A Review: Catherine James: Famous Groupies Of The Sixties

May 22, 2009

A Review

Catherine James

Dandelion: Memoir Of A Free Spirit


R.E. Prindle


I looked at the sea and it seemed to say,

“I took your baby from you away.”

I heard a voice cryin’ in the deep,

Come join me baby in my endless sleep.

Ran in the water, heart full of fear,

There in the breakers I saw her near.

Reached for my darlin’, held her to me,

Stole her away from the angry sea.

-Jody Reynolds- The Endless Sleep


Des Barres, Pamela: Let’s Spend The Night Together, Chapter- The Elusive Miss James, Chicago Review Press, 2008

James,  Catherine: Dandelion Memoir Of A Free Spirit, St.  Martin’s, 2007


     Dandelion by Catherine James is an excellent read whether you consider it a memoir, a novel, or based on a true story.  As a memoir it is a little too sketchy, while as a novel it is a charming read with some effective, real touches of pathos.  The tenderly related death scenes of  her Grandmother and mother may not rank with the passing of Little Nell but they do choke you up a bit.

     Dandelion was apparently written by Miss James unaided by a co-author.  When one considers that she had no schooling beyond the seventh grade this is a remarkable achievement.  In the explanation of her skill, apart from a native intelligence, at a rather advanced age she returned to Jr. College where she took a writing class apparently with good effect.  After a remarkable childhood and youth she is now entering an equally remarkable old age, uh, maturity.

     Miss James had a childhood a bit out of the ordinary in its horridness, a crazy mother, and a succession of housing changes including a stint in a reformatory and a couple years in an orphanage.  My own childhood experiences parallel those of Miss James to some extent so I think I can write of her situation with some sympathy.

     Miss james’ narrative is a coherent psychological whole progressing from beginning to end in an impressive manner, but I am only going to deal with the first half of her memoir.

     I understand the following:  Catherine’s mother, Diana, was vain of her appearance while aspiring to a recording and performing career.  She did succeed in recording an LP titled Dian And The Greenbrier Boys.  I’m guessing that she had no intention of having children but as she married at seventeen on an impulse Catherine is probably a result of that impulse.

     Diana probably then resented her daughter for inhibiting her ability to realize her ambitions.  She then took her frustrations out on her child.  She apparently developed a Hydelike personality in relation to her child.  Mad to the nth degree.  On her death bed she c0nfessed to Catherine that ‘the witches got her.’  One assumes then that Diana was what in the old days was known as being ‘possessed’ by the ‘witches’ when she was around her child.  In a manner of speaking she wasn’t responsible for her actions toward her daughter.  She was severely psychotic.

     By all rights Miss James should have developed into a schizophrenic.  That she didn’t is the result of peculiarity of mind that I share.  Like Miss James I had some difficult years and like her I was able to maintain a separate identity in a world seemingly insane.

     When Catherine’s mother divorced her father she was placed in a high class orphanage, call it a boarding school perhaps, for a period of time.  Understandably Catherine’s notion of time is hazily remembered at this period although she seems to have retained startlingly clear memories beginning from about the year two.  Catherine has no memory of an explanation being given to her for the removal to the boarding school.  It just happened one day.  She was inexplicably dropped off where she remained uncontested by any of her family until one day Grandmother Mimi picked her up from the home.  Catherine lived for perhaps two years with her grandparents without any communication from mother until for some reason her mother reclaimed her.  Perhaps because she had remarried.  The marriage flopped and after some time her mother took up with Travis Edmundson (deceased this year) of the Bud and Travis folk duo.  Her mother had aspirations to be a folksinger having, as mentioned, actually recorded an album as Dian And The Greenbrier Boys.  Dian was shortened from Diana.  More exotic.

     According to Catherine Travis was as bizarre as her mother with the result that at the tender age of ten or eleven she left the house.  The police picked her up but she refused to give them any information.  Stangely they sent her to Los Padrinos Girl’s Reformatory in Downey, California.  She either was or believes she was committed until she was eighteen.  This seems extraordinary to me, although stranger things have happened I’m sure.  But to lock a very young girl up without charges, trial and sentencing for six or seven years boggles the mind.

     With her child safely behind bars, Diana renounced her daughter making her a ward of the State.  Good God! Talk about cruel and inhuman.  One can’t be sure exactly what Catherine knew of what was going on but Diana and Travis refused to allow the girl to be released to her grandparents care.  Since her mother  had made the girl a ward of the State it isn’t clear what she would have had to say about it.  Her grandparents now sought to reclaim her but after legal maneuvers the best they could do for her was to get her released to an orphanage.  Orphanages are slight improvements over lockups.

      Here Catherine becomes intentionally vague.  Her grandfather was named Al Newman and he wrote musical scores for the movies.  The only Al Newman who wrote for the movies I have been able to locate over the internet is Alfred Newman.  Alfred Newman wrote scores for about a hundred movies receiving an incredible amount of awards.  Catherine mentions that when she was staying with her grandparents a large number of Hollywood film people visited the home including Harpo and Chico Marx.  I would assume that she is coyly indicating that her grandparents were the Alfred Newmans.

     If that’s so then her mother’s maiden name was Diana Newman and Randy Newman must therefore be Catherine’s cousin.  Now, she was placed in a country club Jewish orphanage.  Her grandfather Al Newman, she tells us, was a benefactor of the orphanage, so she assumes that is what got a Catholic girl into a Jewish orphanage.  If Al Newman was a benefactor then whether he was the famous Alfred Newman who was Jewish or not, Al Newman must have been Jewish.  In that case it shouldn’t have been that difficult to place her in the Jewish orphanage.  Even so, she says, she was not allowed to visit her grandparents on weekends.  An inexplicable lack of clout, but this is Catherine’s story.

     She implies that efforts were made to convert her from Catholicism to Judaism which she stoutly resisted.  This all requires some clarification here.  She nevertheless learned Hebrew and could at the time recite some Jewish prayers in the language.  She was in the orphanage for about two years from eleven or twelve to fourteen.

     Once agains this seems odd.  Things are done differently in different places no doubt but I also spent a couple years in the municipal orphanage which was much less posh than the place she describes.  She says they gave her good food; the food in our place was so execrable that I virtually didn’t eat for the two years.  She implies she had rather been in a Catholic orphanage but I do believe I can disabuse her of that notion.  An orphanage immediately declasses the inmates placing them outside society so that upon entry a child becomes a societal outcast.

