The Beach Boys, the Animals, Shangri-Las, Iggy Pop (with The Iguanas), Bob Seger, Bobby Vinton, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, MC5, Crystals, Turtles, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Vee, Martha & the Vandellas, the Kingsmen, Dee Dee Sharp, the Four Tops, Lou Christie, Brian Hyland, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Peter & Gordon, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Dick & Dee Dee, Freddy Cannon, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, and many, many more all played the Ponytail.
Admission for these shows? Just $2.50 – no booze, no drugs.
Between 1962-1969, any kid close enough to visit the Ponytail was there. Those who lived further away hitched rides, car pooled, or suckered pop to drive 'em up.
Club Ponytail has been noted as one of the first true teen clubs in Michigan. Not only were live shows held inside, but outside as well on their enclosed patio. But it all had to end sometime...unfortunately, sooner than anyone wanted.
It burned down in 1969.