For a rock star in the 1960s and ’70s, the groupies came with the territory. They would follow bands on tour, cheering at their shows and fighting for the chance for a backstage pass and a night in a celebrity’s bed.
Such groupies are usually nothing more than a footnote in music history, but behind the scenes, they were more than just fans. They were a part of these musicians’ lives – and sometimes, they completely changed music history.
Some groupies were minor celebrities in their own right. Women like Pamela Des Barres built up legends of their own. She worked her way through the beds of men like Jimmy Page and Mick Jagger, leading a life that helped inspire Kate Hudson’s character in the movie Almost Famous.
Other groupies, however, broke up bands. Anita Pallenberg nearly ended The Rolling Stones twice by working her way through the group. When she left Brian Jones for his bandmate, Keith Richards, she sent him into a spiraling depression that would end with him getting kicked out of the band. And not long after, a heroin binge with her new beau, Keith Richards, would see him pleading before a court to stay out of prison.
Other groupies would find themselves in even deeper trouble. At Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in Los Angeles, rock stars would browse a selection of so-called “baby groupies” – underaged children who spent their school nights sleeping with grown men.
This was a scene in which women over 20 were called “old”; in which Jimmy Page cast aside his 25-year-old girlfriend Pamela Des Barres to go home with a 15-year-old named Lori Maddox.
The leader of the “baby groupies” was Sable Starr, a girl who had been sleeping with rock stars since she was 12 years old. Starr’s life of scandals would be immortalized in the lyrics of an Iggy Pop song.
But these women were more than just the sex that went with the drugs and the rock and roll. They were muses. They inspired songs. They raced through the minds of famous musicians as those stars strummed out the first few notes of a future classic.
These groupies’ names might not be well-known, but they’ve left their imprints all over the history of rock and roll.
Pamela Des Barres
Pamela Des Barres, one of the inspirations behind the movie Almost Famous.
Des Barres hooked up with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, and countless others, before memorializing it all in a memoir called I’m With The Band.
Cynthia Plaster Caster
Cynthia Albritton, best known as “Cynthia Plaster Caster,” was immortalized in the Kiss song named after her and her strange hobby: She developed a reputation for not only sleeping with rock stars, but for keeping plaster molds of the band members’ members.
Before she was Sid Vicious’s girlfriend, Nancy Spungen was a groupie, following bands like the New York Dolls and the Ramones around the world. She ended up with Sid Vicious after Vicious’ Sex Pistols bandmate Johnny Rotten turned her down.
The romance would cost Spungen her life. On October 12, 1978, Sid Vicious stabbed her to death with a knife in New York’s Hotel Chelsea.
Few groupies have affected music history as much as Anita Pallenberg.
When Pallenberg left Brian Jones for his Rolling Stones bandmate Keith Richards, Jones sunk into depression and heavy drug abuse. Within a year of losing Pallenberg, he’d be kicked out the band.
Richards and Pallenberg shared a love for heroin, which got them arrested in 1977 and nearly cost the Rolling Stones another guitarist.