     In the municipal orphanage we were pretty free to come and ago as we chose provided we were back for dinner but even if  we hadn’t I’m not so sure anything would or could have been done about it.  We were a coed facility but the kids were moved out into foster homes at ten to avoid the inevitable sexual problems of old boys among younger girls and boys so I’m surprised Catherine was allowed to stay until she was fourteen.

     I have a little experience with a Catholic orphanage.  There was one down the street from our place.   This place was a hell hole.  The municipal orphanage had a chain link fence around it but the Catholic place had a ten foot high brick wall.  The difference between that and Los Padrinos was non-existent.  Los Padrinos guards probably were more lenient than the nuns and priests.  The latter were not lovely people.  We used to be invited to the Catholic home for special occasions like Catholic movies and other events.  They used to show the Catholic kids what the world outside their institution looked like through the movies.  Like they say, no matter how bad off you are there are others worse off but of course that doesn’t improve your own situation.  I was very happy to return to the municipal home after visiting the Catholic home.  I think I ran all the way back.

      Theirs was a rough life.  I’ll tell you a little story.

     Catherine mentions that kids at the Jr. High she attended didn’t want to have anything to do with orphans.  True in spades all over the world.  We had this kid, all this happened to him in one year, who began the school year with the Catholics.  Those kids were schooled on premises, I’m not kidding you, they never saw the outside world, never.  His parents transferred him to the municipal home where he had to try to fit into the public school we were abused at.  Then he was transferred back to the Catholic home.  I was never so happy to see anyone leave as I was him.  He was already stark raving mad.  Then they transferred the kid back to the municipal home.  Barely holding unto to my own sanity the bastard was pushing me over the edge when fate intervened once again and he was sent back to the Catholic home.  I have no idea who or what he imagined he was by that time.  I had enough trouble surviving in the public school without switching back and forth.  Of course, with the right attitude it would have been a real learning experience but I hadn’t learned to dissociate like that yet.  I lived in total fear he would return.

     A couple years later after my mother remarried and we moved into a garage I was reading the paper where I read that this kid, having returned to his parents from the Catholic home, locked all the doors of the house one night and torched it incinerating parents, siblings and himself.  I was shocked when I recognized who they were writing about.  I understood the situation expliclitly.  I had to keep my mouth shut of course but I lustily cheered what he had done although I certainly would not have burned myself up.  What could they do to you that already hadn’t been done?  It would just be a move from one institution to another.  I’m sure this kid was thought of as the ‘monster.’  Nobody knew the trouble he’d seen, man’s inhumanity to man.  Well, we all have our crosses to bear.

     He was an extreme case but not that far gone compared to the rest of us.  Getting to my point with Catherine.  The boys in the orphanage tended toward violent reactions, rebillion as it was amusingly called.  I would imagine most of them became criminals of one stripe or another.  The girls on the other hand responded to their emotional neglect by offering themselves to anyone who would give them seemingly tender attention.  And there were a lot of them waiting to do that.  The fence of the orphanage was lined with perverts hitting on their preference- either boys or girls eight to ten years old.  Cops said there was no way they could run them off.  Free country.  Whoever said this wasn’t a great country, right?

     So, at puberty, Miss James fled the orphanage, unchaperoned, into the great wide world with an instiable desire to be loved and somehow regain her social status as provided by the Al Newmans.  She fled into a world of rock ‘n roll where unlimited opportunites with guitar ‘gods’ existed.  This was a unique historical opportunity to realize her desires.  A couple years earlier…?

     The story she tells must be a severely edited and corrected version of the reality.  One wonders what really happened.

     Let me explain the genesis of this review.  I wrote a review of Miss Pamela’s ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ in which I was critical of Miss James’ claim that she met Bob Dylan while in an orphanage.  She appended a comment to the review suggesting I reread Miss Pamela and then read her own book- Dandelion.  As she said, she doesn’t make things up.  All right.  I did both.  As I say, I am sympathetic to any former alumnus of Orphanage U. but you don’t want to drift too far off the band in your reminiscing; that way lies madness.  Who wants to burn their own house down except for the irretrievably damaged- destroyed.

     Miss James’ book of adventures is very tightly edited to produce a certain effect or opinion of the author while not all her memories check out.  Not terribly unusual in itself but she tries very hard to convince you that she is absolutely truthful and accurate.  I will say I’m getting a heck of an education checking her stories out though.  As they fit in with my agenda I have no problem with that.  The extension of my folk knowledge through the investigation of Bud and Travis has been very beneficial.

     Miss James career was essentially from 1965 (possibly very late ’64) to 1970.  That’s five years more or less.  She managed to live two or three lifetimes in those years.  Ah, the sixties, weren’t those the times though?

     Her mother’s agent who was hot after a ten, eleven or twelve year old Catherine was named Jim Dickson (Catherine says some names have been changed so…but then there was a Jim Dickson, talent scout and producer who helped work up the Byrds around LA at that time.)   He was working with the Byrds in ’63-’64 and he had something to do with Dylan according to Miss James.  The orphanage would barely allow Al Newman, a large benefactor of the home to visit his grand-daughter and yet they allowed an adult unrelated male to pick a 13 year old girl up and drive away with her.  Well, OK, if Catherine says so…

     Dickson then took her to a Dylan concert.  Dylan was in LA in May and/or June of  ’63 for a short time according to biographer, Sounes, and again in ’64.  In ’63 Catherine, who certainly must have looked young, if Dickson hadn’t told Dylan that she was 13, says that Dylan asked her to a party where he spent, she says, several hours sitting talking to her while ignoring the big girls and execs.  Well, I don’t know, but I doubt it.  I can’t imagine how Dickson explained things to the orphanage when he brought Catherine back in the wee small hours of the morning.

     Dylan was interested in her, she says, to the extent that every time he came to town he called on her at the orphanage.  These were in addition to the ’63 and ’64 visits so it is difficult to account for them.  Hard to believe, but as we’ll see she says all these famous rock musicians beat a path to her door, she didn’t pursue them.

