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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.’"
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."
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.
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).
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.