The GTOs

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The GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) were an a cappella girl group from the Los Angeles area, specifically the Sunset Strip scene. Only active for two and a half years (1968-1970) with a single reunion in 1974,[1] their only album, Permanent Damage, produced by Frank Zappa, was released in 1969.

Personnel[edit]

  • Miss Pamela, born Pamela Ann Miller (later Pamela Des Barres) on September 9, 1948, in Reseda, California, is the most commercially successful of the GTO's.
  • Miss Mercy, a.k.a. Mercy Fontenot, was born Judith Edra Peters on February 15, 1949, in Burbank, California. She has been referred to by Miss Pamela as "the human facsimile". Having moved around the country with her parents as a child, the family lived in various parts of Florida before eventually settling in the Bay Area city of San Mateo. In 1964, Fontenot dropped out of Hillsdale High School and told her parents she was ready to become legally independent. Despite their disapproval, she filed for emancipation, becoming a ward of the court within a couple of weeks and almost immediately leaving San Mateo to live with a group of friends in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Some of their neighbors included members of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and a young Charlie Manson. Eventually, she and Miller heard that Los Angeles was the mecca for meeting entertainers, and, in particular, rock & roll musicians. In early 1969, when Miss Pamela expressed to Miss Mercy that she wanted to pursue her acting career in Hollywood, they moved south, immersing themselves into the local music scene. Soon after, one of Miller's childhood friends, Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart), took the girls to a large castle-like compound in Laurel Canyon where they were introduced to avant-garde rock musician Frank Zappa. Soon after the breakup of the GTO's in 1971, she became romantically involved with blues guitar prodigy Shuggie Otis, the son of rhythm & blues pioneer Johnny Otis. They married and had a son, Lucky Otis, who has since become a successful multi-instrumentalist / musician in his own right. A few years later, Fontenot and Otis divorced, and for the next two decades she moved around northern and southern California, living a life of heavy drug use and sporadic public appearances. In 1999, Fontenot quit all hard drugs and cigarettes. She currently resides in Los Angeles and works for Goodwill Industries, a thrift store in Hollywood. A chapter of "I'm With the Band" entitled "Miss Mercy's Blues" is an account of her life. She has worked for over five decades in magazines, books, radio and television, and contributing to award-winning feature-length documentaries. She had a ten-minute segment dedicated to her life in the movie Mayor of the Sunset Strip starring alternative rock pioneer KROQ disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, who was a close longtime friend of the GTO's. Fontenot and Miller have remained close friends throughout their lives, becoming cult groupie icons in the process and publicly appearing at public functions and events together. As of 2013, Fontenot has been working with an author / biographer as well as using Facebook to document her life. She has great knowledge of the history of American music and pop culture.
  • Miss Cynderella (also spelled Miss Cinderella) was born Cynthia Sue Wells (later Cynthia Cale-Binion) on January 26, 1952, in Los Angeles, California. Wells married John Cale of Velvet Underground in 1971, but the marriage was rocky, and they divorced in 1975. Cale's song "Guts" opens with the line, "The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife" (referring to Kevin Ayers' sleeping with Cindy in 1974).[2] Cindy died under “mysterious circumstances”[3] at age 45 on February 19, 1997, in Palm Desert, California;[4] however, her death was not widely reported until 2007, when Pamela Des Barres mentioned it in her book Let's Spend the Night Together (where she inadvertently listed the wrong death year).
  • Miss Lucy (born Luz Selenia Offerrall[7] in Puerto Rico[8] (date unknown), better known as Lucy Offerall and later Lucy McLaren, appeared in Frank Zappa's films Uncle Meat, 200 Motels, Video from Hell, and The True Story of 200 Motels. In 'Motels', she had a moderately-sized role, portraying a promiscuous groupie. She also dated Jeff Beck in 1969.[9] In 1975, she married Gordon "Gordie" McLaren (bassist for the New York City group The Groupies). They divorced in 1981, after producing a son, Coleman.[10] Years later, Offerrall was impregnated by a close friend and bore another son named Dallas, only to find that she had contracted AIDS, which was still a new and little-known disease for that time. Lucy McLaren died in 1991, and her son Dallas died later the same year, having been born with ARC (opportunistic diseases related to HIV).[11]
  • Miss Sandra was born Sandra Lynn Rowe (later Sandra Leano, Sandra Lynn Harris) on January 18, 1949, in San Pedro, Los Angeles. She was in the group only a short while before becoming pregnant by Cal Schenkel, Frank Zappa's official artist-in-residence. In publicity photos for the band she is shown late in her pregnancy, with a big star painted on her belly. She moved back to San Pedro with her infant daughter named Raven, and after The GTO's broke up she met and married Bradley Harris. They had three more children together. Sandra died of cancer in Albion, California on April 23, 1991, at age 42.
  • Miss Sparky (born Linda Sue Parker in 1948) was renowned for driving a Hudson Hornet in the late 1960s on the Sunset Strip.[12] She recorded a vocal track (credited under the pseudonym "Sharkie Barker") on the song "Disco Boy" on Frank Zappa's album Zoot Allures (1976), and was once employed by the Walt Disney Corporation. Parker was reported still alive in 2012 but has been unavailable for interviews. As of 2016, various sources have confirmed she has 'resurfaced' and has been found to be active on Facebook.