     Al Newman’s influence with the orphanage notwithstanding his large contributions was pretty limited so that he would have been unable to prevent Catherine being sent back to the reformatory which was then proposed.  One night she scooted out the back door to take her chances.  Brave girl; I shudder to think of it.

     She says she took two hours to hoof it down to the Troubadour Folk Club at the junction of Melrose and Santa Monica.  Doug Weston founded the club in ’57 and this was early ’64.  Catherine is usually shy about identifying the seasons so one can’t pinpoint time within any given year.  She says because her step-father Travis of Bud and Travis was a performer there she was also allowed to perform at the troubadour as a twelve or thirteen year old.  Seems like a trifle of a stretch; she gives us no idea of her repertoire, Mary Had A Little Lamb or whatever.

     In two short hours the orphanage had missed her presence, not very likely in my experience, divined that she was headed for the Troubadour, called the plice who were already on the spot passing her picture around:  Seen this here thirteen year old around here, anywheres?  OK.  Sure, why wouldn’t the cops have her photo already on file? Handy.

     Rather than turning tail she slips into the club ascending the balcony to the right rear seat that just happened to be the only seat left.  I didn’t get to the Troubadour until the early seventies.  Saw Pentangle there.  I din’t go back.  The club was already on the way to becoming the rough place it became.  Anyway I know where she’s talking about.

     This girl cannot possibly have looked, spoken or acted any older than she was.  She tells the guy next to her to pretend he knows her.  She later describes this guy to be in his early twenties although he was only nineteen.  He obligingly wraps his arm around a 13 year old.  Alright!  That’s a chance I wouldn’t have taken.  Probably worth twenty to life in California and we had been terrorized at the prospect of statutory rape.   That was when you looked cross eyed at underage which was against the statutes.

      Catherine tells him all those cops swarming the place are after her.  Can he get her out of there?  Nothing daunted by anything like a statutory rape charge he throws his jacket over her shoulders and he and 13 year old  Catherine stroll out right under the noses of the coppers.  I think I saw that movie.

     The Good Sam turns out to be the brother of John Stewart of the Kingson Trio, Michael.  In 1964 he was up at San Francisco State where he was forming the We Five but at the time he hadn’t.  You Were On My Mind was a year in the future.  He first drops her off at a house with a whole bunch of guys way back in the hills but she was not afraid.  Michael then drives her North to Mill Valley, remember those statutory rape laws if caught, and brother John’s house where she is taken in as a nanny, and California’s Most Wanted Child, for his kids.  The Stewarts want to adopt her which is her cue to split.  It is amazing how lovable this troubled child is.

     As I say, I’ve been researching these astounding stories.  The problem with this one is that John Stewart was single at the time not marrying until 1968 when he wed Buffy Ford.  This story is definitely on the shaky side so that affects Catherine’s credibility a little more than somewhat.

     Traveling to Berkeley with some ‘hippie’ kids she hit the high spot of fabled Telegraph Avenue.  Hippy kids seem a stretcher in ’64.  Now, we’re on home ground though.  I was around Berkeley a bit from ’64-’66.  she appears to be describing a later edition of Telegraph.  In ’64 the street was in transition from trad collegiate to what it later became.  It was the first time I  had ever been panhandled.  Some girl wanted 3.98 to get her dog out of the vet.  Could have been Catherine for all I know.  Naw, this girl was well past 13.

     On Telegraph she chances into the son of Barbara Dane and Rolf Cahn.  Cahn, a guitarist, is living up at Inverness on the ocean side of Marin County.  The younger Cahn puts her up at a sorority, which might seem plausible unless you’ve met some of those stuck ups.  To get her over to Inverness he invents the story that the police are passing pictures around.  Well, they couldn’t find Patty Hearst a couple years later either.  Not to worry, his bed in Inverness awaits.  Just one look was all it too, having his fill of her he splits the next morning with no intention of returning.  His dad also splits leaving her alone in the house.  A different world than I grew up in, no offense.  These things can happen, I don’t say they don’t, but ten or fifteen in a row is worthy of Guiness.

     The next day this guy from Boston shows up looking for Rolf, he’s a music lover.  Likes the stuff, flew out from Boston to listen to Rolf for an afternoon.  He is vastly amused at this endlessly charming 13 year old offering to fly her back to Boston with him which offer she accepts.

      Once in Boston she’s hot to get to NYC so someone going that way offers to drive her down to the East Village while Dr. Cummins, for that was his name, gives her a twenty for bus fare back.  Am I going too fast?  Catherine tells a fast paced story.

     Now, in NYC where Dylan mostly hangs out she has to locate this lad who found her so charming in California.  We’ve moved up from ’63 to very late ’64 or early ’65 so Bob is heading into the thick of his ’64-’66 epiphany.  Thanks to Peter Paul and Mary he is now – Somebody.  Things are rollin’ for Bob.

     At this point Catherine tells two different stories.  In her memoir she calls Woodstock where she says a woman answers and informs her that Dylan has gone on tour.  In Miss Pamela’s book she says she asked some kids where to find Bob Dylan.  Dylan obligingly pulls to a stop in front of her, slow moving traffic.  She runs over to say hi.  Dylan rolls down the window, coldly says he’s on his way to a concert, driving off.  She made no further attempt to contact him and he would have been easy to find.

     Alright, I read and reread.  What am I supposed to believe?

     So, this is 1965, the next five years are truly spectacular.  Unlike any other groupie I’ve ever heard of the rock stars gravitated toward the now fifteen year old Miss James with no effort on her part.  She doesn’t have to shriek for their attention or bare her boobs, she’s stunning and they come running.  Here she makes another minor error.  She says she sees Morrison and The Doors performing Light My Fire in NYC.  A couple of years ahead of the facts.  A small error doesn’t mean much but what about the rest.

     From this point on in order to create an impression of herself Catherine severely edits the facts distorting the reality at the least, what one puts in, what one leaves out.

     In ’65 she met Denny Laine, make-up naturally fooled him, although still young she is now 15.  Close but still statutory.  I’m surprised the Moodies were in the US in ’65 because Go Now, their first hit, didn’t make that big an impression.  Still, on their website the Moodies describe themselves as part of the British Invasion.  In my experience they didn’t hit until ’68.

