Super Fans: Music Groupies Reveal All
Have you ever wondered what it was really like to be a music groupie during the wild rock ‘n’ roll days of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s? Years later, some of the infamous mistresses and muses of the most notable bands of all time are finally shedding some real light on the groupie lifestyle.
Beyond sharing juicy details about the stars, they are opening our eyes to their own stories. Were these groupies more than the common stereotype of sex-crazed airheads willing to do anything for a glimmer of fame? Let’s find out!
Groupies Supplied Creative Inspiration
One self-proclaimed muse who sparked creativity in Keith Moon was a dynamic woman named Pamela Des Barres. She describes Keith as "a needy soul" who would wake up screaming at times. At the time, she believed it was her duty to care for him, and she was proud to be his "L.A. girl."
About the word "groupie," Pamela has some opinions. She said that while she did engage in sexual relations with Mr. Moon, her role was more than that. "[Groupies are] friends, helpers, assistants, guides…we wanted to uplift and enhance these people that moved us so much."
Drugs Were Normal
While she was touring with The Rolling Stones, former groupie Chris O’Dell’s drug habit became a serious problem. Keith Richards was impressed that she could handle drugs in large quantities "just like a guy," but the fun quickly turned into an addiction.
O’Dell told ABC News that after the tour, "…I kept on going by basically trying to find the perfect high, trying to find the perfect balance." She revealed that drug use among the band was extreme but normal, and it proved to be a difficult habit to stop for most of them.
Some Groupies Became Employees
Groupie Chris O’Dell became an official part of the music business when Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ press agent, invited her to work for Apple headquarters. She quickly went from clipping newspaper articles about the band to being George Harrison’s personal assistant.
About going to Derek’s place, she gushed, "…there were John and Yoko sitting there, and it was the most fabulous day, because they went from being like these magazine photos…to being real live people." About her job, O’Dell said, "I worked really hard, and I became a friend."
Consensual Relationships Were the Rule
It’s important to note the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns to stop the abuse of power by men in positions of power wouldn’t have been relevant for groupies. Author and former groupie Pamela Des Barres commented, "A whole lot of the women, most of them, who were involved in rock ’n’ roll and considered groupies put themselves there. They wanted to be with these guys."
She went on to say, "They [the women] didn’t have to fight anyone off; it was quite the opposite!" She strongly believes all the groupies "wanted to be there" and "were very happy about the fun they had" with the band members.
Groupies Witnessed Key Historical Moments
Chris O’Dell witnessed George Harrison confessing to Ringo Starr that he was in love with his wife, among other historic moments. As she recalls, Starr responded with "Well, better you than someone else." She was also present for the last Beatles’ performance ever.
As she sat next to Yoko Ono and Maureen Starkey, O’Dell reminisced, "It was freezing cold…it was exciting to think originally the idea was that they were doing it so that everybody in the whole West End of London could hear the music…"
Being a Groupie Was Sometimes Serious
If you ask Lori Mattix about her relationship with the founder of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, she will tell you "I was 15 and totally in love with this man." Page even went so far as to ask Mattix’s mother if he was allowed to date her.
Unfortunately, the relationship ended when she found out Page was sleeping with Bebe Buell. Mattix remembers clearly when she walked in and saw them in bed together. "I looked at him and said, ‘What did you do to me?’ I never trusted him again."
Sometimes Groupies Rescued Musicians
Liv Tyler's mother, Bebe Buell, once came to Steven Tyler’s rescue when he was unable to make it out of a hotel. She recounted, "At 3:00 in the morning, Steven calls and says, ‘Bebe, come get me. I’m at the Pierre hotel, and I can’t walk.’"
Tyler told her that he had taken too many drugs and literally could not walk. Ironically, Buell had recently taken a fireman training course. She further commented, "I threw Steven over my shoulder…and threw him in the bathtub."
Groupies Had Addiction Issues Too
Chris O’Dell doesn’t remember much from 1979 to 1983 because of her drug use, and she freely admits to that poor life choice in her memoir. She claims there was a lot of pressure on her to use drugs in order to not seem "boring."
O’Dell described her rock bottom: "I was supposed to go see my hypnotherapist…and I couldn’t get to the car. I couldn’t get down the stairs of my apartment. I had taken enough Quaaludes that, well, I couldn’t manage the stairs." She points to that day as the one that made her decide to stop using drugs.
It was commonly accepted that groupies were women who followed bands around in hopes of scoring sexual encounters and to be near the limelight. However, former groupies like Chris O’Dell and Pamela Des Barres bristle at the implication that all the women cared about was second-hand fame and sex.
Bebe Buell declared in an interview, "I get really angry at people who just dismiss these girls as whores…They were more than that. They were darling, sweet girls that would greet you at the airport with flowers and invite you to all of these wonderful things."
Some Groupies Became Musicians
The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) formed when Pamela Des Barres and six other women decided to create their own music group. Bebe Buell became a self-made model and singer while maintaining a relationship with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, with whom she had a child (Liv Tyler).
In terms of how her singer/songwriter career got started, Buell credits Patti Smith as being her first strong female influence. She went on to describe Smith as "…super smart. She took one hit of pot, and what would come out of her mouth was like heaven drenched in chocolate. The chick was brilliant."
