Women being susceptible to the feral charms of travelling musos have a history going back centuries, even before it entered European literature with the medieval troubadours.
All kinds of women, down to the milkmaids and wenches, lusted after those romantic balladeers, but in the best “what-do-you-call-a-muso-without-a-girlfriend? – homeless!” tradition, the lute-strumming Lotharios tended to dispense their favours to high-born ladies and haughty queens.
Not to mention the occasional king – the troubadour Blondel famously rode around Europe when Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned for ransom by the Holy Roman Emperor, playing “their” song outside every castle he came to, until Richard answered him and they were reunited. Er, by “their song”, meaning his and Richard’s, obviously. The emperor preferred light jazz.
Anyway, it all got a bit Judy Garland, until Richard had to pay up, butch up, and go back home to rescue an England suffering horribly under Kevin Costner’s accent.
But we digress. The “patroness” tradition in music continued right through the classical era… Then in the 20th century, rock music and the pill were invented within a decade of each other in the middle of the information age.
And bingo, suddenly determined women with nothing to fear but STDs from all stations in life could be the ones notching up celebrity conquests among the most famous bands, and achieving an enduring fame of their own.
It’s a trend that shows no sign of abating, but from the 60s, 70s and 80s, here are 5 of the most infamous…
#1 – Bebe Buell
Tops the list because of her megafamous daughter with Steve Tyler, Liv Tyler. A fashion model, singer and Playboy centrefold from Nashville, Tennessee, she loathes the label “groupie”, so she probably would’ve dated Tyler, Jimmy Page, Todd Rundgren, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Paul Cowsill and Mick Jagger even if they’d been accountants.
#2 – Sable Starr
In contrast, Sable Starr revelled in the label. Claiming to have been deflowered at age 12 by Randy California from the band Spirit, she installed herself as “queen of the baby groupies”. After running away from home at 16 in the early 70s, she also worked her way through the New York rock scene, allegedly bedding Jagger, Pop, Bowie, Alice Cooper, Marc Bolan and Rod Stewart.
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#3 – Pamela Des Barres
Born in 1948, Des Barres was one of the original and most famous groupies, travelling with Frank Zappa and friends, The Stones and The Byrds. Jim Morrison, Jimmy Page and Keith Moon are among the slew of famous notches she talks frankly about in her 1987 memoir, ‘I’m With The Band’.
#4 – Cynthia Plaster Caster
For sheer groupie ingenuity, Cynthia Albritton makes the list – the woman who immortalised the erect penises of Jimi Hendrix and a slew of other musicians she met in LA, by making plaster casts of them.
#5 – Sweet Connie Hamzy
Born in 1955, Connie became a famous, gleefully self-confessed groupie from the 70s onwards, without leaving Little Rock, Arkansas – she’d catch the bands as they came through, which got her name-checked on Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘We’re An American Band’. In 2005, she was still telling interviewers she was the “oldest living Confederate groupie”. And apparently, she once turned down Bill Clinton!