James 2

     The two met more or less formally at a party so the meeting was formalized rather than a groupie-star existential encounter.  Catherine always wishes to create a meeting Southern Belle style where the stars are impressed by her as much as she is by them.  “Oh, Rhett, you don’t mean it?’

     Laine forms the central theme of her groupie years.  She has a child by him which carries her into seventeen and 1967.  It isn’t easy creating a time frame or setting for her cast of characters.  During the three years 1967-1970 she has relations of some sort with the following  without mentioning Bob Dylan who dropped off the radar in 1965.

Roger Daltrey

David Gilmour

John Mayall

Jimmy Webb

Roman Polanski

Jimi Hendrix

Jimmy Page

Eric Clapton

Jackson Browne

Ginger Baker

Mick Jagger

Geno, partner in Granny Takes A Trip

+ Denny Laine

     As you can see it is a regular A list.  George Harrison could be included but she had no relations with him, just a friend.

Catherine doesn’t mention Geno or David Gilmour herself.  Miss Pamela provides that in Spend The Night.  The gig with Geno and Miss Pamela also took a couple months.  Miss Pamela came to England with Geno’s partner.  The four then took up residence together all sleeping in the same bed with baby Damian in a crib in the corner.  He must have a Freudian memory or two.

Catherine artfully tells her groupie career bringing the story to a grand climax before she throws in the towel and tries to establish a life as a respectable hausfrau.  The apex of groupiedom was Mick Jagger.  A story made the rounds at the time of a groupie who finally made it to the bed of Mick.  When asked how he was the next day, her reply was:  Well, he was OK, but he was no Mick Jagger.

Catherine characteristically was wooed by Mick, herself doing no chasing.  She was staying at Eric Clapton’s when Mick came over for a party.  Catherine tells it this way:

     I remember being engrossed in a book in the study when he peeked in and said:  “You’re pretty.”  With a blush, all I could think to say was a faint “thank you”, and went back to reading my book.

Just like a debutante Catherine was engrossed in her book.  As the party got into swing and as the mescaline punch was about to hit Catherine thought to call Denny Laine while still coherent.

     As I was speaking with Denny, Mick came into the room and closed the door behind him.  I was seated at the desk in a regal, antique high-back chair with ornate carved arms.  Mick walked up next to me and just stood there.  He was wearing these delicious black-and-white checkered houndstooth wool trousers with a soft cotton white shirt.  When I looked over, all I could see was the undulating moving pattern of the houndstooth.  Mick didn’t say a word, but I felt the electricity.  He was clearly waiting for me to get off the phone.

I think that’s pretty effective writing for a girl who barely finished grade school.  Obviously she put her time to good use after giving up the life.  Just picture sweet Lady Catherine sitting there as her Prince Charming came into her life, ‘regal, antique, high backed chair with ornate carved arms!’

The above passage is for the girls who never made it with Jagger.  You can just hear Miss James cooing: Eat your hearts out girls.

Catherine not only has one night with Mick but moves into the mansion for ‘a couple of months’.  The absolute untopable climax comes next.

     For the event I wore my long, whimsical, gypsy dress from the posh Ozzie Clark’s boutique.  The velvet bodice was formfitting, buttoning down to a billowing skirt of colored silk layers.  My pale pink platform boots with appliqued silver cresent moons and stars from Granny Takes A Trip went perfectly with my outfit.  Stevie Wonder was the hottest ticket in town, and I felt like a female divinity sitting between Mick and Eric, taking in Mr. Wonder’s stellar performance.

Yes, there was the fairy princess sitting with not one but two Prince Charmings watching Stevie Wonder.  There was no way to top that so apparently Catherine’s philosophy was quit while you’re on top.  I quite agree with her if you know when that is.  And thus perhaps after having gratified one compensatory fantasy she returned to the US to begin her redemption by hard work.  As she has written this book she apparently did that too.

After knowing all those rock gods so intimately I think it noteworthy that only Roger Daltrey deigned to write a blurb for the jacket.  He and Miss Pamela.

The book was a very interesting read leading me to some other interesting discoveries that added substance to my understanding of the era.  I have Miss James to thank for that.

As an alumnus of the orphanage, and believe me orphanages are all one form of horror story or another, I have solidarity with Miss James and wish her well.  I’m sure everything she wrote was based on the facts but I still want some corroboration for the Dylan bit.

Miss James’ book has enjoyed some success.  My copy is of the second printing so she sold out the first.  At the last check the title was listed as about the 100,000th best seller on Amazon.  I’m not sneering, mine is at about 5,500,000.

If anyone likes horror stories of this nature may I direct them to my description of  an orphanage- Far Gresham Vol. I- that can be found at reprindle.wordpress.com.  May I also direct your attention to my The Sonderman Constellation by R.E. Prindle published by iUniverse available through alibris, Amazon etc.  I need some readers and sales too.  I probably don’t need more than two sales to jump up to the 1,000.000th best selling.  C’mon help a fellow out   It’s a good book, you won’t regret it.

7/27/12 Update.

The Book

Here is corroboration for Catherine’s liaison with Mick Jagger.  The following quote can be found on pp. 223-4 of the Tony Sanchez/John Blake memoir Up And Down With The Rolling Stones, 1979, John Blake Publishing (6.95) originally published as I Was Keith Richard’s Drug Dealer.  Reprint 2010.

While I have no reason to doubt Catherine, corroboration is always a good thing.  This corroborates both Mick and Eric Clapton. Quote:

     Then along came Catherine.  She was an exotic-looking Californian who’d enjoyed a brief affair with Eric Clapton.  Eric introduced her to Mick at a party, and a couple hours later Catherine was tucked in Mick’s huge three-hundred-year-old bed in Cheyne Walk.  The two of them stayed in bed for the next twenty-four hours, and after that, Catherine moved her things in.

Jan was piqued.  She seemed to have fallen in love with Mick.  Next to him other men lacked imagination and energy.  I had seen other girls, even tough little groupies, entranced in much the same way, Jagger’s feminine qualities seem to give him an unusual insight into women, and he uses that insight to give him total power over them.  But Jan said nothing- to do so whould be un-cool, and Mick hated uncoolness in women.  Besides, she was a paid employee- no strings attached.