Modern Celebrity Culture Also Has Groupies
Lori Mattix lost her virginity to David Bowie at 14 while she was still attending high school. That sounds shocking and horrifying, but the times were much different. She said, "You need to understand that I didn’t think of myself as underage. I was a model. I was in love. That time of my life was so much fun."
About the modern celebrity culture, Mattix asserts, "Things haven’t really changed. Look at the Kylie and Kendall Jenners, the Gigi Hadids. They are modern-day versions of teenage groupies…And then there’s Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton...It is just a different era."
Groupies Knew the Musicians Best
Pamela Des Barres, who has a son with rock star Michael Des Barres, had this to say about Mick Jagger: "Jagger was dangerous and safe all at once. It was like hanging out with one of the girls, someone you could confide in."
Des Barres went on to say, "Jagger was a combination of a sexy, funky man and a sweet girl." She also appreciated and was attracted to the fact that Jagger was more on the petite side, saying, "It was like, ‘Wow, this person is right on my level.’"
They Were Sometimes Jealous of Each Other
When asked if she was jealous of other women when she dated rock gods, Pamela Des Barres retorted, "We didn’t ‘date’ back then. But it wasn’t just sex either. I was in love with Chris Hillman. At one point, I thought Jimmy Page might be the one."
Des Barres did admit to having feelings of jealousy when the musicians slept with other women, "But I realized that was the world I was living in. You had to accept it or go home, and I wasn’t about to go home."
Groupies Saw Themselves as Empowered Women
Pamela Des Barres was confronted by an indignant elderly woman while promoting her book, I’m with the Band, on the Phil Donahue show. The woman attempted to shame and attack her for writing a book about her promiscuity as a former groupie.
Des Barres’ response was, "I’m really sorry you didn’t get to sleep with Mick Jagger, and I did." She reports happily that those words "always shut [the negative people] up." She also said, "I never even got a transmittable disease from [sleeping with] a rock star."
Sex Was Considered a Sign of Respect
Although Pamela Des Barres admits that what she did as a teenager decades ago "would be called statutory rape, I assume," she maintains that the women used sex as a way to "show our respect and love to these people for their music." The attitudes were different, and it was a choice they freely made.
Des Barres certainly has opinions about being judged for her former behavior. She ranted, "And so what? What is wrong with some girl getting her kicks for an hour with someone who she’s listened to on her headphones for years on end? Is she hurting anyone? No one was raped by these rock guys."
Some Were in It for the Long Haul
Connie Hamzy has been called "the world’s most notorious rock’n’roll groupie." She began her groupie career by becoming involved with Jerry Edmonton, who was the drummer for Steppenwolf. She was then with Keith Moon of The Who and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
According to Hamzy, or "Sweet Sweet" as she was known, drummers seemed to be the most attracted to her. She also claimed she had a short sexual interlude with Bill Clinton in 1984 in the laundry room of a hotel. Additionally, when she was 50, she had a sexual interlude with Neil Diamond on a tour bus.
Some Groupies Were Troubled
Sable Starr became known as the "queen of the groupie scene in L.A." or "baby groupie" to the musicians who were looking for very young teens to sleep with. At 12 years old, Starr slept with the guitarist from Spirit. By 14, she was sleeping with Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
Why a 12-year-old girl was unsupervised and out on a school night seeking sex with adult musicians is a question for the ages. She was turned down once by Wayne County, and, in response, slit her wrists and attempted to drown herself in the pool.
Motherhood Was the End Result for Some
According to historians, Jimi Hendrix noticed Bebe Buell walking with a friend on the street, and he called out to them, "Hey, girls, you wanna come with us to the show?" They certainly did. Buell went on to have relationships with Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Elvis Costello.
However, her most significant relationship is arguably the one she had with Steven Tyler, who ultimately became her baby daddy for her daughter. Unfortunately, Buell told her daughter, Liv Tyler, that Todd Rundgren was her father for the first 11 years of her life.
Some Groupies Inspired Movies
The movie Almost Famous was inspired by the life of Pamela Des Barres, who became a groupie legend working for musicians like Mick Jagger and Keith Moon. She provided a whole new meaning for the term "band-aid" when she explained to a reporter that groupies took care of the band members in many different ways.
Frank Zappa accelerated Des Barres’ career when he created the minor rock group called The GTOs with Des Barres as the lead singer. The band consisted entirely of groupies. Zappa also hired Des Barres to be a nanny to his children, Dweezil and Moon Unit.
Songs Were Written About Many Groupies
Connie "Sweet Sweet" Hamzy earned her place in music history when Grand Funk Railroad put her name into the lyrics of "We’re an American Band." The line reads, "Sweet, sweet Connie doin’ her act/ She had the whole show, and that's a natural fact."
Hamzy made a living at one point in her life by telling sexually explicit stories about touring on the road with various bands. From The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and The Who to President Bill Clinton and Neil Diamond, Hamzy certainly has a lot of experiences to share, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell all.
