I'm With The Band: GTOs And Groupies According To Pamela Des Barres
Left: Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page accompanied by his girlfriend Miss Pamela (Pamela Des Barres) on June 3, 1973 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Richard Creamer/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images). Right: Rolling Stone, February 16, 1969.
For rock stars, groupies are a fact of life -- and in 1969, with sexual liberation reaching a fever pitch, they became a cover story for Rolling Stone. Pamela Des Barres, or "Miss Pamela," was in a groupie group Frank Zappa had dubbed the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) that was featured in the piece. Years later, she revisited her experiences in detail in her memoir I'm With The Band, which became the authoritative inside story of the groupie phenomenon.
Groupies represented the rock star's dream and every parent's nightmare -- these were young women, often very young, who saw themselves as muses and crucial companions to the bohemian performers they idolized. The groupie scene flourished in the late '60s and '70s, in the pre-AIDS, anything-goes era, anything went. Though Des Barres account remains the classic groupie document, the 2000 film Almost Famous and a 2015 book by photographer Baron Wolman, Groupies And Other Electric Ladies, have also shed light on the lurid, often shocking details of how crazy it got in the classic-rock era.
America Learns Of The Groupie Phenomenon
The earliest references to the term ‘groupie’ date back to the ‘40s and a Mary McCarthy novel. However, the term did not become popularized until the late ’60s, thanks to the 1969 Rolling Stone story, with photos by Baron Wolman titled “Manners And Morals: The Groupies.” Soon after the article published, a book by British journalists, Jenny Fabian and Johnny Byrne called Groupie hit bookstores. That’s when the concept really caught hold.
Defining The Term 'Groupie'
In the early days of women flocking to musical men of stature, the bands defined the term "groupie" as more than just a woman who wanted to sleep with a famous man. Apparently, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant made the distinction. According to Plant, Groupies were more like “road wives,” someone who would take care of the man’s wardrobe and social life, as well as enjoyed carnal pleasures.
Life In The Wild Lane
The life of a groupie isn’t easy to describe outside of an HBO documentary. Needless to say, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll were prominently involved. Like many other people, groupies held conflicting views.
Connie Hamzy, also known as “Sweet Connie,” was immortalized in the Grand Funk Railroad song "We're An American Band:"
Sweet, sweet Connie, doin’ her act
She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact
In a 2010 documentary, Hamzy, still enthralled by rock stars, shared her perspective. “Look, we’re not hookers, we loved the glamour,” she said, according the the Los Angeles Times. “We’re getting to hang with celebrities. I’m 55 years old, so I don’t do the things I used to. I don’t look the way I used to. There aren’t women who could do what me or Pamela does. How many songs on the radio have a gal's name in it?”
A Matter of Perspective
However, by all accounts, Hamzy enjoyed more than “glamour,” “Hamzy, unlike the other groupies, was never looking to build relationships. She was after sex, and she unabashedly shared intimate moments with virtually every rock star -- even their roadies -- who came through Arkansas.” One of Hamzey’s favorite memories occurred when introducing Don Henley to the “Mile High Club:”
“I had my eyes closed because that's what you do when you're making love, before feeling another set of hands on me and it was the pilot. Then I realized, who could be flying this thing? Don tells me not to worry, it’s on autopilot,” she said. “My only complaint is they didn’t ask me how I felt. I mean, it can’t be safe to put the plane on autopilot, can it?”
The Groupie Queen
Naturally, when any position is established, even if it is an entirely arbitrary position, people will fight for the top spot. Pamela Des Barres might be the most famous groupie of all time. Her 1987 book, I’m With The Band, detailed her experiences as a groupie and blew the hair off half the men in America. Her list of conquests includes Jimmy Page, Don Johnson, Eddie Van Halen, Woody Allen, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Nick St. Nicholas, Noel Redding, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and many more.
I’m With the Band
Des Barres's book did not exactly receive critical acclaim. Kirkus Reviews described it as “A classic account of rampant narcissism among guitar egomaniacs." The New York Times review was more subtle but equally harsh, proclaiming it "The brightest, sexiest, funniest of... the current outpouring of groupie literature." Despite the harsh reviews, the book did very well, receiving an audio version in 1995 and then reissued as a paperback in 2005.
Tags: Groupies | Pamela Des Barres | Scandals | What Did She Do?...
Like it? Share with your friends!