The friction between Jan and Catherine sent sparks flying almost every day.  Jan hated Catherine because she had won Jagger’s body.  Catherine hated Jan because she seemed to have captiviated Jagger’s mind.  The situation was untenable, and when Mick was out, the girls would have bitter, screaming arguments.  In his presence they attempted to feign sycophantic devotion.  For Mick it was a perfect set-up.  He had all the sex and company he wanted without involvement.  Neither girl was secure enough to dare complain….

Mick loved to set them against each other until they were at the screaming point.  It was as if he had become the person he pretended to be on stage, he needed his fans fighting over him, even in his living room.  He was so egocentric now that he couldn’t love anyone except himself.  He was emulating mad, debauched , oversexed Turner, the character he had played in Performance.  With Marianne gone, Mick’s last link to earth was severed and his image swallowed him up.  Michael Philip Jagger had ceased to exist.  Now there was only Mick Jagger, Superstar, twenty-four hours a day.

The farce at Cheyne Walk couldn’t drag on forever.  Mick’s cosy menage a trois came to a stormy close when he announced in August that the Stones were off  on a tour of Europe and that Catherine would not be coming.  “Sorry, darling.”  he told her.  “It’s a band rule, always has been, I don’t take my old lady on the road.”

…Catherine wept for days.  She knew it was over.  Jagger wanted her out of the house by the time he returned from the tour.  All her dreams of being the next Marianne Faithfull were flying out the window.  When the final explosion came she lashed out at Jagger, kicking, spitting, scratching and trying to tear his hair out by the roots.  It was, of course, a very uncool thing to do.  Catherine left quietly that night.

A slightly different version than Catherine’s which was ultra-cool.

By the way, disregard any negative criticism of this book.  It is authentic.  Sanchez was inside and his co-author, John Blake, was a very well informed, intelligent journalist from an outside perspective.  Essential for Stones’ fans.

Update 8/11/12

Another version of Catherine’s stay with Mick comes from Christoper Andersen’s Mick, Gallery Books, 2012.  Anderson does not give his sources.

     (Mick) preferring instead to amuse himself by rotating among the members of his floating harem.  Among them:  Janice Kenner, a stunning blonde from LA, ostensibly hired to be a housekeeper cook and “personal assistant”; New Yorker Patti D’Arbanville, a nineteen-year-old model and actress; another leggy California, Catherine James and Brian’s ex-girlfriend Suki Poitier.

Even for these women, there were limits when it came to sharing Mick.  When one girl came upon Catherine James in bed with Mick at Stargroves, he merely suggested a menage a trois.  James, furious, stormed out.  After hastily making love to the interloper, Jagger spent the rest of the evening trying to talk James out of catching the next flight home.  He succeeded, but it wasn’t long before James decided she “definitely wasn’t the right girlfriend for Mick.  “Eventually I would have killed him in his sleep.  I’ve a jealous nature.”

A different version than that of either Catherine or Sanchez.  Anderson goes on to provide corroboration for Catherine’s account in which she called Mick after Bianca moved in.  This paragraph refers to the account of Miss Pamela but is nevertheless confirmatory:

     Now ensconced with Mick at Stargroves, Bianca began cleaning house.  One by one, she ordered the other women in Mick’s life to stay away from her man.  When Miss Pamela called, she was surprised when a husky voiced woman answered the phone.  “You are never, ever, under any circumstances to call Mick, ever again.”  Bianca said.  “Get the picture.”

So, we acquire richly varied accounts of Catherine and Mick.

Update 9/13/12

Ronnie Wood, Ronnie, 2007, St. Martin’s Press.  This from Ronnie Wood page 69:

     On the subject of women, on another Beck tour I fell for Kathy James, who is famous in rock and roll mythology because she was the original groupie.  And absolutely gorgeous woman, believe me, she had a special feel for special musicians.

Update 10/4/12

Philip Norman: Mick Jagger,  Harper Collins, 2012  pp, 402, 405

For a time, just like Performance’s Turner, he had two live-in female companions, albeit in this case both Californian rather than French and polyglot Danish.  The first to be installed, a bubble-haired blonde named Janice Kenner, had found herself alone with Mick in the back of his car and received a well-tried Jagger line:  “Do you like waking up in the city or the country?”  Replying “the country,” she had been spirited away to Stargroves, there acquitting herself well enough to be asked to wake up in the city with him as well.  Soon afterward, he also brought home Catherine James, a solemn-looking twenty-two-year-old who had taken the same roundabout car ride via Berkshire.  The two coexisted in Cheyne Walk without rancor, each fixing on a distinct role for herself”  Catherine was Mick’s girlfriend while Janice was his cook, but available for the occasional “romp.”  In fact, their easy relationship rather irked Mick, who preferred the women around him to be at loggerheads for his attention.  One day, to their bemusement, he got them to plaster each other with strawberries and whipped cream like a polite English garden-party version of mud wrestling.

As further proof of his rather lonely state, he also asked “Miss Pamela” on the tour (she decided to return to her boyfriend, however) and took along one of Cheyne Walk’s two resident houris, his “cook” Janice Kenner.  The other, Catherine James, was dismissed as she lay in bed, with a farewell kiss and instructions to lock up the house before returning home to California.

Update 1/22/13

From Scaduto, Tony: Mick Jagger, Everybody’s Lucifer, David McKay Company, Inc., 1974. pp. 348, 349, 350.

Eventually, however, Catherine came along- introduced to Jagger by Eric Clapton- and she moved in, a replacement for Marianne in a way. Catherine is a Californian, outstandingly beautiful, but Janice didn’t think she was especially sophisticated. Catherine is a super-groupie, the elite of the groupies: Instead of flying on her own to meet a superstar, the superstars send her plane tickets so she won’t forget to come to them. Jagger impressed on Catherine the fact that she was living in a grand house, had a lot of money to spend on it, and must learn to be a real English lady, Janice recalls. But Catherine seemed to have no idea how to be a lady: she took to flickering her cigarette ashes on the floor because there was someone around to clean them up, Janice felt. Catherine appeared to be trying to play the role Jagger was forcing on her, telling Janice it was all so romantic to be Mick Jagger’s lady and how madly in love she was with him. And Janice thought: Mick’s not in love with you, he’s just interested in fucking you and having a good time. He’s fucking around with your head, and you’re going to be terribly hurt when you wake up. Jagger’s games made Janice angry, and she tried to warn Catherine about it, gently. Catherine refused to permit reality to get in the way of romantic dreams, Janice felt, and the two women started getting into arguments over it. Janice later said: “Mick knew it and loved it. he played it up and instigated arguments between us. I remember thinking: “The guy is fantasizing that we’re fighting over him.”