History[edit]

Pamela Miller and Linda Parker met around 1966 while attending Cleveland High School in Los Angeles. Christine Frka traveled to Los Angeles from San Pedro with Sandra Rowe, and both lived in the basement of Frank Zappa's Log Cabin at 2401 Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills[13] in 1968. Christine was the live-in nanny for Zappa's eldest child Moon Unit, before Pamela took over the position the following year. Judith Peters had emigrated from the Haight Ashbury hippie scene to LA due to "boredom", alleging she "couldn't be a hippie forever." Cynthia Wells was brought into the group by Judith after the nucleus of the group had already been formed. This accounts for Miss Cynderella's presence in some, but not all of the GTOs' publicity shots. Lucy Offerall was also not an original member, but joined after the recording of Permanent Damage.

The group initially called themselves “The Cherry Sisters” but soon changed to "The Laurel Canyon Ballet Company.” Frank Zappa later changed their name to The GTOs, which he described as "an acronym which, as Stanley Booth wrote, could mean Girls Together Outrageously, Orally, or anything else starting with O."[14] On their album's inner sleeve, the acronym is also defined as "Girls Together Occasionally", "Girls Together Often" and "Girls Together Only".[15][16] Miss Lucy stated in a filmed interview that the latter name is what it stood for, though it is understood by most that the name on the album, Girls Together Outrageously, is the name of the group.

The members were connected by their association with Zappa, who encouraged their artistic endeavors despite their limited vocal skills. The group performed live “only 4 or 5 times”,[17] although they created a strong impression at their December 1968 performance at the Shrine Auditorium opening for The Mothers of Invention, Alice Cooper and Wild Man Fischer. A mix of theatrics, singing, dancing, wild costumes, and unusual lyrical content were staples of their act. Their only album, Permanent Damage, (Straight Records) was produced in 1969 by Zappa with the assistance of Lowell George and Russ Titelman (tracks 7 and 11). The latter track also features Titelman's brother-in-law, guitarist Ry Cooder, both of whom appear on Captain Beefheart's Safe As Milk album. Track 5 "The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes" is a GTO comment on Beefheart's taste in footwear (his cousin Victor Hayden had introduced him to Pamela Des Barres). The songs are mixed in with conversations between the members of the group, friends, and others, including Cynthia Plaster Caster and Rodney Bingenheimer. The album features songwriting contributions from Lowell George, Jeff Beck and Davy Jones. A young Rod Stewart (Jeff Beck's singer at the time) pops up track 14. Permanent Damage was re-issued on CD in 1989 by Enigma Retro.

