The walls of the Only are covered with photos: Hendrix, the Beatles, the Who… It’s a shrine to these seemingly unique and god-like individuals, and to the lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll that they represent. But when Chanty Lemieux and Lynx O’Leary, hosts of the Muses and Stuff Podcast, look at these walls, they notice something different.
Chanty points to a photo of Keith Richards with a tall, beautiful blonde woman next to him. That’s Anita Pallenberg, she tells me. She was a trusted counsel for the Rolling Stones who often had input in their songwriting, and her style—tight jeans and long scarves—became Jagger’s style, and soon came to define his look.
“They’re always there if you look for them,” says Chanty. “But a lot of the time, they’re just standing back and trying not to draw too much attention to themselves.”
Muses and Stuff is a podcast celebration of these women (and sometimes men): muses, groupies, partners, and fans who have played integral, but often silent, parts in rock stars’ lives. They are their inspirations and guides, frequently taking on the role of business manager, therapist, critic, fashion consultant, or simply fan. “It’s interesting,” says Chanty, “when you look at music as a machine, and you see all the parts that make it work.”
Lynx came to groupiedom early. From an early age, she found herself attracted to music, and to musicians. “There’s an allure there that’s more than visual,” she says. “It’s a soul connection. It’s about the music of your own soul first, and then seeing someone bring what’s in your soul to life on stage.”
But soon, she saw past the rockstars. “I’d see photos of them with these gorgeous women, and being a woman I was incredibly drawn to them and wanted to know their stories.” So she did what people did in the era directly before podcasts: she started a LiveJournal, Vintage Groupies, which connected her into a network of groupies and muses around the world—new and old—who told road stories, shared tips and tricks of the trade, and became a support network for each other.
“I started going out to shows on my own, talking to everyone I could and making friends, and in no time at all I was backstage, friends with bands. I would be out five nights a week, living music, and it was the best. I spent my teen years going to shows and on tour.”
Chanty also grew up admiring musicians of old, but her move to Peterborough was transformational. “I realized, holy crap, there’s still great music happening now. If it wasn’t for bands like Tarantüela, the Unionist Ministers, and Gagner, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Gagner, and their record label the Nanobot Record Co-Op, proved especially important. “We were the first girls to be included into the boys club. We were the party planners, responsible for getting the venue prepped, and for bringing the energy and the fun and the happiness to the show. When a band came from outside town, we made sure they had a great time and they remembered this place. Even if they didn’t play to a packed room, bands would come back time and time again because of the friendships they had made.”
After moving to Toronto, Chanty discovered Pamela Des Barres, “the Queen of the Groupies.” Des Barres became famous for her time with Jimmy Page and Keith Moon, but in the years since has become a celebrated author and organizer. Says Chanty, “She’s changed so many women’s lives for the better. To come into our own right, to use our own voices.”
Chanty realized the work started by Des Barres could be continued in a podcast. She reached out, and says Des Barres’ response was “Go for it, honey!” Chanty got in touch with the Peterborough Independent Podcasters, a nascent local podcasting network, who provided invaluable aid in getting Muses and Stuff off the ground. The first episode dropped in June 2016.
But something was still missing: “I always wanted a co-host, but I hadn’t found one yet.” At a writing workshop hosted by Des Barres (and organized by Lynx), Chanty and Lynx met and hit it off immediately. Lynx guested on the podcast, and soon, “she was coming on every second week, until we realized she was the co-host I was always looking for.”
After only one year, Muses and Stuff has grown a lot. They were nominated for a TO WebFest award this year, and their guest roster now includes musicians, journalists, and some of the original muses.
It places them in a tradition of women that stretches back to DIY zines in the 1970s, through Des Barres’ organizing and LiveJournals like Lynx’s Vintage Groupies, and into the modern era. Despite the fact that groupies are often ignored, cast aside, or outright vilified and slut-shamed (sex sometimes, but not always, plays a role in groupiedom), these women are brought together by their love of music and strengthened by their support for each other.
Says Lynx, “This whole experience has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s like a validation for all these years of knowing what I am, and definitely having times where it wasn’t easy. There unfortunately still is a stigma there, but I definitely feel it’s shedding—or maybe I just feel free to be myself. I just love it.”
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