The Origin of the Term “Groupie”
Frank Zappa claimed to have coined the term “groupie” to describe “women who followed rock groups.” Although we can’t prove he was the first to use the term, we can prove he was at least one of the first.
The strongest evidence that Zappa coined the term “groupie(s)” is his 1966 song “Groupie Bang Bang” (recorded in 1966 but not released until later) and video footage of him claiming to have coined the term as can be seen in various Zappa documentaries (including Eat that Question). However, we can’t prove he was the first to use the term as that requires proving others didn’t, and we lack that evidence) Here we can only prove that no one is on the record using the term earlier than Zappa.
Those who claim someone other than Frank Zappa coined the term point to sources from 1967 and beyond, typically after Zappa’s song, but not always.
Claims for the origin of the term “groupie” include:
- That “the term was coined in an article from a British journalist from the mid-1960’s who wrote an article that called ‘girls who follow groups’ i.e. group+ies” (see VH1’s Let’s Spend the Night Together for that claim).
- That the term in its modern sense was coined by Groupies: The Girls of Rock (a February 1969 issue of Rolling Stone focused on “the sexual behavior of rock musicians and groupies”).
- That Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones coined the term in 1965. He denies it, which pokes holes in that theory.
We may never know for sure whether Frank Zappa coined the term to parody the hippy culture and rock bands of the Sunset Strip or just adopted the word early to describe their behavior believing that he had coined it.
FACT: The Groupie phenomenon itself was much older than the usage of the term “groupie.” Mary McCarthy had described it earlier in her novel The Company She Keeps (1942).
Groupie Bang Bang – Frank Zappa. “Groupie Bang Bang” didn’t make the cut for Zappa’s 1966 album “Freak Out!” This may have been due to its politically incorrect content. Although many won’t remember the song, it is important today as it contains the earliest usage of the term “groupie” in its modern context. TIP: The sound of each Zappa production is typically easy to equate to an era and band lineup. This track wasn’t released in 1966, but its production strongly hints that it was recorded for “Freak Out!”
Frank Zappa On The Importance Of Groupies.
Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Documentary HD. Almost positive this is the Documentary in which Zappa claims to have coined the term groupie. I will find the timecode and add it here shortly once I confirm it.
VH1’s Let’s Spend The Night Together