×

Bebe Buell, Rock Star Arm Candy And Liv Tyler's Mom, Then And Now

Culture | October 17, 2020

Photo of Bebe Buell circa 1980. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bebe Buell, mother of Liv Tyler, never liked the word "groupie" -- she prefers to describe herself as a "muse" when discussing her serial romantic relationships with rock stars. Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Jimmy Page all fell under Buell's spell, with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler fathering Buell's famous actress daughter. 

Rock and roll means many things to its various practitioners, but for decades now one of the key reasons a teenaged boy will pick up a guitar is to get girls. In this admittedly sexist arrangement, the girls can end up being quite influential, inspiring the love or lust that comes blaring out of speakers turned to 11 -- thus Buell's preference for "muse." Numerous songs were written about her by her rock star lovers, including Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends?" and Costello's "I Want You." While charming her way into the hearts of the most prominent musicians, the "Mother of Rock and Roll" was also tending to her own career as a model and singer. As a symbol of the 1970s, Buell led a life of success, excess and public controversy.

Bebe Buell Got Her Start With The Ford Modeling Agency

Source: LouderSound.com

All the way back to the young age of five, Beverle Lorence “Bebe” Buell was obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll. She considered Mick Jagger (with whom she would later have an affair) her biggest inspiration and would stand in front of the mirror imitating his dance moves. After graduating high school, her passion and beauty led her to agent Eileen Ford of Ford Modeling Agency who signed Buell and relocated her from Virginia Beach, Virginia to the electrifying New York City. Buell immediately became a modeling star in the Big Apple and she immersed herself into Manhattan’s music scene befriending all of the top rockers in the area. Her captivating charisma drew everyone into her presence hoping to at least become her friend.

Buell Did Racier Modeling Than Ford Would Allow

Source: Pinterest

Buell was hanging out and drinking wine with acclaimed photographer Lynn Goldsmith one night, when Goldsmith asked if they could take some “artsy” pictures. “Artsy” was photographer code for “nude” and so Buell was photographed baring it all for the first time. Impressed, Goldsmith brought the pictures to Playboy magazine, who instantly wanted to work with her after admiring her stunning photos. Buell was flown to Chicago to stay at the original Playboy mansion and thus became the first fashion model turned Playboy centerfold and was Miss November 1974. However, Ford Modeling Agency was upset by her nude pictorials, so Buell was fired, but this did not stunt her career as she quickly signed with the Wilhelmina Agency soon after. Her work grew even greater as she posed for Italian & French Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan just to name a few. 

Todd Rundgren Was Buell's Most Significant Rock-Star Relationship

Buell with Todd Rendgren. Source: blogspot.com

Buell was notorious for her many love affairs with top rockers including David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, and the list goes on. Buell was nicknamed “Friend To The Stars” as she befriended (not just dated) all the celebrities she met which even included Jack Nicholson and Andy Warhol. People flocked to her “legendary beauty” and Mick Jagger even once said she would be the woman he would bring if he were to dine with royalty. The most famous of all her relationships was her on-and-off again romance with Todd Rundgren from 1972 to 1978. The pair became known as “rock royalty” compared to the prominent couples like Bianca & Mick Jagger and Angie & David Bowie. 

Buell, Rundgren And Steven Tyler Made A Pact

Buell with Steven Tyler. Source: Pinterest

Scandal ensued with Buell’s accidental pregnancy in 1976 when the father was not her long-term boyfriend Todd Rundgren. Buell was impregnated from her quick fling with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, but realized he would not make the greatest father with his heavy drug abuse during the ‘70s. Buell, Tyler, and Rundgren came to an agreement that Todd would raise the child as her father to provide a more stable family environment. If they felt it was needed, the secret would be revealed when she turned 18. However, their daughter, future model/actress Liv Tyler, became suspicious as she grew older so Buell disclosed the truth about her father when she turned 11 in 1988. Rundgren and Buell’s romantic relationship broke off shortly after Liv was born. 

Buell's On-Again, Off-Again Music Career

Bebe Buell on the cover of her EP 'Covers Girl.' Source: Discogs.com

Throughout Buell’s entire journey, her true goal was to become a singer from the very beginning. Buell and Patti Smith had formed a close friendship and spent wine-filled nights writing poetry and singing together which was why Buell called Smith one of her biggest inspirations. In 1981, Buell finally released her debut EP Covers Girl, produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars and Rick Derringer, with The Cars backing each of the four songs. Two years later, Buell formed a group called The B-Sides and released A Side Of The B-Sides which was produced by her former lover Todd Rundgren. She then broke musical boundaries of the time with The Gargoyles, a hard rock band she fronted during an era where women leading edgy bands was a rare commodity. Buell established a great musical name for herself with The Gargoyles as they toured throughout the United States and The UK, eventually opening up for The Ramones for numerous shows. Nevertheless, news about Steven Tyler’s paternity with Buell broke out in 1991 and forced Buell to back off from the public to focus on her daughter. Buell spent this time managing Liv Tyler’s acting/modeling career, as well as the career of her friend Debbie Harry for a short while. She returned back to music in the mid-‘90s when she released the punk/hard rock single “Retrosexual” and formed The Bebe Buell Band.

Bebe Buell Partly Inspired Penny Lane Of 'Almost Famous'

Source: Punk Globe

Filmmaker Cameron Crowe was so intrigued by Bebe Buell that he used her as an inspiration for his 2000 masterpiece film Almost Famous. The movie revolves around a touring band in the 1970s and their free-spirited groupies (they call themselves “Band-Aids”). Queen groupie Penny Lane of the flick was based off of many of the rock ‘n’ roll women of the era including Pamela Des Barres and Bebe Buell herself. Crowe even named the lead singer Jeff Bebe after Buell. At age 67 Buell still won’t slow down as she spends her time singing and modeling. In 2001 she released an autobiography “Rebel Heart: An American Rock And Roll Journey” all about her life experiences. She can be seen performing around Nashville often where she currently lives with her husband Jim Walters. 

Tags: Bebe Buell | Groupies | Ladies | Then And Now

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Brian Gilmore

Writer

Brian Gilmore has been writing about and studying everything the Internet loves since 2006 and you've probably accidentally read something he's written before, and if you haven't, you're already reading this bio, so that's a good start. He's a culture junkie ranging from Internet culture, to world history, to listening to way more podcasts than the average human being ever should. He's obsessed with the social catalysts that have caused some of the biggest movements of the last few hundred years, including everything from their effect on the pop culture of the time, to where they end up ideologically. The idea that generations have a beginning and an end is fascinating to him, and the fact that their lasting effects at any given point of their evolution can steer the direction of the entire world lead to some interesting questions, and answers, about our current culture at any given time. He also loves retrofuturism, phobias, and the fact that every pop culture icon has at least a few photos of them that make you feel like you might know them. History isn't a collection of stories as much as it is humanity trying its hardest to maintain a grasp on lessons we've learned before as a species, and that is just way too interesting to not look into a few hours a week. Oh and he used to collect Pez dispensers.