Discography[edit]

Permanent Damage (1969)
No. Title Length
1. "The Eureka Springs Garbage Lady" (lead vocal: Miss Christine) 3:47
2. "Miss Pamela and Miss Sparky discuss STUFFED BRAS and some of their early gym class experiences"   2:10
3. "Who's Jim Sox?" (Spoken: A B.T.O. is the opposite of a G.T.O. only they get in there more - sexually, than we do. It means, Boys Together Often, Only, Occasionally, Organically, Outrageously. All those O’s.) 0:18
4. "Kansas and the BTO's"   1:12
5. "The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes" (This is a song about a pair of crazed shoes CAPTAIN BEEFHEART wears.) 1:56
6. "Wouldn't it be Sad if There Were No Cones?" (Miss Pamela & Sparky discuss the manner in which local Hollywood soul brothers make sexual advances in front of the Whisky a Go Go.) 1:11
7. "Do Me in Once and I'll Be Sad, Do Me in Twice and I'll Know Better (Circular Circulation)" (This is a reasonably abstruse love song with a gentle bum in it.) 2:19
8. "The Moche Monster Review" (Miss Pamela gives us an insight into the behavior of “the other breed” who drive “soft cars”… the sexual advances they make toward girls while they’re hitchhiking.) 1:46
9. "TV Lives" (A brief word about television. This song is nearly as absurd as the medium it describes.) 1:03
10. "Rodney" (Rodney Bingenheimer is one of the more unique figures of contemporary social history. The G.T.O.s have put together an unusual piece which includes the voice of Mr. Bingenheimer as he comments on the lyrics which have been written about his peculiar exploits. This “song” might give you a broad view of the scene in Hollywood as it relates to the Sunset Strip’s foremost male groupie.) 3:42
11. "I Have a Paintbrush in My Hand to Color a Triangle (Mercy’s Tune)" (This is a song about a lovers’ triangle which involves Brian Jones, Bernardo B.T.O. and Mercy.) 2:11
12. "Miss Christine's First Conversation With the Plaster Casters of Chicago" (In this episode we find our exotic Yugoslavian maiden explaining her moral viewpoint after reading a short segment of Cynthia Plaster Caster’s diary.) 0:57
13. "The Original GTO's" (Miss Lucy and Miss Johna were the originators of G.T.O.ism two years ago. In this sequence we find them inside a piano kissing each other & having a cosmic-level discussion.) 1:05
14. "The Ghost Chained to the Past, Present, and Future (Shock Treatment)" (Miss Mercy explains her personal philosophy. Lead vocals: Mercy and R.S. (Rod Stewart).) 1:45
15. "Love on an Eleven Year Old Level" (For some reason, the G.T.O.’s are preoccupied by the memory of Brian Jones. In this song they discuss their mutual admiration for an 11 year old boy who happens to look like Brian… and also has a couple of other things going for him.) 1:18
16. "Miss Pamela's First Conversation With the Plaster Casters of Chicago" (Cynthia and Miss Pamela find that they have a “fave rave” in common, and proceed to compare notes on their relationship with him. Some semantic difficulties toward the end of the conversation provide a convenient transition to the next piece of material.) 1:31
17. "I'm in Love with the Ooo-Ooo Man" (In real life, the OOO OOO Man is Nick St. Nicholas from Steppenwolf. Miss Pamela sings the lead vocal on this very special song of love. I have no idea what the rubber chicken suit with the beak is.) 3:27

Notes[edit]

The G.T.O.’s write all their own lyrics & no subject matter covered by these lyrics was suggested by any outside source. The choice of subjects is a reflection of the girls’ own attitudes toward their environment. The G.T.O.’s hope you like their album. — Frank Zappa

Special thanks to: Jimmy Carl Black, Roy Estrada, Ian Underwood and Craig Doerge who also played on Eureka Springs Garbage Lady, Ooo Ooo Man, Shock Treatment, and Captain’s Fat Teresa Shoes. Also to: Jeff Beck who played guitar on Eureka Springs Garbage Lady, Shock Treatment, and Captain’s Fat Teresa Shoes; Nicky Hopkins who played piano on Shock Treatment; Frank Zappa who played tamborine on Ooo Ooo man; Don Preston who played on Television Baby; [sic]

Other releases[edit]

Four tracks from Permanent Damage were also released on Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders compilation albums:

  • "Do Me in Once and I'll Be Sad, Do Me in Twice and I'll Know Better (Circular Circulation)" – on Zappéd (1969);
  • "Kansas and the BTO's; "The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes"; and "The Original GTO's" – on The Big Ball (1970).

References[edit]

External links[edit]