The Stones were going off on tour again- a month in Europe through September and part of October. Catherine appeared furious because she was being left behind, and even Janice was being taken along, a last minute assignment to help Anita take care of her baby because Shirley Arnold had sprained her ankle and couldn’t go. They were up in Jagger’s bedroom, packing his clothes for the tour. Catherine sat on the bed crying that she was being left behind, and Jagger seemed to be feeling sorry for her. He leaned over and stroked her hair very lightly. “Let’s go downstairs to the other bedroom,” he said. Turning to Janice: “Finish packing this shit.” They left the room, and Janice sat on the bed, lit up a huge joint, and thought: He’s giving her a farewell fuck. She sat there a long while, smoking, getting too stoned to finish packing. And she thought: I’m really glad he took her downstairs because it’ll make her feel a lot better; she’s done nothing but cry for days.

Suddenly, Jagger came rushing back into the bedroom, shouting: “I don’t understand her,” followed by a tall, willowy and very exotic woman, a friend who had dropped in to visit. She also shouts: “I don’t understand.” Catherine rushes in, screaming: “I hate you, I hate you.” And Janice, stoned, sits there thinking: It’s like a fucking movie comedy. When everyone quiets down, and the woman goes home, and Jagger leaves the room for moment, Catherine explains what the commotion was all about:

“We’re in bed, fucking.” she tells Janice, when in walks this bitch and makes some remark, and Mick invites her to get in bed with us. I guess I just got hysterical and I started screaming and kicking Mick and scratching. My last night in bed with Mick, and he wants another chick to join us.”

Update 3/29/13

Hodkinson, Mark: Marianne Faithfull, As Tears Go By, 1991, Omnibus Press

p. 136

On his visits to England, Jagger began sleeping with a succession of girls, and Stargroves, the grandiose emblem for Jagger and Marianne’s love, became the setting of his numerous one night stands. He had a longer romance with Suki Potier, a former girlfriend of Brian Jones, and spent several weeks in the company of a Californian girl called Catherine James.

Update 4/21/14

Eric Clapton:  The Autobiography, 2007, Broadway Books

On the first day, while I was sitting in the theater during rehearsals, watching the various acts do their turn, a very beautiful blond girl came and sat next to me.  We struck up a conversation, and at some point she asked if I would like to stay with her while I was in town.  She was gorgeous, and seeming to sense my shyness with women, did her best to put me at ease.  Her name was Kathy, and she took care of me the whole time I was in New York.

She had her own apartment, and I moved in with her.  She showed me around, taking me to the various places where I could tick off the list of things I wanted to experience.  I remember her taking me to various coffee bars in the Village, and we went to one or two music stores, like Manny’s on Forty-eight Street  She also took me to a big saddler’s called Kaufman’s which sold western gear, where I bought my first cowboy boots, and with this beautiful girl on my arm, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.



15 Responses to “A Review: Catherine James: Famous Groupies Of The Sixties”

  1. Jesse Cahn Says:

    Dude.. I’m the “younger Cahn” – I was there… It happened pretty much like that… I don’t know what you were doing in those days, but life was occurring pretty much at that pace then for me and most of my friends… And I *left* the Avenue in early ’65! (Returned off and on thru the 60s and 70s) It was exactly as she describes it for those of us growing up there. I played Ondine’s with the Chambers Brothers around the time she met Denny… Believe me when I tell you, she was not your ordinary 14yr old… Also
    your comments about statutory laws are
    accurate as far as they go, except they were largely ignored in those days….
    I was in close touch with Catherine while she was writing this and, altho some of the chronology is a little out of whack and some memories a little fuzzy and some dramatic license was used – the parts that I was there for (I visited her at the orphanage once, I was at the factory, my stepfather briefly managed the Troubadour, etc, etc) Are as real as my memories allow. Like they say “If you remember the 60s you weren’t there.”
    Sorry you had such a rough childhood.. just please don’t resent those of us that escaped. She told that story as true as she could and agonized over every word.
    For my part I thank you for your lengthy
    review and *your* attention to detail. I just
    don’t think it matters that much that the “whos and whens” are stone accurate as that the story gets told. jc
    Traveling to Berkeley with some ‘hippie’ kids she hit the high spot of fabled Telegraph Avenue. Hippy kids seem a stretcher in ‘64. Now, we’re on home ground though. I was around Berkeley a bit from ‘64-’66. she appears to be describing a later edition of Telegraph. In ‘64 the street was in transition from trad collegiate to what it later became. It was the first time I had ever been panhandled. Some girl wanted 3.98 to get her dog out of the vet. Could have been Catherine for all I know. Naw, this girl was well past 13.

    On Telegraph she chances into the son of Barbara Dane and Rolf Cahn. Cahn, a guitarist, is living up at Inverness on the ocean side of Marin County. The younger Cahn puts her up at a sorority, which might seem plausible unless you’ve met some of those stuck ups. To get her over to Inverness he invents the story that the police are passing pictures around. Well, they couldn’t find Patty Hearst a couple years later either. Not to worry, his bed in Inverness awaits. Just one look was all it too, having his fill of her he splits the next morning with no intention of returning. His dad also splits leaving her alone in the house. A different world than I grew up in, no offense. These things can happen, I don’t say they don’t, but ten or fifteen in a row is worthy of Guiness.

    The next day this guy from Boston shows up looking for Rolf, he’s a music lover. Likes the stuff, flew out from Boston to listen to Rolf for an afternoon. He is vastly amused at this endlessly charming 13 year old offering to fly her back to Boston with him which offer she accepts.

  2. reprindle Says:

    Jesse: Thank you for your very considerate reply and the honorary Dude. Checked you out, nice picture.

    I know how painful it is to organize one’s life in writing having traveled that path myself. When you say Catherine had pain I can literally feel it. I had to take to my bed with ‘fever’ for a day or two a couple of times to regain my composure. I read one guy who said he was knocked down for two weeks. I can well believe it. I hope Catherine wasn’t one of the worst basket cases.