Some Groupies Were Very Creative
Cynthia Albritton earned her nickname "Plaster Caster" when she made a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix’s penis for a college art assignment. The assignment the professor had given to the students was to create a plaster cast of "something hard."
Albritton was encouraged and didn’t stop with just one penis. She began making plaster casts of other celebrities’ nether regions, including Wayne Kramer and Jello Biafra. Some of the plaster casts were later made into bronze statues. In 2000, an art gallery in Soho put her molds on display, calling the exhibit "life art."
Groupies Experienced the Worst of Some Musicians
Annette Walter-Lax was, unfortunately, the last person to ever see drummer Keith Moon alive. The pair met at a club and began dating, but Moon was described as "a dangerous and often violent drunk," so their relationship was plagued by turmoil.
In 1978, the pair attended a party thrown by Paul McCartney, and Moon announced he was going to marry Walter-Lax. When the couple got home, they started arguing about breakfast. Keith went into his room alone and overdosed on Heminevrin. Walter-Lax, who hadn’t gone to bed with Moon because she was angry, found him dead the next morning.
Super Groupies Were Real
Super Groupie Cleo Odzer was just 14 years old when she began sneaking into nightclubs with a fake ID to connect with rock stars. She said, "Every two weeks, I had a new boyfriend," and the boyfriends ranged from members of The Rolling Stones to Deep Purple.
When Odzer met Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, she fell in love. Unfortunately, Time published an article calling her "Super Groupie Cleo," which effectively ended the relationship. She responded by releasing a spoken-word album in which she called out all the men she had slept with in the past.
Some Groupies Were Bad for the Band
Anita Pallenberg was a groupie who called herself a witch. She met Rolling Stones' founding member Brian Jones, who was struggling with thoughts that his bandmates hated him at the time. In his emotionally vulnerable state, Jones invited her to go home with him, where he cried while she held him.
Pallenberg eventually got Jones to try psychedelic drugs, which landed him in the hospital. During his hospital stay, she slept with Keith Richards and then pursued a relationship with him that turned into marriage. Jones was subsequently kicked out of the band and later drowned in a pool.
Groupies Could Even Be Deadly at Times
Cathy Smith was a groupie who followed The Band around starting at 16 years old, and she wasn’t particular about who she slept with on her misadventures. She became pregnant and couldn’t identify the baby’s father, so the baby became known as "The Band’s Baby."
Smith began to sell heroin in the 1980s, and she met John Belushi when The Band made an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, one night in 1982, Smith sold Belushi 11 speedballs. By morning, Belushi was dead, and Smith was responsible for the injection that killed him. She spent a little more than a year in prison for her involvement.
Photographers Admired Groupies as Well
Baron Wolman was chief photographer for Rolling Stone in the late 1960s, and he met a lot of groupies when the bands arrived to be interviewed and photographed. In reference to his first impressions, he said, "I first saw them backstage, and I noticed this incredible sense of style of uniqueness."
Today, Wolman remembers the women in much the same light. He said, "I had great affection for every one of the women I photographed. I learned about their lives, their aspirations. I didn’t hit on any of them. I wanted to share what they were doing with the world."
Groupies Influenced Style
According to Pamela Des Barres, who is one of the most famous groupies in history, "It wasn’t all about bedding men. It was more about being around that creative force. We understood and appreciated their music, so they wanted us around." Photographer Baron Wolman said that influence went both ways.
If you ask Wolman, who worked for Rolling Stone magazine and photographed many bands and groupies over the years, many musicians started wearing the same stars and jewelry as the groupies. For proof, he said, "Just look back at the pictures of The Rolling Stones."
Some Remember the Past as a Magical Time
Some critics have vehemently accused male rock stars from the past of statutory rape of young groupies. Others have accused the women who slept with the rock stars of being no better than prostitutes. Regardless, Pamela Des Barres is still very appreciative of that time in her life, and she remembers it fondly.
When asked about over-romanticizing her time as a groupie, she responded, "The reason it’s been eulogized is that it really was a magical, revolutionary time…there was peace and love in the air. So, yes, it’s been mythologized…but it was the most beautiful time."
Nobody Knows Where the Term "Groupie" Came From
Although some say that The Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman came up with the word "groupie" in 1965, he denied it when asked directly. He did admit the band had "code words" for women who followed the band on tour.
Rolling Stone magazine published an issue devoted solely to the topic of groupies — sometimes called "road wives" — in the February 1969 issue called "Groupies: The Girls of Rock." The idea of groupies wasn't new in the ‘60s, however. It dates back to a 1940’s book written by Mary McCarthy called The Company She Keeps. In the years since then, groupies have inspired hundreds of books, movies and articles.
Groupie Isn't a Term Exclusive to the Music World
Although the term is most often applied to diehard fans of a particular music group or musician, groupies crop up in other fandoms and movements too. During the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury space programs, women would often hang out at hotels to meet astronauts — and, allegedly, sleep with them, earning them the groupie label.
Meanwhile, in the sports world, groupies play a role in both the rodeo and hockey fandoms. In hockey, these diehards go by a different name: puck bunnies. According to Canadians — and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary — a puck bunny is often “motivated more by a desire to meet the players than by an interest in hockey."