Being present at the creation has its own rewards. Thankfully, Pamela Des Barres had the presence of mind to write everything down. Long before she became “The Queen of the Rock and Roll Groupies” and hung out with Whisky-a-Go-Go house bands that soon became household names, Pamela Des Barres was a compulsive diarist who filled up notebooks and pined about the musicians she idolized.
She desperately wanted to meet them. And she did.
Joining us in Los Angeles, Pamela Des Barres and her close friend Catherine James gave us the inside view of a rock and roll courtesan (Des Barres prefers the term groupie) during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when we let our hair grow, loosened our conventions, and rock and roll simply ruled. It was a life lived out-loud and it took place in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and all parts in-between.
How it began for Pamela. A high school friend of Pamela’s was the cousin of Captain Beefheart, who along with Frank Zappa, influenced a generation of musicians during the 1960’s. Pamela eventually went to work for the Zappa family as their nanny before founding The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously), which served as an opening act for Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. The GTOs were young women who hung out on The Sunset Strip and were very much part of the scene. Within the space of a couple of years, she had gone from fantasizing about popular music to being in the eye of the hurricane. She remained somewhat anonymous to those outside of the LA music scene until she published I’m with the Band in 1986. It was an immediate best-seller and she followed up with two other memoirs, Take Another Little Piece of My Heart, and “Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon.”
Catherine James emerged from a difficult childhood. She was abandoned by both parents but after a chance meeting with a young Bob Dylan, who said that “it was her life, her gift, and she did not have to follow anybody’s rules.” She escaped from the orphanage and made her way to Greenwich Village. She was 15. By 19, she had a son with Denny Laine of the Moody Blues and later with Paul McCartney’s Wings, lived with Mick Jagger in London, modeled for Wilhelmina, and found herself in Andy Warhol’s crowd. When she doubled for Diane Keaton on a number of her films, the actress encouraged her to write and Catherine published “Dandelion the Memoir of a Free Spirit” in 2007. Continue reading