    But, Catherine not only chose to publish her life story, she actually invited me to read it. I did. You believe the whos and whens and stone accuracy aren’t important. Good heart, but this is a memoir and not a novel. I’m an historian and Catherine’s memoirs are what is described as ‘unreliable.’ For my interests that pertains to her Bob Dylan story that not only affects her but Bob Dylan. As a historian, after reading and considering her accounts as they stand I have to dismiss her story as apochryphal. There’s not enough there. For the rest the book is more valuable as a psychological study.

    Catherine is a great case of a person declassed, plunged into depression, who has been struggling to reclaim her lost class. That she can never do if for no other reason than the orphanage. While I appreciate your sympathy for my situation it wasn’t my intent to establish bragging credentials. I may have missed my mark. Even though Catherine is twelve years younger than I and served time in a different orphanage we are alumni of the same institution. Thus when she wrote shat she wished she had been in a Catholic orphanage I almost swallowed my gum and I wasn’t chewing any.

    So that passage was a personal message to Catherine to thank her lucky stars she missed out on those wonderful nuns and priests. I saw them in action. For the rest I thought it a good story and something that would wow any readers. It’s important to provide interest. The way society treats its orphans is something you should be aware of whether you like it or not.

    You did bring up an interesting point. You say you and Rolf were in LA from time to time hanging around the folk scene. You must have been around the Ash Grove too unless that was taboo for the Troubadour. Anyway if you knew Catherine in LA then she ran into you in Berkeley as a friend not a stranger. She should have made that clear as that would have sounded a lot better and does put a different complexion on the situation. So the story gets fleshed out a little bit.

    While I’ve got you here, did you just abandon her or did you eventurally find your back to Inverness to see how she was managing the family estate what with Rolf gone and all? I found that story intriguing. Just to mention statutory which you seem to have taken so lightly, you can believe me that when I say it wasn’t ignored, it wasn’t. Of course, there are always desperadoes willing to take desperate chances.

    You’re right about hippies in ’64 now that I think about it. I think Kesey already had La Honda going, the Mime Troupe was functioning and all that but I guess I just considered them Bohos or beatniks or something not really recognizing hippies until ’66 or so. My apologies on that score. That said, the panhandlers would probably have been ‘hippies’ from your point of view although I thought of them as wild kids or something along those lines. Dare I say young bums? They weren’t sleeping in doorways as yet though.

    I could go on but this is getting lengthy. Thanks for your compliment on the review. I got it up quickly as promised but it was written on the fly. I’d do it differently now. Not that different but, you know, different.

    Cheers, and we’ll see you around, Dude.

  3. WendyB Says:

    Re the grandfather, she identifies him as Albert Newman. An Albert M. Newman has a few musical credits on IMDB.

  4. H.Harris Says:

    I’ve a friend who generically speaks of all mothers as “Satans,” i.e. my Satan called me at 3 in the morning, etc. to bitch at me. This begs the question which environment is worse for a sensitive child, an impersonal institution or an aggressively insane parent. Catherine James survived both to become a caring parent herself, and the comparison of both scenarios in her book proved a most interesting read.

  5. reprindle Says:

    Life’s a crap shoot, no doubt about it. The luck of the draw is terrifying. Having been in a comparable impersonal institution and having an insane family situation I find it a difficult choice to make. Catherine possibly made the right but dangerous choice of running away from it all.

    In many ways she was extremely lucky given that she was coming from an unlucky situation. I haven’t reviewed the second half of the book as I was only interested in the first half when I read it.

    It’s not on my agenda but perhaps I will, when and if I do I’ll come to the same conclusion you have, but the devil is in the details.

  6. anonymous Says:

    I know Catherine and was with her when she was writing the book she learned to write rewriting over and over the stories never changed. She told me many of the stories verbaly and there were things she did’nt tell. Like her Grandmother MeMe invented Scrable I saw letters to the Game company and answers that we are not interested then they ripped it off. The original handmade game was perfectly the same only had another name spelladoodle I foget not as good a name but exactly the same as Scrable now exact. Catherine would not put that in her book.
    I think she met Bob Dillon at her mom and dads house there were all sorts of folk music people and I mentioned the guy Dillion ripped off a lot of his music style from and she knew him too had a nick name for him. She is telling the truth about it alright. She was with Hendrix a few days before he Oded and told me stories of his brillient poems and how he would get so stonned she and her friend would have to drag him into a bed. Some of the men you mentioned she was friends with, she is a real lady but she smokes cigerettes. We were in a store once and I bought some coffee to get this info about Jewish rituals etc. and she said what do you want to know that for. She made me Matsa Brae the next day it was good never it had before then she told me the story about having to sit in the corner after she was caght telling the other children the good things about Jesus.
    She might clean up the stories a little but about her motivations only she knows that, but the stories are true it is not fiction I assure you. There are pictures of her with Edi Sedgwick and that kooky artist Andy and she had to wait to get old enough to go to England too young to get a passport by herself or something like that. When I met her she was with her son and thought they were a couple she looks that good. I thought she made it up but there was too much detail about being with Dillon. I saw Dillon when I was 12 at Pasdena City College with his one man band thing going on and said he plays in B sings B flat or something like, that he was a lyrical guy a phenomena on the circuit at the time filled the auditorium. Before that I coud see him hanging with her. She hides her breasts but they are magnificent, shes a real lady and she is not lying in her stories.

  7. reprindle Says:

    Ok Frank. Thanks for the info. Not to worry, Catherine has 3000 reads on the review and another 500 on the other review. Going very well for her. Hope she’s gotten some sales.

    Is there any chance that the Edie and Andy pictures can be posted? If Catherine would like to write an article going into more detail on her experiences at the Factory I would be happy to post the story on I, Dynamo. Would be an addition to the Edie/Andy/Dylan saga.

    Perhaps some more detailed articles on her experiences in New York would be a nice addition. There’s plenty of material for another book. Dandelion was pretty much a rapid survey.

  8. Tom Newmark Says:

    I was Dian James friend and lover for the last 20 years of her life. Her Real first name was Dian, not Diana. Her father’s name was Albert Newman, not Alfred. I knew him too as Dian and I first met about 1945 and I was at their house many times.

  9. Elonna Marie Says:

    I know it’s kind of late to add this but….John Stewart’s obituary stated he was married twice. So Catherine did live with him and his first wife (and their toddler son/daughter). I loved Catherine’s book. I’m reading it for the 2nd time. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/john-stewart-maverick-singersongwriter-771412.html Buffy Ford was John’s 2nd wife, mother of his youngest son.

  10. reprindle Says:

    Elonna Marie: Not at all late. This post on Catherine has and is doing well, now approaching 5K reads with no indication of slowing.

    Catherine’s book is well worth two or more reads. It is my intention to review the second half of the book based around her father when I get around to it.

    I have been convinced that Catherine is not fabricating any relationships. I’m sure she did stay with the Stewarts. His California Bloodlines is a fine LP.

    In browsing through Eric Clapton’s auto he mentions that John Sebastian was involved with a Catherine in California, no last name. As Clapton was involved with Catherine I’m wondering if she was Sebastian’s Catherine. Any idea?

    Thanks for the comment. Always welcome.

  11. John Sebastian is married to a Catherine, not James. IDK if he was ever with Catherine James. I know the “Kathy” Clapton mentions in his book, the one who showed him around NYC must be Catherine James. He elaborated on that time more than she! He doesn’t mention Catherine living with him later on. Pattie Boyd mentions it in her book, again spelling the name “Kathy”. Pattie says Clapton was also living with Paula (Patti’s sister!) and Alice Ormsby-Gore (a teen socialite) at this time. As with Mick, Catherine gave a very “cleaned up” version of her time living with Eric.

    Despite Catherine’s lack of juicy detail on rockstars , I enjoyed the book very much. The only time her lack of detail drove me nuts is when she discusses Jimmy Page visiting her in Connecticut. I’m a big Led Zeppelin fan and no way did Page have a weekend off during that time, and they never played the Shrine during their 1971 US tour. He did have 2 weekdays off during that time where he could have visited her, and LZ did play in CA late summer ’71, just not at the Shrine. She should have used Google for her own book! LOL I also found US concert dates for the Moody Blues back in 1965, very bottom of this page: http://www.webwriter.f2s.com/moody/tourbooks/1965tour.htm

    Catherine’s book is far from a “tell all”, but still manages to be a page turner. The part where she discusses her father’s will is my favorite. I was sitting on the edge of my seat reading about the corrupt lawyer who tried to steal her inheritance. My heart was pounding. It enraged me. I would absolutely love to know this lawyer’s name and what he looks like. The world should be warned! Thanks to your site I was able to find Dian’s music online. I like bluegrass, so I was curious! The mother actually had a good voice and the band was good. Shame she was such a horrible mother.

  12. reprindle Says:

    Alana: Sorry to take so long to reply but I was involved in writing an essay.

    Ronnie Wood spells Cathy with a K too.

    What other accounts do you have of Cathy’s dalliances with Clapton and Jagger?

    I don’t care about a ‘tell all’ but Cathy could have given more attention to how she met Jagger and Clapton, length of time and all but it was her first effort. She did leave school at fourteen so I’m very impressed with the quality of her writing. Don’t know how much she was edited.

    The deal with the inheritance was frightening. The way she battled the lawyers who were practically conspiring to rob her of the inheritance was breath taking.

    She was very determined and solid and still the guy got away with a significant portion. Lawyers are disgusting bastards.

  13. What’s funny, in Clapton’s book he claims Catherine sat next to him first. In Catherine’s book she claims the opposite: Eric sat next to her first. Clapton says he moved into her apartment and stayed with her during his time in NYC (first Cream concerts ever). He says she took care of him and showed him around NYC during his entire stay.

    About Jagger, I’ve never read a book on him or the Stones. Only read about him in groupie books (by Pam Des Barres, Bebe Buell, Catherine J). Have you read Pamela Des Barres 3rd groupie book, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”? She interviews Catherine, and there’s more detail in Pam’s book. I’m guessing Pamela Des Barres was fooling around with Mick (in England) around the same time as Catherine. This was right before or soon after he split with Marianne Faithfull. Funny how the last time Pam or Cathy called Mick, Bianca answered. THE END. Pamela stayed 6 months in England, so all this happened with Mick & Catherine within that time frame ( just a couple months she lived with him, at most). Very brief! Catherine definitely did more bouncing around than she mentions, very vagabond.

    It seems like many of the groupie girls had the same musicians, and vice versa! For example, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page both had the same girlfriend, Charlotte Martin, and were both with Catherine over the years. After Eric broke up with Charlotte, she had a baby with Page in 1971. I’m thinking the REAL reason Catherine wouldn’t return to England with Page is….she must have known Jimmy lived with Charlotte and had a 6 month old baby. I also noticed in Pam Des Barres 1st book, she was with Jimmy on the CA leg of the tour, mere weeks before he visited Catherine in Conn. What a crazy merry-go-round!

  14. reprindle Says:

    Alana: Sorry for the delay but the Heart Bleed bug apparently messed up my machine Started functioning after the bug was cleaned up although I had trouble getting the printer working

    I am no Clapton fan so I hadn’t read his auto that I do have. Estate sale for 3.00. Checking through it did does appear worthy. Kathy is Catherine, right? p.82? Clapton passed Catherine to Jagger which is how Jagger took her in.

    He really liked Marianne’s posh accent. He was looking for another lady but Catherine was just a little orphan girl. She had no idea of how to impersonate a lady.

    The Jagger biographies are not particularly good. Scaduto might be a good place to start although if you haven’t read Andrew Loog Oldham’s Stoned and 2Stoned they are a must.
    Of course, I also recommend my essays on Jagger and Marianne. My review of Spanish Tony’s I Was Keith Richard’s Dope Dealer is getting good reads too. That one is well worth reading. Also titled Up And Down With The Rolling Stones. He says the two are slightly different.

    I have read all three of Miss Pamela’s, I think. The third definitely. When Pamela was in London at the time Catherine was moving out she says Jagger asked her to go on the tour but she declined. A little wisdom catching up with her.

    Catherine should definitely write another book now that she’s gotten the pain of those years expressed. Hers was a very courageous auto.

    Marianne Faithfull’s two memoirs are essential reading too, if you haven’t.

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